Chances are, if you don’t feel old now, one day you will — probably when some kid gives you a blank look in response to a cultural reference you’ve made.
Following is a look at things that could trigger that response from a person born in 2020.
1. Using credit cards
Given the rise of mobile payment apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay in recent years, babies born in 2020 may not even get to know the concept of paying for something with a piece of plastic, let alone paper-based cash.
Instead, they could be more likely to wave their smartphone at a store payment terminal. In fact, the share of smartphone users who have made at least one such payment is projected to rise to 33.6% by 2023, when babies of 2020 will turn 3. Just imagine when they’re old enough to apply for credit.
2. Paying for two phone lines
Some people still pay for both a landline at home on top of a cellphone, but the former has become increasingly less common while the latter has skyrocketed in popularity. Who doesn’t have a cellphone these days?
You can try to explain to today’s kids that the icon (an old handset) on the cellphone button they press to make a call is more or less what an actual phone looked like back when phones were tethered to walls by wires. But kids probably won’t understand why you’d plug a phone into a wall.
3. Watching a taxi’s meter
Yes, there was a time before Uber, never mind driverless cars. We’d stand on the sidewalk and wave at oncoming traffic in the hope someone in a yellow car would pull over and give us a ride. And we’d spend that ride watching a meter climb to the amount of cash we’d have to fork over when the car stopped.
But as ride-share services like Uber and Lyft have grown, it’s becoming increasingly more common not only to hail a ride with a few taps of your smartphone screen but also to view the cost and pay the driver the same way.
4. Going to Western Union for money transfers
Although Western Union is no longer in the business of exchanging telegrams, it and competitors like MoneyGram do still offer money transfer services.
But today’s youths are more likely to transfer funds to someone else with a few taps of their smartphone screens, using payment apps like Venmo and Zelle.
5. Subscribing to print media
Trees used to have to die for you to read the newspaper. There were also things like books, magazines and catalogs printed on paper that allowed you to read at your leisure without the need to charge a battery.
But if babies born in 2020 pay for media at all, they may be more likely to subscribe to a digital-only publication.
6. Buying CDs
Just think what the babies of 2020 will be missing: The delicious satisfaction of holding a new, unwrapped music CD they’ve purchased on a shopping trip to the mall — also, the frustration of trying to find a spot where you can start to tear off the cellophane wrapper.
What they won’t miss is paying upwards of $10 for a single album. They will more likely pay $10 a month, if that much, for a subscription to a streaming music service that gives them unlimited access to music.
7. The ‘pound sign’
Kids may never realize that what’s now called the “hashtag” was called the “pound sign” (as in 5# for a weight of 5 pounds) or sometimes called the “number sign” (as in a #2 pencil).
While youths are unlikely to know the history of this symbol, they nevertheless give the key a workout. The lowly # symbol found new life thanks to Twitter: It was 2007, and Chris Messina, a software developer and Twitter user, tweeted a proposal to use the hashtag symbol as a means of organizing topics and identifying groups in tweets.
“He chose the # symbol because it was an easy keyboard character to reach on his 2007 Nokia feature phone and other techies were already using it in other internet chat systems,” wrote CBS Minnesota, in a story published Nov. 7, 2013, the day Twitter became publicly traded.
The rest, as they say, is history.
8. Shopping in stores
Today’s babies might never know a time when they’d need to leave the house to get things they need or want.
With clothes, books, meals, toys, appliances, tools and now even groceries dropped on their doorsteps, they’ll find it hard to imagine a world without drone deliveries — of just about everything.
9. Having privacy and anonymity
Photos of today’s kids are posted on Facebook before they lose that new-baby smell. From there on, most everything they do, eat and think will be broadcast on the internet — first by their family, then by themselves — and will remain there virtually forever for virtually anyone to see.
Whether they’ll learn to use caution before posting things for all to see remains an unknown.
10. Dropping coins in a pay phone
Pay phones and phone booths are dinosaurs on borrowed time.
They are still in operation across the country, including 100,000 in New York, according to a 2018 CNN report. But major telecommunications players like Sprint, AT&T and Verizon left the pay-phone business years ago.
11. Getting directions
Back in the predigital age, you needed to know how to get where you were going before you left the house. And if that failed, you needed a map in the car or a clerk at a gas station to tell you which road to take.
When you think about it, it’s not just directions that have disappeared. Getting lost is old, too. There’s just no excuse anymore for failing to find your way — except maybe when your phone dies or your car’s GPS goes on the blink.
12. Writing checks
Back in the day, it would have been unimaginable that, someday, you’d be able to wave your phone at a store terminal to pay for your purchase.
Instead, people wrote down the amount they owed on a piece of paper issued by their bank. It was called a check.
They signed it and gave it to the person or store to whom they owed money. That person took the check (or mailed it) to a bank and exchanged it for paper currency or deposited the amount in an account.
13. Ordering plain old coffee
There used to be three options for coffee: cream, sugar or both. Now, it can take almost as long to order a skinny, half-caf, grande mochaccino with whip as it does to drink it.
14. Buying incandescent lightbulbs
Kids born this year will know only the glow of an LED, or light-emitting diode, which uses a fraction of the electricity of incandescent lightbulbs and probably won’t be replaced by a new form of lighting before they go to college.
15. Being unsupervised
In recent years, a young brother and sister going to the playground without an escort started a national debate about the concept of “free-range” kids.
The ABC News program “What Would You Do” examined the national controversy. Its 2018 report says:
“While most states do not have a law dictating the exact age a child can be left alone, Utah recently amended its child welfare laws to clarify that parents cannot be charged with neglect for letting their children, if they deem them mature enough, to play outside alone or walk home from school by themselves.”
If the pattern continues, kids born in 2020 might get some bathroom time alone. Might.
16. Buying circus tickets
In 2016, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus stopped using elephants in performances. The company had been criticized, picketed and sued by animal rights groups over the elephants’ treatment.
The following year, the 146-year-old circus made its last performance, ending the traveling spectacle that had thrilled many generations of Americans.
Ticket sales had declined after the elephants’ departure and, together with high operating costs, that spelled the end of the circus, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which produced Ringling, told National Public Radio.
17. Worrying about someone who’s late
You make plans to meet someone at a place and time. You get there on time, but your friend is late.
In the past, there was no way to get a message explaining that the person was stuck in traffic or had something else come up. Phones were not mobile devices that everyone carried, and text messages hadn’t been invented yet.
You just had to sit and wait until they either showed up or you gave up.
18. Taking quarters to an arcade
Yes, there was a time when video games were the size of a small closet. What’s more, each of those hulking devices let you play only one game. Space Invaders, Asteroids and Pac Man were a few hot titles.
You didn’t play these at home back then, of course. You had to go to an arcade — with your pocket full of quarters — to be able to play them.
19. A time before Michael Phelps
Kids born in 2020 will live in a world where there has always been a swimmer with 23 Olympic gold medals, three silver and two bronze.
Phelps won a total of 28 Olympic medals overall — the most Olympic medals in history — before retiring at the 2016 Rio games at the ripe age of 31.
Today, Phelps has a new career. In 2018, he told USA Today that his current work, destigmatizing mental health treatment, is his new calling. Says Phelps, who is married and a father:
“Depression is something I continue to go through daily, it doesn’t go away. But it’s important for people to see that’s OK.”
20. Memorizing a phone number
We used to memorize the phone numbers of friends, family and workplaces so we wouldn’t have to look them up in a Rolodex every time. (A Rolodex is the card-holding device in the photo above.)
Now, you just have to remember your own, so you can give it to someone when you meet them the first time — unless you get their number and send them a text instead.
Your cellphone has everyone else’s number — if not their email address and birthday, anniversary and shoe size — in its memory.
21. Not knowing something
Who was the 19th president? What’s the capital of Latvia?
In years past, if you didn’t know the answer you either had to go to the library or maybe look it up in an encyclopedia (a big book with topics listed in alphabetical order). Asking Siri was not an option. (Rutherford B. Hayes and Riga, by the way.)
But that does not mean internet users are smarter. A 2018 Pew Research Center poll of 5,035 adults in the United States studied how well consumers of news did at separating facts from opinions. (A fact: Something that can be proved or shot down using objective evidence. An opinion, Pew says, reflects a person’s values and beliefs.)
When asked to identify whether a statement was opinion or fact, a majority of Americans got three out of five examples correct. That’s only slightly better than they’d do with a random guess, Pew says.
22. Using phone books
White pages and yellow pages mean nothing anymore. Searching for a phone number on the internet with your smartphone is faster than looking it up in the paper pages of a physical phone book — if you could even find a one.
Talk about speed: Your phone also may offer to call the number it finds for you.
23. Learning to spell
In the good old days, if you didn’t know how to spell a word, you had to dig around through the pages of a dictionary until you found it.
Now, you just have to get close enough to give the computer or cellphone’s spellchecker an idea of what you’re searching for.
What’s so bad about that? Today’s kids miss all the other words, facts and concepts that dictionary users learned as they thumbed through the big book for answers.
24. Making prank calls
Caller ID has rendered this annoying childhood pastime more or less impossible.
A long time ago, adolescents might amuse themselves and their friends by calling up a tavern, bar or mom-and-pop grocery store and asking, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”
Often the poor shopkeeper would put down the phone and rustle around the shop looking for the pipe tobacco brand, coming back to say, “Yes.” The dopey adolescents then hooted into the phone, “Well, you’d better let him out before he suffocates!”
They would hang up the phone knowing that their anonymity was safe, since the furious shopkeeper had no idea who was calling.
25. Using dial-up phone modems
Oh, the early days of the internet. Back then, you might want to use the phone, but had to wait because someone else in your home was tying up the line to check their email.
When landlines were the rule, your modem used a telephone line to access the internet. Those old modems were strange, often-unreliable things, full of flashing lights and odd beeps and squeaks.
26. Talking to people over dinner
Today’s babies will know only a world where it is socially acceptable to slap your phones on the table at the start of the meal, keeping an eye and ear on it in case something pops up.
They may not be able to imagine a time when family members ignored the ringing landline in another room because dinner with the people in front of them was more important.
If you are unfamiliar with the ancient art form of dinner table conversation and want to revive it, it’s good to know that not everything makes for good table talk. Harsh, upsetting or difficult conversations are best saved for other times. For good digestion and a pleasant meal, stick to safe, easy topics. Food, music and even fashion are a few recommended by The Spruce. Stay away from politics, religion and discussions of gross medical maladies, it says.
27. Watching Tom Petty, Mary Tyler Moore and James Brown perform
Kids born in 2020 will never get to see Tom Petty play a concert, Mary Tyler Moore toss her hat or James “The Godfather of Soul” Brown proclaim, “I feel good.”
So many entertainment greats enjoyed by their parents and grandparents are gone. Maybe the reason those greats seemed so special was that, with radio stations playing much the same popular music and a handful of TV networks ruling the airwaves, Americans, for the most part, shared a common entertainment culture.
What other things do you think will be distant memories when the babies of 2020 come of age? Share them with us in a comment below or on our Facebook page.
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