Sixteen things that technology has made obsolete: Part 1 of 2

If you were born after, let’s say, 1987, then some of these references may mean nothing to you.

Moreover, if you happen to be a post-1987 kid, you may be surprised/shocked/empathetic/downright saddened that your fellow human beings, at one point in time, actually had to suffer through these things.

You may think “Wait, people didn’t always have phones in their pockets that told them absolutely anything about everything?” or “Wait, people actually had to leaf through huge, heavy books with ridiculously thin, cheap paper to find a phone number to order a pizza? You’re talking about that book that I use to prop up the kitchen table?” For the record, the answers to these questions are, respectively, No and Yes.

To put it simply, information is just so damn easy to access these days. It’s in our phones which are in our pockets, which have wires attached to them that connect to our heads. It’s in our fully-charged tablets and laptops lying around our homes, just waiting to be browsed. And it’s now showing up on our TVs and may soon be available on our wristwatches!

In fact, it could be argued that smartphones, smartTVs, smartwatches etc., are actually making us less smart: Too much information can lead to people not absorbing any at all. We (myself included) sit around browsing headlines and looking at gifs, without actually reading any full articles. In journalism school, we were actually taught to lean towards lists when writing for the web because users can’t be bothered to read full paragraphs.

Sad moment: The other day, for a fleeting moment, I was actually too lazy to click on a YouTube link. “Why can’t everything be a gif?” I thought. “Why do I have to take half-a-second of my life to click on something?”

Kids these days (for the record, I’m not thaaat old) could technically go their entire lives without ever having to physically open a book. Scary but true. With that in mind, here are sixteen things that we will never have to do anymore (unless we really want to). For the record, I have done all these things. Some I will miss; some I won’t. Here are the first eight, with the next eight to be posted soon.

Use the phone book


The eulogy has been written and the casket has been lowered six feet under for the ol’ fashioned phone book for quite some time now. But I remember a time when I had to flip through dozens of pages to find a pizza delivery number. Or maybe to call Consumers Distributing which, coincidentally, is also dead. I remember thinking it was a genius move when they released the book with the White and Yellow Pages in the same issue. I suppose I won’t miss having to look up an electrician or an exterminator in this way, gunking up my fingers in the process. And stalkers must be especially happy that tracking people down has never been quicker.

Look up movie listings in a newspaper


I remember always having to check what day it was to make sure I didn’t show up for a movie that wasn’t playing. These things always seemed more complicated than they needed to be: Why are Monday movie times different from Tuesday movie times? One of the unsolved mysteries of life, I guess. Thankfully, now we can search online to find out what movies are playing today, and not have to muck up our fingers to find out when American Pie is screening. AND we can find out what movie critics from around the world thought of the movie. AND a computer program was developed to calculate a quality-based percentage for each and every movie out there. Thank you Rotten Tomatoes.

Listen to a walkman or discman


With the exception of my MacBook Pro, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more excited to get my hands on a piece of machinery as I was when I first acquired one of these. The headphones were huge and heavy but they friggin’ vibrated along with the rhythm of the song! What the hell is VMSS?! I had no idea then and I have no idea now but it seemed like an unimportant detail. Rocking Nevermind and Siamese Dream on this baby was awesome. Sturdy, too. I felt like you could wail it against the wall and it wouldn’t be any worse for wear.

Own a World Book Encyclopedia set


I still have a vague recollection of the day that these babies arrived at our doorstep. The boxes were heavy as well. The bindings were just a little stiffer when you first opened them than every subsequent time. And the leather-bound editions still had that new book smell. Gone are the days when you had to open up the “A” book to find out just how many people live in Australia or the “P” one to find out the chief exports of Portugal. For the record, I never looked up either of these things, nor do I know them. Nowadays, I think we can all agree that Wikipedia is super awesome. Random thing I learned from this picture: More words begin with “C” and “S” than other letters. Thank you, picture.

Buy CDs


Remember how the CD was always a little harder to pull out of the case the first time you did so? I always had this fear that the disc would somehow snap right then and there, inevitably leading to deep sobbing. At the time, there was no feeling quite like peeling the plastic off the new Nirvana or Radiohead CD. If a CD costs $14.99, it was a great deal. If it costs $21.99? Fuhgeddaboudit. Never bought ’em. Random fact that may or may not even be a fact: Track 7 was always the best track. Go ahead. Do some research.

Rent movies from Blockbuster


This is another thing I miss. Sometimes. It always seemed to take at least 30 minutes to come to a consensus on which movie to rent but it was usually a fun 30 minutes. Walking up and down those aisles was an intimidating thing. Even worse was when you finally found the perfect flick only to realize that there’s no smaller case behind the bigger case, meaning of course that all copies were checked out. “Man, I really wanted to watch Face/Off tonight!” Random memory: Browsing through the free movie posters that were being given out. I was always miffed that they’d give these things out! I thought they were stupid. I mean, couldn’t they sell them to some poster store on Yonge Street for 10 bucks a pop? Always felt like Christmas.

Use the VCR to tape shows


At my place, all our VHS tapes were clearly labeled because nobody would be too happy if our one copy of True Lies got taped over. Notice how the term “taped over” has totally left our vocabulary? As in “Yo, why’d you tape over my show?” When you could set the VCR to tape a show, this was always a frightening idea. You just never completely trusted it, did you?

Use a real map made out of real paper

map folding

I (and apparently this guy) never understood why they made these things so damn hard to fold. I would always venture to do it the “correct” way, then give up and just go ahead and fold where folding should never happen. Just roll it into a ball and call it a day. Like many of the things on this list, compared to how we do things today, map reading was time-intensive. But it was satisfying in the end when you finally figured it out, wasn’t it? I’ve read stories about how GPS is making us directionally-challenged and this doesn’t surprise me one bit. That being said, I kinda like having a map of anywhere in the world in my pocket at all times. How far we’ve come.



Filed under Entertainment, Technology

4 responses to “Sixteen things that technology has made obsolete: Part 1 of 2

  1. Decent post. You made a good point about the fact that some meta information gets lost by looking at the information directly. What on Wikipedia is the most used letter for a heading? This may seem trivial in terms of the use of that knowledge but if we extend it to the use of tags, it devolves into allowing the tyranny of the popular versus expert knowledge. Which ever tag is used most wins.

    Studies have shown that a huge amount of people have around the same expertise as an expert but I still would rather have a surgeon operate on me than have a crowd sourced individual using a crowd sourced page.

    So, we can live without most of these things and should but when it comes to information products, you have a good point. Of course, this doesn’t apply to USB keys.

    • jamesmccallum

      Wikipedia is definitely crowd-sourced but I still feel like I trust it. The content in World Book is no doubt true but crowd-sourced information allows people to call BS on each other, which should theoretically lead to more accurate information. And yes, trained surgeons are a good thing in our world.

  2. Pingback: Random Things › <b>Sixteen things</b> that technology has made obsolete: Part 1 of 2 <b>…</b>

  3. Pingback: 40+ Things Kids Born After 1999 Will Never Understand | Architecture & Design

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