Vanishing American Icons

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I was cleaning out a closet last weekend while my grandson was visiting.  Wedged between two hardback books were five old 45 rpm records.  “What are those, grandma?” my grandson asked.  Chuckling to myself, I explained that they held music that teenagers listened to back in my day.  Since I no longer had a record player with which to demonstrate, my grandson had a hard time imagining how such a device could work.  To him, CDs are ancient technology.   Intrigued, I began thinking of other items or services that probably won’t be around in 40 or 50 years, maybe sooner.

How many kids these days know what a phone booth is?  It was estimated in 2011 that there were fewer than 425,000 pay phones across the US, down from 2.2 million in 2000.  And speaking of phones, home phones/landlines probably won’t make it another 20 years before they’re entirely replaced by cell phones.  Phone books are also becoming obsolete.

Many of you have probably read about Google’s robotic car with its near-perfect driving record.  Nevada will be the first state to issue permits for self-driving cars.  Sure, we won’t have to worry about people who text and drive, but are we merely trading one set of problems for another?  What about road maps?  Will kids of tomorrow grow up not knowing how to read a map?  With GPS technology and map apps, is the skill of map reading still needed?

At one time, many families scrimped and saved to purchase an encyclopedia set with its gold-edge pages.  Just recently, Encyclopaedia Britannica announced it was going out of print after 244 years.  It will concentrate on its online encyclopedias.  Many schools across the US are eliminating heavy, bulky textbooks and moving to online textbooks.   With digital books readily available on the Internet, will children of tomorrow even know what a book is?  Perhaps it’s time to reread the Ray Bradbury classic Fahrenheit 451 and think not only about what we’re gaining by embracing new technology, but what we’re giving up.

A service that is on its way to becoming obsolete is the U S Postal Service.  With the convenience and immediacy of email and instant messaging, fewer people are corresponding through the US mail.

Some other things that are on the way to becoming obsolete are movie rental stores, VCRs, drive-ins, cursive writing, analog clocks, answering machines, film, incandescent light bulbs, bank deposit slips, currency and coins, personal checks, handkerchiefs, cigarettes, fax machines, meals on airplanes, typewriters, desktop computers, and keyboards.    Can you think of other items or services that will vanish in your lifetime?  Are we discarding perfectly good items too quickly just for the sake of having something new?

For related articles, see

New iPhone App May Help Us Say Goodbye to Our Wallets

Tangible Proof, What We Hold in Our Hands

Has Your Cell Phone Killed Your Watch?

Will Automated Cars Help Us at the Pump?

My Work Without Internet. Where Would I Be?

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.

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