Friday, January 08, 2010

A Bucket List

QUICK, name five things that don't exist anymore. My list: typewriter ribbons, ink wells, record needles, Oldsmobiles and the Soviet Union.

An author named Anna Jane Grossman who studies such things instead chooses blind dates, getting lost, porn magazines, looking old and body hair.

My list admittedly dates me somewhat, a point that was driven home when I read a recent piece on the Huffington Post Web site about things that are becoming obsolete.

There are some old favorites here, like handwritten letters and some not so old products, such as CDs and dial up Internet.

Technology is the common denominator. Whatever product is on this particular Bucket List has been replaced by some super whiz bang wireless global positioning satellite-directed hand held high def billion gigabyte gizmo that will simplify our lives but only if you know a Caltech grad who can tell you how to operate it.

The article confirmed my feelings that nostalgia has become the yearning for something that happened several hours ago. Such is progress.

Without further ado, here is the Huffington list accompanied by some personal observations, an act on my part that will never become obsolete.

Calling. That's right, conversation. The Huffington folks predict that texting will replace the call and offer as evidence the 110 billion texts sent in December 2008. None of which were sent or received by me. First of all, the keyboard is so small that any


text I attempt turns out to look like it was scrawled by a drunk writing in Sanskrit. And second of all, I don't have time to learn the lingo, like LTLWDLS (Let's twist like we did last summer) or MTFBWU (May the force be with you). Besides, I like the sound of the human voice.

Dial up Internet. Sure, you could sign on, have breakfast, and return just in time to get connected. But those crackling, buzzing noises made me feel like I was starring in a Grade B science fiction movie.

Encyclopedias. Which are presumably being replaced by Wikipedia, the online equivalent which is written and edited by anyone and everyone. That policy clearly leads to errors.If I need to be absolutely correct, I’ll reach for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

CDs. People download music directly onto MP3 players and the like these days. Indeed, the No. 1 music retailer in the United States is Apple’s itunes. I received a Christmas gift this year of a turntable which will install 78 rpm and 45 rpm records onto a MP3. Nice of them to think of us old folks.

Landline phones. I have trouble giving up my landline phones, probably because I resist wearing my cell phone on my hip like some gunslinger in “3:10 to Yuma.” Or one of those ear pieces that make you look like a cyborg. But there is another good reason, according to experts. With a land line phone, the 9-1-1 dispatch center gets the caller’s physical address — 123 Main Street. With a wireless phone, they get latitude and longitude information from the cell carrier. That is converted into the caller’s approximate location.

Film. Can you even buy it anymore?

Yellow Pages and address books. Many of us still rely on the Yellow Pages. That’s because many of us use them as door stops. For the rest of us, the Internet is the portal to goods and services. As for address books, there’s still something comforting about handwritten entries on paper. And sometimes reading the names you have scratched off over the years can be downright entertaining.

Wires. Huffington explains: “Wireless internet, wireless updating, wireless downloads, wireless charging, wireless headphones: Although wires are still around (for now!), they're well on their way to being a thing of the past.” Sounds great. In the meantime, be prepared to put up with poor service, dropped calls and slow Internet.

Catalogs. Are you kidding? We still get enough in the mail each year to put a dent in the Amazon rain forest.

Handwritten letters. I think the last handwritten letters I received were from my kids at summer camp. And that was 20 years ago. Oh sure, I get a few missives from angry readers and the occasional Christmas letter but let’s face it, this is a lost art. And that’s a shame. There’s actually a Web site called handwritten that celebrates the art of putting thoughts and dreams on paper. They explain it this way: “... to actually sit down and put a part of you into a handwritten letter, to tell a story and express an emotion to someone important to you, provides a glimpse into who you are.”

Here’s hoping I’m not on the obsolete list next year.

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