“Who uses pencils anymore, anyway?”
The question was posed by an admittedly “extreme-techie” friend of a friend. He was genuinely shocked that everyone wasn’t typing all their notes onto their smartphone or tablet. He had to be reminded that yes, children (remember them?) still use pencils, as well as many people who work in offices, or just about anyone who needs to jot something down.
But while the faithful pencil has not faded into obsolescence – yet – many other items, though popular during their heyday, certainly have.
Many trees have been sacrificed in the pursuit of our knowledge. I remember spending hours upon hours at the library during high school completing assignments on insects, the Napoleonic Wars, Hamlet, and who knows what else. And you couldn’t take the damn things home, because they were in the “Reference Section”. Of course, if you actually purchased a set of encyclopediae you could spend the next several years paying for them and by the time you were done, you would need to purchase the next latest versions. In the end, the internet came to our rescue and eliminated all this worry.
The screeching of the dot matrix as it slid back and forth across those green-and-white continuous paper printer sheets was like music to my ears. However, in recent years offices are no longer abuzz with the the cicada-esque noises that once dominated the air, having been replaced by laser and inkjet printers.
All is not lost, however. You can still buy a dot-matrix printer if you so desire to fork out $300 or more. If you need to print forms in triplicate, it’s your workhorse. I still have packages delivered from warehouses with the enclosed packing slip having the familiar dotted letters on the paper, complete with holes on the side.
In the 80’s I probably spent every spare dollar I had on packs of Memorex or TDK cassettes. The decisions I had to make! C-60 or D-90? And then when the “metal” tapes entered on the scene, these were supposed to give you quality output — oh man! I spent many evenings after school recording music from the radio or splicing and repairing busted tapes. Could anything be better than this? Fast-forward 20 years, just stepping over the Sony minidisc, (yeah, I had one of those in the 90s!) to the era of the compact disc (CDs) and now MP3 players.
These have not all disappeared, but if you are one of those subscribers, why are you still using this service? I suppose there is the reliability of always having internet access if the electricity goes away, but how many times has that happened? There is also a cost issue for broadband that some people are not willing or able to shell out. In some remote areas in the US also, there is no broadband service. I do miss the distinctive sound, but not the many timing out moments.
The concept of taking pictures yourself and dropping the film off at a retail center (CVS, WalMart, Eckerd) to have it developed quickly at your convenience was a brilliant idea in the 90’s. Anyone could own a reasonably-priced 35mm camera and you could collect your photos in one or two days of dropping them off. Genius! But then the digital camera was born. And now, almost everyone has a camera on their phone. Sadly, Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy last year, having been the household name in cameras for well over a century.
8″, 5¼” or 3½”. I remember using the 5¼s at my first job. I believe the ones we had were 512KB in capacity. But we had to always keep copies due to the flimsy nature of the casing. Then came the mighty 3½”. We could store up to 1.44MB and they didn’t break as easily as the larger disks.
What a great idea! I remember Friday nights going to the video store near my home with my brother and spending at least two hours quibbling over the right movies for the weekend. Years later, it would be my fiance, his brother, their cousin, and I going to the local Blockbuster and searching for all the action shows for the week or weekend. We could only leave with two, so there would be so much bickering and negotiating for each person to get the video that they wanted. Blockbuster only recently announced the closing of their last 300 stores in the US, a direct result of the market changing to accommodate more video streaming and “OnDemand” services via cable TV providers.
The past three decades have seen such a rapid development of new technology and the decline of old ones. Who could have ever imagined that the VCR, having gained massive success in the 1980’s and 90’s as a household staple, would be relegated to the odd back shelf in a Best Buy retail store?
So what else do you think has gone the way of “winding down the car windows” and “tuning the radio dial”?
What other products or media do you foresee are now on a fast-track to obsolescence?