DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Oct 10 2016

Out With The Old

by Camille B

picture-of-signboardWould you believe that you can still find a working payphone at the Decatur Library? I don’t mean a relic, barred off by velvet ropes where people can come by and stare in wonder (although they probably do). I’m talking about an actual, receiver- still- attached, working payphone.

You certainly don’t see these around anymore and many kids today have no idea what they are or how they work, just take a look here at the young man in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xm0CoT5n7A.

This youngster’s not alone, and it’s not just younger kids, teenagers too seem in awe of this blast from our past. I have a sixteen year old niece who has never seen an actual payphone, or a rotary phone for that matter, except for the ones on TV. Funny or sad, the most vivid recollection of the phone booth this modern generation might have in the  coming years, would be of Clark Kent using it to change into Superman.

Of course I couldn’t stop my mind from travelling down memory lane, wondering what else had faded away or died a quiet death while we weren’t looking? Those things which we believed to be so indispensable that are now simply memories that make our kids chortle and roll their eyes at us as though we lived during the Middle Ages.

Well honestly, quite a number of them that popped up are already pretty much obsolete and the others, though they’re putting up a brave fight to stay with us, will soon also be a thing of the past.

The following items came up repeatedly on various lists:

Rotary Phones- picture-of-rotary-phoneI think that the rotary phone would certainly be a great conversation piece among the younger and future generations. There were no buttons to press, not even for redial. Before thumbs rocked, the index finger ruled, for both scrolling down the pages of the telephone directory and dialing -the long way around. And if the phone rang, you picked it up, without knowing who was calling. If you missed a call, you dialed *69.

Mailing a letter- When was the last time you saw a teenager in line at the Post Office?  Just about everything is done online, even getting copies of grades and turning in assignments. All correspondence is done through text, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Disposable Cameras- Gone are the days of dropping off your disposable camera at Walgreens and anxiously waiting  the one hour for your honeymoon photos to be developed, hoping that the weird, grinning man you met doesn’t appear in any of the backgrounds.picture-of-disposable-camera

Today we can easily snap and store hundreds of photos to our heart’s content, using our tablets and smart phones and getting results in an instant. We now even have the option of developing them ourselves. And thanks to Photoshop, you can also say bye-bye to the weird grinning man in the background.

Cursive Writing- Alas, the lost art of cursive writing which was such an integral part of the schools’ curriculum and encouraged proper penmanship among students, today is almost non-existent. The logic behind it seems to be that we rarely put pen to paper anymore anyway. Maybe in years to  come there will be no need for pen and paper at all, so the thought is, I guess, why waste time with such a practice?

Still, I believe that there’s just something about a person having good penmanship, don’t you think? And it’s one of those things I’d most hate to see go. Some states and schools are still fighting the good fight to keep it as part of their school’s curriculum, Georgia included, but sadly it’s dying a slow death.

Renting a Movie- Years ago, we probably couldn’t imagine life without popular video rental stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. For many it was part of the weekend experience. You stopped off at the video store down the street Friday or Saturday night to rent four or five movies which you kept for a few days.

Good times for us, but hey, no love lost for the modern generation, not when they have Redbox, Netflix, Hulu and other ways to rent movies or stream them online in your own home.picture-of-blockbuster-sign

Remembering Phone Numbers- Before everyone had a cellphone with the capability of storing every possible phone number you could think of, there was just that one house phone, remember? With probably an extra line or two for everyone in the house to use. You could recite grandma’s number by heart and aunt Helen’s, the Vet, and Wong’s Chinese takeout on the corner. Any others were probably penciled in your telephone and address book that you carried with you in your handbag.

Mixed Tapes- Look at how far we’ve come from the mixed tape. Remember all that time spent compiling our favorite songs on a single cassette with 60 or 90 minutes worth of playing time? Arranging the songs in just the right order, then listening first to one side and then flipping it over to listen to the other? And who could forget using a pencil to reel the tape back in when it somehow got unraveled.

Today there are ipods, MP3 players, tablets and cellphones that enable us to create, download and store endless playlists all at the touch of a button.

And there is my absolute favorite…

Handwritten Letters- I can’think of a person who doesn’t love to get a handwritten letter. I most certainly do. How often do I get them? Not very often, I’m afraid. It is now very rare to receive a warm, handwritten letter from a friend or loved one. In the busyness of today’s world, all our new technology has completely replaced putting pen to paper.

But the memories are still there of the handwritten love letters we kept over the years, now yellowed with age.

Letters have brought comfort to men at war, cheer to sick loved ones, and solace to broken hearts. Letters and love notes have evoked the theme for many a love story.
There were so many other things on the ‘out with the old’ list that stirred up feelings of nostalgia as I did research for this post.  You can find a few more here on this link 50 things we don’t do anymore due to technology.

And though we say out with the old, we still pause to reminisce about those things that contributed to our lives in some small way over the years, even as we embrace all that technology and the future has to offer us today.

“We all have our time machines.  Some take us back, they’re called memories.  Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.”

– Jeremy Irons

Visit your local Dekalb Public Library or visit the website to find copies of these titles:

The great acceleration: how the world is getting faster, faster/ Robert Colville

The way we will be 50 years from today/edited by Mike Wallace

Toilets, toasters & telephones/ Susan Goldman Rubin

From radio to wireless web/ Joanne Mattern

The history of the telephone/ Elizabeth Raum

How to write anything: a complete guide/ Laura Brown

 

 

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joseph M October 10, 2016 at 1:08 PM

Fun post. Rotary phones were before my time, and I admit I was never a big fan of writing in cursive, but I do feel a nostalgic longing for some of these relics of yesteryear. I especially miss making mix tapes. I still have a bunch of old mixes created by myself and my friends that I occasionally play on my boombox; it is a newer device but still has the cassette tape deck!

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