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Nostalgia-fest: 10 now-obsolete ideas and objects

Get ready for a nostalgia-fest, as Anna Jane Grossman’s fun and thought-provoking book, ” Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By,” delivers a series of mini-essays about a wonderfully disparate assortment of ideas, concepts, and products that have gone from being omnipresent to being obsolete (or close to it).

Consider one of my personal favorites, and the one gracing the book’s cover—the typewriter. Today’s emerging writers, it would be fair to say, will never use one. But it wasn’t long ago, as Grossman points out, when “typewriters revolutionized the writing process just as drastically as computers did later.”

Though “Obsolete” is not a hefty encyclopedia, it is a worthwhile one. More than just a catalog of ideas and products, it is a view into the world we’re leaving behind.

Here are ten favorites from the book:

  1. Polaroids
    Well, I’ve still got one—an SX-70 sitting on a shelf. Film-less, yes, but evocative of another era.
  2. Body Hair
    Grossman’s take on this is hilarious. As she says, “being hairy has become like choosing to be fat.”
  3. Capitalization
    Will texting be the end of capitalization. Possibly.
  4. Anonymity
    “Living an existence that warranted only two status updated; three, if you got married.”
  5. Dictionaries
    Sales of dictionaries have been declining, Grossman notes. But I’m not sure about the obsolence of the dictionary: I love my online dictionary, and I can imagine them getting even better.
  6. Rolodexes
    Who needs a Rolodex when you’ve got all the info on your handheld computer?
  7. 7Smoking
    Let’s hope this becomes obsolete.
  8. Getting Lost
    Hard to get lost with GPS chips in everything.
  9. Traditional Names
    Even the author of a baby-naming book, it seems, believes parents have gone too far with off-the-wall names.
  10. Percolators
    Believe it or not, I still use one of these.

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