Huffington Post recently put up a story called You’re Out: 20 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade. It’s a great retrospective on the technology leaps we’ve made since the new century began, and it got me thinking about the difference today’s technology will make in the lives of tomorrow’s kids.
I’ve used some of their ideas and added some of my own to make the list below: Do you think kids born in 2011 will recognize any of the following?
Video tape: Starting this year, the news stories we produce here at Money Talks have all been shot, edited, and distributed to TV stations without ever being on any kind of tape. Not only that, the tape-less broadcast camera we use today offers much higher quality than anything that could have been imagined 10 years ago – and cost less than the lens on the camera we were using previously.
Travel agents: While not dead today, this profession is one of many that’s been decimated by the Internet. When it’s time for their honeymoon, will those born in 2011 be able to find one?
The separation of work and home: When you’re carrying an email-equipped computer in your pocket, it’s not just your friends who can find you – so can your boss. For kids born this year, the wall between office and home will be blurry indeed.
Books, magazines, and newspapers: Like video tape, words written on dead trees are on their way out. Sure, there may be books – but for those born today, stores that exist solely to sell them will be as numerous as record stores are now.
Movie rental stores: You actually got in your car and drove someplace just to rent a movie?
Watches: Maybe as quaint jewelry, but the correct time is on your smartphone, which is pretty much always in your hand.
Adult book stores, 900 numbers, and movie theaters: Nobody knows where anonymous sexual stimulation may be heading, but it’s a safe bet it’s not back to pay-by-the-minute telephone services or public venues.
Paper maps: At one time these were available free at every gas station. They’re practically obsolete today, and the next generation will probably have to visit a museum to find one.
Wired phones: Why would you pay $35 every month to have a phone that plugs into a wall? For those born today, this will be a silly concept.
Long distance: Thanks to the Internet, the days of paying more to talk to somebody in the next city, state, or even country are limited.
Newspaper classifieds: The days are gone when you have to buy a bunch of newsprint just to see what’s for sale.
Dial-up Internet: While not everyone is on broadband, it won’t be long before dial-up Internet goes the way of the plug-in phone.
Encyclopedias: Imagine a time when you had to buy expensive books that were outdated before the ink was dry. This will be a nonsense term for babies born today.
Forgotten friends: Remember when an old friend would bring up someone you went to high school with, and you’d say, “Oh yeah, I forgot about them!” The next generation will automatically be in touch with everyone they’ve ever known even slightly via Facebook.
Forgotten anything else: Kids born this year will never know what it was like to stand in a bar and incessantly argue the unknowable. Today the world’s collective knowledge is on the computer in your pocket or purse. And since you have it with you at all times, why bother remembering anything?
The evening news: The news is on 24/7. And if you’re not home to watch it, that’s OK – it’s on the smartphone in your pocket.
CDs: First records, then 8-track, then cassette, then CDs – replacing your music collection used to be an expensive pastime. Now it’s cheap(er) and as close as the nearest Internet connection.
Film cameras: For the purist, perhaps, but for kids born today, the word “film” will mean nothing. In fact, even digital cameras – both video and still – are in danger of extinction as our pocket computers take over that function too.
Yellow and White Pages: Why in the world would you need a 10-pound book just to find someone?
Catalogs: There’s no need to send me a book in the mail when I can see everything you have for sale anywhere, anytime. If you want to remind me to look at it, send me an email.
Fax machines: Can you say “scan”, “.pdf,” and “email”?
One picture to a frame: Such a waste of wall/counter/desk space to have a separate frame around each picture. Eight gigabytes of pictures and/or video in a digital frame encompassing every person you’ve ever met and everything you’ve ever done – now, that’s efficient. Especially compared to what we used to do: put our friends and relatives together in a room and force them to watch what we called a “slide show” or “home movies.”
Wires: Wires connecting phones to walls? Wires connecting computers, TVs, stereos, and other electronics to each other? Wires connecting computers to the Internet? To kids born in 2011, that will make as much sense as an electric car trailing an extension cord.
Hand-written letters: For that matter, hand-written anything. When was the last time you wrote cursive? In fact, do you even know what the word “cursive” means? Kids born in 2011 won’t – but they’ll put you to shame on a tiny keyboard.
Talking to one person at a time: Remember when it was rude to be with one person while talking to another on the phone? Kids born today will just assume that you’re supposed to use texting to maintain contact with five or six other people while pretending to pay attention to the person you happen to be physically next to.
Retirement plans: Yes, Johnny, there was a time when all you had to do was work at the same place for 20 years and they’d send you a check every month for as long as you lived. In fact, some companies would even pay your medical bills, too!
Mail: What’s left when you take the mail you receive today, then subtract the bills you could be paying online, the checks you could be having direct-deposited, and the junk mail you could be receiving as junk email? Answer: A bloated bureaucracy that loses billions of taxpayer dollars annually.
Commercials on TV: They’re terrifically expensive, easily avoided with DVRs, and inefficiently target mass audiences. Unless somebody comes up with a way to force you to watch them – as with video on the Internet – who’s going to pay for them?
Commercial music radio: Smartphones with music-streaming programs like Pandora are a better solution that doesn’t include ads screaming between every song.
Hiding: Not long ago, if you didn’t answer your home phone, that was that – nobody knew if you were alive or dead, much less where you might be. Now your phone is not only in your pocket, it can potentially tell everyone – including advertisers – exactly where you are.