What started me thinking about the subject was the mention a few days ago on a PBS radio show about pay phones. The commentator asked the question, “When was the last time you saw a pay phone?” I realized I couldn’t remember, but it’s been a long time.
Almost everybody carries cell phones now, so pay phones are just about extinct. They may still have them at the airport. I haven’t been there lately. Anyway, that got me started thinking about a lot of things I don’t see anymore.
• Typewriters. Offices used to be full of typewriters and everybody had them on their home desks. They’ve been replaced by computers. Newsrooms used to be filled with the sound of typewriter keys clacking, the carriage return bells ringing and the chatter of automatic typewriters, known as teletypes, that brought in wire service news. Now the only sound you hear is the light clunking of computer keys.
• Pocket watches. I wonder if they still make pocket watches. My grandfather, who was a jeweler and watchmaker, always carried a pocket watch in his vest pocket, linked to a long gold chain. For many years, the pocket watch was the only timepiece recognized by railroads.
•Vacuum tubes. When I was growing up, we had a big console Crosley radio in one corner of the living room. I would sometimes crawl behind it and marvel at the glowing bulbs inside the box that brought voices from around the world into our home. Transistors and integrated circuit chips have just about eliminated vacuum tubes. That is, unless you’re an electric guitar player and they still love the warm sound that a vacuum tube powered amplifier gives.
• Film cameras. About 10 years ago, I unwisely bought a Nikon 35mm film camera, even though digital ones were already on the market. The good digital ones just cost too much. It was only a few years later I bought a digital camera and put the film one in the drawer, never to be used again. Who would have ever thought that companies like Eastman Kodak and Polaroid would be in bankruptcy?
• Slide rules. When I started college, all the engineering students carried slide rules on their belts. It was a mark of distinction. They have long since been replaced by scientific calculators and computers. It amazes me to think that the first atomic bomb was built by scientists using slide rules. I never could read one very well.
• Marbles. Kids used to play marbles all the time at recess. We’d draw a big circle on the ground, put our marbles inside and use our “shooting” marbles to try and knock the other marbles out of the circle. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen kids playing marbles, or jumping rope – another disappearing form of child entertainment.
• Milk delivery. That goes pretty far back, but in most towns, milk would be delivered in bottles to your doorstep. You just had to put out your empty bottles and leave a note in one, telling what you wanted.
Doesn’t time fly? It’s hard to believe school kids once relied on printed encyclopedias for their reference library. Where would education be today without WikiPedia?
Jones is a Carrollton resident and reporter for the Times-Georgian.