Headed down the path to oblivion


In the June issue of the AARP Bulletin (yes, I am old enough to get this magazine), writer Betsy Towner presents a list of fixtures of everyday life that will “go the way of the gramophone, labeled ‘quaint’ and relegated to museums—if not the trash” in the next 50 years. Some I would be prone to agree with. Others, I am not so sure.

The list is presented in no particular order, but the largest graphic on the page is a postage stamp. “Snail mail,” as Towner and many others label traditional items delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, is allegedly headed the way of the Pony Express.

“As we continue to trend toward electronic correspondence, to survive, the agency will have to scale back mail service,” Towner says.

While I agree the USPS has taken quite a hit in the past decade, judging from how fired up small-town residents get when their post offices are threatened, I am not ready to ring the death knell just yet. Cutbacks will continue, but at least the P.O. doesn’t leave packages on your porch if you are not home like private delivery services do.

Home phones are also on the way out, Towner says.

“People will drop land lines and opt for cell-only. Eventually, we’ll be talking on mini-computers the size of cell phones, and basic telephones will go the way of the dodo,” she writes.

Again, I agree to some extent. But, less than a month ago we witnessed what kind of chaos ensues when cell-phone and Internet service go down. Until there is some sort of directory for cell-phone users, my wife will insist we have a landline connection so people can find us. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to reach someone whose number is not listed and who has no landline.

Towner predicts the disappearance of physical media for data. She writes that thumb drives, CDs, DVDs, even Blu-Ray discs are not long for this world. Electronic entertainment will be bought and played directly from the Internet.

I hope this takes a while, because with the speed of our local service at times, lots of Hillsboro residents will be looking to good old-fashioned books in their free time.

Interestingly, traditionally published works did not make her list, despite the growing e-book market. Also, I have yet to figure out why people spend big bucks on huge HD TVs, then stream stone-age quality programming to their sets.

Gasoline pumps will also be a thing of the past in 50 years, Towner suggests. Judging from our inability as a nation to wean ourselves from dependence upon crude, her prediction of a world where cars run on electricity and hydrogen is way ahead of itself.

Towner also envisions a world without toilet paper (bidets will somehow be magically accepted), glove-box road maps (how many of us still don’t own a GPS?), business cards and piggy banks (money as we know it will be replaced with electronic banking). She predicts an end to desktop computers and cursive handwriting (we won’t need it to sign checks or documents).

Use of many of these is indeed already waning.

Other items set to become museum pieces include answering machines, tube televisions, phone books, subway tokens, Rolodexes, printed encyclopedias, analog film and incandescent light bulbs.

Towner even predicts an end to driving as we know it within the next 50 years.

“Google’s robotic car has a near-perfect record on thousands of miles of California highways,” she writes. “The best part? Robots don’t drink, text or fall asleep at the wheel.”

She has a point there. We are already seeing a number of cars that can parallel park by themselves. How many of us ever learned to master that maneuver the old-school way?

How many of Towner’s predictions will pan out? It’s hard to tell. For now, though, I plan to stick with the toilet paper.


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