Eleven years ago I read an amusing book called Going, Going, Gone: Vanishing Americana that catalogued the long march of obsolescence through postwar America. It occurred to me as I opened my medicine cabinet this morning that the time had come for someone to publish a new book on the same subject. To that end, here are a few of the things I no longer use, do, or see:
• Toothpaste in tubes. I bought my last tube three years ago. Now my toothpaste comes out of a squeeze bottle.
• Ketchup in glass bottles. Ditto.
• Newspapers and magazines on paper. I can’t remember the last time I read one (except for a couple of the magazines for which I write). If I can’t read it on line, I don’t read it.
• Fax machines. I have one, but I rarely use it more than twice a month, both ways.
• Going to the post office to mail packages. I use FedEx and UPS almost exclusively.
• Black discs and cassettes. I got rid of the remnants of my collection when I moved to this apartment two years ago. I no longer own a turntable or a cassette deck.
• TV commercials. I now watch all TV programs after the fact (having previously recorded them on my DVR), meaning that I only see commercials as they whiz by silently and at very high speed.
• Typewriters. I disposed of my last one ten years ago. The only thing I miss about it is not having to address envelopes by hand…
• Stationery. …but since I rarely write personal letters on paper, it follows that I rarely address envelopes. Nor do I have fancy stationery with an elegant-looking letterhead. I used to, but that was three addresses ago. When I feel the occasional need to write a letter by hand, I use cards decorated with reproductions of paintings I like (I favor the Morandi notecards sold by the Phillips Collection).
• Going to the library. I don’t even have a library card anymore. If I really need a book I don’t own, I order a cheap used copy through amazon.com.
• Electric can openers. I don’t own one. Most of the cans I open nowadays have pop-top lids.
• Floppy disks. I back up my computer on line every night.
• “Water-cooler” TV shows. The last TV series to be viewed on a regular basis by more than a handful of my friends was The Sopranos.
• The evening news. My family watched Walter Cronkite religiously, and my mother still watches Dan Rather each night after supper. Not counting visits home, I can’t remember the last time I watched an evening newscast (or a Sunday-morning talk show).
• Dinner parties. I didn’t go to more than two or three last year.
• Renting videos. Again, I do it maybe three times a year, tops.
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has picked up on this thread. Among his nominees: stick shifts, corded phones, videotape, ice-cube trays, Christmas cards, and downtowns. His readers are commenting, too, and some of them are really angry, for reasons I find utterly inscrutable….