Revisiting past technology on Memory Lane
BY CHUCK WITT
How about a trip down memory lane?
Recently, Handyman Tips, a daily email supported by Family Handyman magazine, sent a list of 10 things that most people no longer do, and probably haven’t done in a very long time.
You, the reader, can rate yourself as to how many of the things you have done … or may still be doing.
1. Adjusting rabbit ears to secure a stable and (mostly) snow-free TV picture. Apparently the manufacture of rabbit ears did not cease until 2007!
2. Thumbing through the yellow pages to find a service. Today’s yellow pages are almost non-existent, and most people simply Google or go online to find a reference to a particular service.
3. Dialing a rotary phone. There is a good selection of rotary phones in the Telephone Room at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum. It has been noted that some of the younger visitors to the Museum have not been able to determine exactly how the rotary works, unable to fathom the action of twirling the hole above a number to the stop and letting go. There are many in Winchester who can remember when the numbers were odd, without area codes. Some local numbers had as few as three digits and some were combinations of letters and numbers.
4. Reading a paper map. Utilization of Google Earth and GPS systems (many installed in new cars) has become the norm. Regardless, there is a certain beauty in printed maps. The oldest surviving map is called the Imago Mundi, dating from between 500 and 700 BCE, created by the Babylonians, incised in clay and housed in the British Museum in London.
5. Driving a stick shift. It is difficult to find a stick shift in a new car. They must often be special orders. Those who have driven stick shifts can probably recall the difficulty of learning to let out the clutch on a hill without letting the car move backwards.
6. Setting an alarm clock. Of course, along with setting the clock came the practice of winding it sufficiently to make sure that it was still working when morning arrived. The alarms of those early metallic alarm clocks was a raucous affair which were capable of arousing one from a coma.
7. Penmanship. Recently many school systems have given up teaching cursive writing, but many can remember the elementary classrooms in which the cursive alphabet was posted above the chalkboard and students were drilled in copying those letters and learning to combine them into coherent words and sentences. Some school systems are re-introducing cursive writing, a welcome change since the printing skills of students today seems to have deteriorated significantly.
8. Changing the ink ribbon in a typewriter. Taking a typing class in high school always included having to occasionally change the ribbon and it was impossible to do so without the resultant inky hands that stuck with one until bath time.
9. Cleaning a VCR head. VCRs have pretty much gone the way of the vinyl record, and cleaning the heads of the machines was not a chore that one tackled happily.
10. Using a library card catalog. What a joy it was to leaf through those card catalogs, sometimes coming across an unexpected jewel. The people who are nostalgic about about card catalogs are the same who would probably never consider reading a Kindle book, opting instead for the feel of paper in their hands.
Even the beautiful wooden cases which housed the card catalog were a ubiquitous part of the library, replaced now with computer terminals.
In another generation there will likely be no one still around who indulged in any of these practices.
Time marches on … and today’s alarm clocks are probably Alexa awaking one with a dulcet female voice or some other selected method of arousal.
Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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