Technology Marches On: 12 Everyday Tasks That Almost Nobody Does Anymore
NEW YORK - As technology continues its rapid evolution and growth on a near daily basis, we have found ourselves having to do less and less outside of the digital world when it comes to everyday tasks. One by one, things we used to have to do manually can now be done on a computer, or even more conveniently, from the palm of our hand via any recently-designed smartphone.
One of the things this new era of technology has deemed the most obsolete is that clunky old contraption known as the print phone directory. The mainstay of American households for over a century, in recent years phone-books have taken on a smaller and smaller role in our lives, to the point where their detriment to society has clearly outweighed their usefulness. Aside from being hopelessly out-of-date shortly after publication, there are a number of environmental factors to consider in both their creation and destruction after their admittedly short but useful life has concluded.
That said, here's a handy list of a number of activities that you may or may not have realized have fallen by the wayside in our new-and-improved digital age. While most of these changes represent a new era of convenience and efficiency, one could argue that some of them may actually represent steps backwards in our evolutionary cycle. It's up to you to be the judge.
In addition to many phone-book-related items, this list also includes other daily, all-too-common activities that are falling by the wayside as technology marches on. Some might read this list and grow a little nostalgic for the way things were, while others may appreciate the many advantages of technology today all the more.
1) Memorizing phone numbers
In the olden days – the olden days being the 80s and early 90s – people actually had to memorize phone numbers of their friends and loved ones, or short of that, at least carry around a small, hand-written phone book to keep those numbers within reach when they were needed. But nowadays, every cell phone has a dedicated contacts directory, and you can call anyone you know by voicing a command. That said, most people nowadays would probably have trouble telling you the phone number of their own mother or girlfriend, let alone the numbers of people they have far less contact with. While it is certainly convenient to be able to do this, one could argue that the less we use the brains, the worse off we are as a species.
2) Using a phone book to find a company to do work at your house
Modern generations, such as Generation Z and Millennials, probably don't even know what a Yellow Pages phone book is. More often than not, they regularly turn to digital alternatives, as well as websites such as Angie's List and Yelp in order to find services they need when it comes to doing work on their home. Those aforementioned websites make it easy to read user reviews and ratings before deciding to contact a given company to ensure that you're getting the best quality for your money. Today, few, if anyone at all cracks open a print Yellow Pages directory. it's straight to the internet.
3) Figuring out math in your head
This is another category that goes hand-in-hand with memorizing phone numbers. Back in the day, people used to have to add, subtract, multiply, and more within the recesses of their very own brains. Not today. In addition to the plethora of other technologies available in your smartphone, the most basic of apps they all come with is a calculator. That's right, no one has to know how to count or do any other type of mathematical activity on their own any more, and once again one has to argue if that is or is not a good thing for us as a society. With every advance in technology, there are always pluses and minuses.
4) Telling time by using the hands on a clock
Analog clocks are nearly a thing of the past. People with smartphones are buying things like wall clocks and watches and smaller and smaller numbers, mainly using them as fashion statements or – with the advent of devices such as Fitbit – wrist-worn fitness trackers. Pretty soon we won’t be seeing clocks with hands at all anymore, as a growing segment of the population wouldn't even know what they were if they saw them.
5) Having a record or CD collection
I used to have a pretty big music CD collection. Now my collection is comprised of just a couple of favorites that I couldn't bear to part with; the rest were sold to the used CD store across town. That is, I sold them after I ripped all of them to my iTunes library. Nowadays, people are using their cell phones storing their entire music collections which can be instantly retrieved and listened to at will not only through a headphone jack, but thanks to Bluetooth technology, on a number of high-end digital speakers as well, making the smartphone a truly all-in-one experience when it comes to your daily activities. With more and more storage available on even base models, you can load up your phone with a nearly endless sea of MP3 files and enjoy listening to every song you have at anytime you want. That's a lot better than having to pick out just a handful of CDs to stick in your bag for a car trip or train ride like we used to do.
6) Printing your favorite photos and making a photo album
Here's another thing that's falling by the wayside. Remember going on a trip, taking all sorts of snapshots, and then going to your local pharmacy to have all those pictures developed so you could pick out the best ones to include in a physical photo album? Those days have come and gone; again, cell phone cameras are approaching – and in many cases exceeding – the quality of many high-end point-and-shoot digital cameras, and fewer and fewer people are actually bothering to print their shots out. Instead, they are content to leave them on their phones, which serve as massive portable digital photo albums for most people these days.
7) Looking up theater or movie times through the newspaper
Remember having to look up the phone number of your local theater in your Yellow Page directory? And after doing so, calling your theater and having to listen to an endless recording of the different movies and showtimes for that day? If you don't, perhaps it's for the best...it wasn't a very fun thing to do. But again, with the magic of smartphones, you can just simply type – or even speak – the name of any movie you're interested in seeing and your phone will provide a list of movie theaters and showtimes based on your GPS positioning. You can even purchase your tickets on your phone and have them texted or emailed to you, enabling you to skip the line at the cinema.
8) Running to the store for a last minute gift
I think just about everybody today is familiar with websites such as Amazon and their Prime program which offers free 2-day shipping – soon to become free 1-day shipping – which is perfect if you suddenly remembered your mother's birthday at the end of the week and are too busy to run out to the store and search endlessly for just the right gift. Instead, eCommerce sites offer a plethora of items at your fingertips with a variety of fast shipping options to take advantage of. No more pulling out phone books to find where stores are, or braving crowded malls and check-out lanes...instead, a few button-presses on your phone and your package will be well on its way to you. Granted, this sort of activity is shuttering a lot of local retail businesses, so you might want to think twice about doing this if you want to help support your own community. But sometimes time is a factor, and it's nice to have this option available when you need it.
9) Mailing a handwritten letter to someone
Nowadays a hand-written letter is simply a novelty and little more. With email, texting, Facebook, and a plethora of other options for staying in touch with people on a daily basis, letter-writing is seen by many as a thing of the past. It still is nice though when you want to add that personal touch to someone you are especially fond of, but otherwise it just doesn't happen much anymore.
10) Using a dictionary to see how to spell a word
With practically every program on your phone possessing a spell-checker of some sort, apparently people don't need to know how to spell anymore, either. Again, this goes hand-in-hand with knowing how to add, multiply or remember phone numbers. Like those other issues, this could certainly be seen as a negative, but there are times when you just wouldn't know how to spell a given word and it's nice to know that technology can help you from looking like a complete illiterate when it counts.
11) Making a phone call from a phone booth
I'm writing this article, and even I barely remember what a phone booth looks like. It's likely that anyone born from the early 1990’s on would even have any idea what a phone booth was, let alone what it looks like. That's probably not a bad thing.
12) Carrying cash
It seems more people nowadays are using credit and debit cards to pay for things than actual cash, but cash is still king...at least, for now. There are more and more apps arriving on phones – such as Google Play and others – that are making even carrying around plastic obsolete, let alone paper. But while any form of payment still works these days, you're going to see that currency is going digital sooner rather than later.
As you can see, smartphones add a great deal of convenience to our lives, and while some may argue that they also can be a detriment when it comes to our personal growth and evolution – after all, it's good to know how to count, spell and memorize things – cell phones nonetheless have become a part of daily life that few people can do without. This instance, I'd say the positives outweigh the negatives. At least, that is, for now.