Born in the 70's, I grew up during an era when popcorn and how we made it changed with the times. We first made it in a pan on the stove-top or once in a while we bought the special aluminum foil pans (mostly for camping) that you pull the top cardboard off, shake it over the fire or heat source and watch as the foil grew to an unbelievable size and looked as if it were a UFO. The 80's came and with it came the air-popper complete with a small plastic compartment above the hot air where you placed a stick of butter and let it melt and drip down on the popcorn as it made its way through the opening and fell to the bowl placed below. We also had the round canister style that you poured a little oil into and added some popcorn and put the cover on while it heated and a small wire turned round and round like the second hand of a clock to keep the popcorn moving while it popped. My friend Christi's family had a yellow and brown microwave popper that you added your own popcorn to and cooked in the microwave instead of in the air popper, and lastly came the invention of the microwave popcorn which was so quick and easy that it stuck around and it's what most of the population uses today.
My family makes fun of me but I still love popcorn the old fashioned way. In our home my family calls it Moms "Amish" popcorn. But to be honest, nothing can beat the flavor of popcorn made this way, on the stove top. Microwave popcorn can't compare.
If you want to make popcorn the 'old fashioned' way you start by purchasing a bag of popcorn kernels. The bags are usually 2 pounds in weight and sell for about $1.
Using a nice heavy bottomed pan, pour canola or vegetable oil into the bottom (or buy the special popcorn oil they sell in the popcorn aisle... but I'm too cheap to purchase it... ha ha) of the pan. The amount depends on the amount of popcorn you will make but I like to pour in until about 3/4 of the bottom of the pan is covered and then I lift and swirl it around to coat the entire bottom surface. I turn the heat on high at this point to heat the oil quickly.
Add your popcorn to the oil (hot or cold doesn't matter)... but do so sparingly! A single layer of popcorn to cover the bottom is enough for about 2-3 people! Put the tight fitting lid on the pan. Do not lift.
The oil heats the moisture inside the kernel and causes them to start popping. Turn the heat down to medium as soon as they start to pop and leaving the pan on the stove, shake it gently back and forth to keep the kernels moving so they don't burn and to allow all the kernels to come into contact with the hot oil.
When the last of the kernels are popping and there is about 4-9 seconds between pops you will know your kernels are have all popped. Remove from heat with the lid still on. Don't keep it on the stove or it will start to burn. Pour into a large bowl or even a large brown paper bag. Melt butter in the pan or microwave to drizzle over and salt as you like.