When my daughter was eleven, I started making a list of all the things from my own life that will never be part of hers. It was inspired by my brother telling me that he’d been in the car with my two nephews, and when they reached their destination, he told them to “crank the windows up.” The two boys had never heard that expression, and my brother realized it’s because they had never been in a car without electric windows. Sure, they exist, but not in the world of those kids, who were then under seven years old.
I published the original version of the list on the Op-Ed page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 9, 2005. Since then, others have chimed in with suggestions, I’ve thought of a few more, and the list has grown to include:
Double features. Drive-in theaters. Theater marquees proclaiming: “Held over for 30th week!” Signs under the marquee advertising “It’s Air Conditioned Inside” in letters that look like dripping ice.
Movies on videotape. Remembering to “Be kind, rewind.”
Rabbit ears on top of the TV. Using pliers to change the channel because the knob’s broken. Getting up to change channels. Wired remote controls. Waiting for the TV to warm up. Having to watch a show when it airs or missing it forever.
Owning a tape recorder. Cassette, 8-track, and reel-to-reel tapes. A Walkman that plays cassettes. Cassingles. CD singles. DAT tapes. Mini-disks. Records and turntables. Adapters for 45s. “You sound like a broken record.”
Cameras with thumbwheels to advance the film. Cameras with film. Waiting for film to be developed to see if the photos looked good. Flash bulbs, flash cubes, flip flash.
Ultra-bright home movie lights. Home movie screens. Home movie projectors. Slide projectors. Editing small reels of Super-8 film onto bigger reels.
Film strips at school with a next-frame beep that every kid could imitate and drive the a/v guy crazy.
Phones with dials. Phones with cords. Changing your phone number when you move. Pay phones. Dial tones. Busy signals. Really expensive long distance calls. Party lines.
Knowing the phone number to call for time and weather. Looking in a phone book for the number of a business. Playing songs on the buttons of a touchtone phone.
Seeing people wearing pagers on their belts. Answering machines that you check as soon as you get home.
Smoking on airplanes. Smoking in movie theaters. Smoking at work. Ash trays on restaurant tables.
Bank tellers. Writing checks. Buying tickets for games, concerts, and movies at the box office.
Going to the library to use an encyclopedia. Copying something out of the World Book for a school assignment. Microfilm. “The Reader’s Guide to Periodicals.”
Gas stations with the rubber hose that dings when you drive over it. Gas for under a buck a gallon. Free drinking glasses with a fill-up.
Rear car windows that open all the way. A foot switch to activate bright headlights. Cars with wing window vents in front. Cars with bench front seats. Watching a car’s analog odometer roll up from a number ending in 999 to 000.
Scoring your own bowling game. Women wearing swim caps at the pool. Only boys playing sports at school. Lawn darts.
Soda in glass bottles. Soda made with cane sugar. Church keys for cans without pop tops. Cans without pop tops. Pop tops that come off when you pull them.
TV weather reports without Doppler radar. TV weather forecasters who use stick-on pictures of sun and clouds. TV news that’s only on in the evening. TV stations that sign off in the middle of the night.
Floppy disks. Computers that fill a room. Dot matrix printers. Green-and-white computer paper with tractor feed perforations.
Typewriters. Carbon paper. Correctype. Wite-Out.
Fax machines. Thermal fax paper. Mimeograph machines. The smell of mimeograph ink.
Prices on food items at the supermarket. Jiffy Pop you shake on the stove. Coffee cans with keys. Coffee percolators on the stove.
Metal ice cube trays. Defrosting the freezer with a turkey baster and a yardstick. Yardsticks with furniture store names and logos. Yardsticks.
Susan B. Anthony dollars. Sacagawea dollars. $2 bills.
Writing letters. Postage stamps you lick. Envelopes you lick. S and H green stamps.
Cotton diapers. Rectal thermometers. Bar soap. Portable bubble hair dryers with the carrying strap. Wearing curlers to bed.
Metal keys for hotel rooms. Winding a wrist watch. Tonka trucks made of steel. Styrofoam boxes at McDonald’s.
Rubbers — the ones that go over your shoes.
K-Tel collections of “the original hits by the original artists!”
Listening to great Top 40 DJs being funny while talking up every song right to the vocal.
Car radios with an analog tuner dial. Tuning across the radio dial and hearing signals coming in and out.
Free-standing mailboxes in the neighborhood. A metal slide in the neighborhood playground.
Using a standalone calculator. Using a tube tester in a hardware store. The “thunk” of the Sears catalog being delivered to your door.
Pulling out a drawer to look through the card catalog at the library. Having to fold up a big paper map. Getting directions for a road trip from AAA on a Trip Tik.
Going to the airport gate to meet someone. Going to the top of the World Trade Center.
Got something I should add to the list? Drop me a message via e-mail via the address on the upper right corner of this page. Now I wonder if the next generation will understand the previous sentence.
Updated 2/21/17 3:38pm…A few more from readers/listeners:
Using a key to open a car door or trunk. Holding down the rear license plate to fill the gas tank. A manual transmission with a shift knob on the steering column. Non-power steering.
Buying a standalone radio. A telephone booth with hinged doors. Fuses.
Those retail credit card machines that made the “clunk” noise as the clerk moved the bar that transferred the number from your embossed card onto carbon-paper receipts.
Updated 6/21/17…Ken Barker suggests: “How about sending something COD?”
Updated 8/29/18…My daughter adds: “Slide rules.”