times a-changin'


On Monday, I was listening to NPR while driving around.  Fresh Air's Terry Gross was interviewing Sir Elton John, and at one point he mentioned an encounter that resulted in his meeting Bernie Taupin, his long-time lyricist.  "It changed my life," he said. "without that, I would probably still be working in a record store - or, well, there aren't any record stores now..."

When he said this, I started a bit.  Holy crap, I thought to myself, there really aren't  any record stores anymore. It was sort of stunning to think that stores that I spent a considerable amount of my high school allowance no longer exist.

Then I started thinking about all the things that I have strong memories of from my childhood that no longer exist.  Admittedly some of the items make me seem older than I am (a result of growing up in a country that technologically lagged the United State by a few years), but some of them establish my age pretty definitively.

(For the record, I'm 46.) 

So, given that my earliest memories are at about age 3, here are 5 things that I have strong, distinct memories of, that no longer exist (except in the occasional antique store):

1.  Black-and-white television.  Colour television broadcasts certainly existed before I was born, but my family had a black-and-white television during my early childhood. I remember hearing that Cookie Monster was blue and being vaguely surprised.   

(I also remember the first time we got a colour television with a "remote" -- the remote control had a 10-foot wire that went all the way back to the television set.  We thought we were so fancy.

I think I was 13 at the time.) 

2. Slide rules.  Okay, admittedly, by the mid-70s, most kids were using calculators for math (only 4-function ones, natch), but my dad is a PhD engineer and old-school enough to insist that I learn how to use a slide rule, because "you never know when you'll need to use it."  

(By the way, Dad?  I have never had to use a slide rule.  Ever.)

3.  Manual typewriters.  I was three when my dad was in grad school, and I totally remember the tap-tap-tap-DING! of our typewriter when my dad had to type up a paper.  It's actually a sound I really miss.

4.   Rotary dial phones.  Man, I used to hate it when I had to dial a number with a zero in it -- sometimes my hand would slip, and the zero wouldn't get properly dialed, and then you'd have to start all over again ... 

(Incidentally, my grandparents' rotary dial phone didn't have a bell in it, but was actually connected to this ridiculously loud bell that was hung high on the wall.  Anytime someone called them, the bell was so loud, you'd half-expect firefighters to start donning protective gear.)

5.  Cassette tapes.  Back in 1981, when my parents splurged on my Sony Walkman, I thought I had arrived.  I mean, it was music I could listen to while I walked around -- that was some space-age stuff, right there.  Now, honestly, the entire evolution of musical technology makes my head spin.


Thinking about all of this had me wondering what 5 items I think might no longer exist in 37 years, when my daughter is my age.  I mean, given that the personal jet packs I thought would exist when I was an adult haven't ever materialized, I realize that my ability for predicting the future is seriously lacking; however I thought I'd give it a go:

1.  Cars that are primarily fueled by gasoline.  I have to think that at some point, dependence on fossil fuels has to eventually ease up a bit, right?  I don't think solely-gas-powered cars are going to have altogether disappeared, but I think they'll be considered "antiques."

2. Paper magazines.  They'll all be downloaded on tablets.  Most new books will be, as well, unless they're considered "art."

3.   Wheelchairs.  I think that except for the most severely disabled, wheelchairs will be replaced by exoskeletons.

4.  Checks and credit cards will no longer exist.  Banking will all be cash or electronic (and hardly ever cash), either using our iPhones or biometrics (fingerprints, etc.)

5.  Television broadcast stations.  Publicized entertainment will be entirely internet-based.  

Agree?  Disagree?  What things do you think exist now that won't exist in 4 decades?