Monday, December 27, 2010

Forever Gone...

Every year, writers pen their thoughts about what transpired in the last year, the last decade or even the last century. The history buff in me loves reading how much we've changed -- and so when I came across a list of 20 items which have become obsolete, my interest was piqued!

1. VCR and VHS tapes .... I remember the time when we got our first VCR. My Dad won it at a work raffle at Christmas - and he was glowing when he brought it home. We watched, recorded, watched, recorded and watched -- probably like most families, but I just remember how cool it was to have something on TV and then be able to play it back later.

2. Travel agents .... I never used one except for when I worked for the state. Great group of people dedicated on making the angst of travel easy. They setup your flight, hotel, ground travel ... they can arrange your trips and have a pretty good idea what to expect when you got to your destination. "Hands-on," personal service ... gone by way of the likes of Expedia, blogs and other travel sites.

3. Separation of Work/Personal Life .... Oh how I relate to this one in ways that I can't begin to articulate. I was having a conversation with a good friend and former colleague about how much has changed since when it was just her and I working together. It was the introduction to email, the internet, and cell phones ... the lines became blurred and as a result work began invading our personal life and then vice-a-versa.

4. Forgetting .... At first I'm like - what? But then after reading the description a bit - the internet has made it possible for us to forget things and come back to it later. It makes sense ... that we rely more and more on the internet for things that we'd normally store in our memory banks or in our filing cabinets ... I was going to say something else about this, but I can't remember what it was.... anyway!

5. Bookstores .... One of the sadder things gone forever. I remember many times when I'd go to the mall and into a B. Dalton bookstore ... or a Waldens. Just being able to sit and read, check out the latest books or magazine. It was a refuge to escape for a bit without the formality of a library.

6. Watches .... Admittedly, when I started working for the State, I stopped wearing a watch. I didn't like the idea of being confined to minutes and seconds on my wrist - so I stopped wearing one. How do I keep the time? On the computer (lower right hand corner) ... cell phone ... or via clocks in the house.

7. 1-900 phone sex .... The internet ... what else can you say?

8. Maps .... As my parents can both relate - I was very much into maps ... streets, signs, roads..... I loved being able to map out routes and was fascinated by that as a kid. I had a full hand-drawn map of our immediate neighborhood on my wall. It wasn't anything special, but I carefully drew the streets, the sidewalks, signs, lights ... markings on the roadway. Mix in GPS, Google Maps, and one can surmise that I can get pretty geeky when I get into navigational mode....

9. Calling .... Hard to believe that texting, Twitter, Facebook and email have surpassed calling someone on the phone. It's a trend that makes it easier to have smaller parts of a conversation - without needing to delve into a longer one on the phone. Have we really evolved as a society that is dedicated on 140 character bits of information?

10. Classified Ads in Newspapers .... It was just a matter of time that as many newspaper chains are turning to an online solution - thanks in part to eBay, CraigsList and other online classified-type services ... it's no longer needed to waste the trees to print it anymore.

11. Dial-up Internet .... Anyone else remember the screeching sounds of "modem-talk?" But who really wants to "zip" around the internet at 56k anymore?

12. Encyclopedias .... Not really coming as a shock since we all have Google and Wikipedia to look at. But - as the internet proves: just because it's posted, doesn't make it real. Encyclopedias -- while infamously vague ... was still at least a good starting point to research something. Now - it takes multiple resources and some verifiable FACT to prove things ... something the Republican crowd tends be seriously lacking these days....

13. CDs .... It wasn't that long ago when we witnessed the death of cassette tapes (shhhh - we still have those, but don't tell anyone) .... but now to witness the death of CDs in a shorter time span is just - wow. iPods, streaming music online, mean that most of us can download our entire CD collection to something the size of our wallet. I still use CDs for data purposes though because DVDs still have burning problems and readability factor for some older machines.

14. Landline Phones .... up until a month ago - I would dismiss this as a potential "forever gone" ... until we removed our landline - transferred it to a cell phone ... and that's how it is. While there are but a few instances - where landline phones are necessary ... in the span of instances over a year or a decade ... it just doesn't justify dropping $50 a month to watch something that doesn't ring.

15. Film and Film Cameras .... Another one of the sadder moments in this list. I love how film can capture things that digital can't. The approximation of pictures - interpreted by a computer - just does not replace the color and depth of celluloid. But I do love the creativity and freedom that digital photography provides us.

16. Yellow Pages and Address Books .... Another product of the efficiency and ease that the internet provides us. It's easy, it's up to date (mostly), and it's readily available with a series of clicks and letters on the keyboard. No more 5-7 lb book, no more finding pages ripped out or listings buried under different subheadings than what you were looking for in the first place.

17. Catalogs .... What fond memories I had growing up looking at the winter toy catalog for Montgomery Wards, JCPenny's and Sears. Now - we just receive spam messages of every sale a store has everyday ... 10% off before 7am ... 30% off doorbusters ... receive a free gift when you give us your email address so that we can spam you that much more!!

18. Fax machines .... Arguably one obsolete thing that isn't quite dead yet ... but with document scanners, email capability and the growing lack of paper ... we're definitely emerging into a paperless era.

19. Wires .... Another arguably misplaced item on this list .... but we have wireless internet, wireless phones and even wireless charging .... I submit that wires is probably going to officially die out in the next decade after they successfully implant the microchips in my brain - so that I no longer need to interface with computer monitors, mice and keyboards.... :)

(don't laugh - they're looking into it....)

Last but not least ....

20. Handwritten letters .... No form letter, no copy and paste, no informal 7 word reply in an email .... we're losing our ability to demonstrate emotion, love, and pain as our collective pens fall upon blank sheets of parchment. Love letters are now replaced by cards, txt messages, facebook status updates and tweets. The sad part is - we lose a connection that we think is replaced by keystrokes and little emoticons. When the hand grasps the pen ... to author something ... it becomes a physical connection that pours from our soul in scribbles and penmanship. There was no undo ... there was no re-arranging sentences so that they made more sense. The flow of our thoughts was more controlled - a slower pace - arguably something that simply can't exist in an instant on, "internet is ready" world that we live in these days.

(Original list posted at the Huffington Post ... comments were done by me. :))

Which makes me wonder - how much of our soul is slowly leaving our bodies with the advent of so much technology ... are we losing the morsels of our lives as they once were captured in frames on celluloid film .... are we becoming lazy because the internet ensures that we don't forget our appointments for tomorrow .... are we slowly losing our connection to the tactile universe, replacing it by ones and zeros?

Many authors, columnists and philosophers of our day have long since wrote about this day. I guess I didn't stop and consider that it could happen during my time - and yet - here we all are.

While I'm glad we're doing away with dial-up internet and fax machines ... I'm not quite sure I'm ready to give up my connection with life around me. Some things are worth doing "the old-fashioned" way ... now I just need to convince the rest of the world that it's a good thing too.

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