Saturday, February 14, 2009

24 things about to disappear in America

As I've said before, my friends supply me with great stuff! This came to me in the form of an email, which indicated that the author was unknown. I found this to be very interesting, though not surprising. My comments are in italics. Enjoy!

24 things about to disappear in America

24. Yellow Pages
This year will be pivotal for the global Yellow Pages industry. Much like newspapers, print Yellow Pages will continue to bleed dollars to their various digital counterparts. One research firm predicts the fall off in usage of newspapers and print Yellow Pages could even reach 10% this year; much higher than the 2%-3% fade rate seen in past years.

This is quite understandable to me. Why store those big, thick phone books when you can look up a company using the Internet? Plus, the online listings can be changed right away, as opposed to once a year when the books are printed.

23. Classified Ads
The Internet has made so many things obsolete that newspaper classified ads might sound like just another trivial item on a long list. But this is one of those harbingers of the future that could signal the end of civilization as we know it. The argument is that if newspaper classifieds are replaced by free online listings at sites like
Craigslist, then newspapers are not far behind them.

I have had terrific success buying and selling items through online services. Again, the content can be updated immediately, as opposed to waiting for the publication's next printing.

22. Movie Rental Stores
While Netflix is looking up at the moment, Blockbuster keeps closing store locations by the hundreds. It still has about 6,000 left across the world, but those keep dwindling and the stock is down considerably in 2008, especially since the company gave up a quest of Circuit City. Movie Gallery, which owned the Hollywood Video brand, closed up shop earlier this year. Countless small video chains and mom-and-pop stores have given up the ghost already.

I can't remember the last time I rented a video from a physical location. Who wants to have to remember to return it on time, or try and figure out which genre your desired film may be filed under. Online services like Netflix have no late fees and allow you to search their library using key words.

21. Dial-up Internet Access
Dial-up connections have fallen from 40% in 2001 to 10% in 2008. The combination of an infrastructure to accommodate affordable high speed Internet connections and the disappearing home phone have all but pounded the final nail in the coffin of dial-up Internet access.

With affordable high speed services being offered by both the local cable and phone companies, dial-up Internet is the equivalent to a rotary dial telephone.

20. Phone Landlines
According to a survey from the National Center for Health Statistics, at the end of 2007 nearly one in six homes was cell-only and, of those homes that had landlines, one in eight only received calls on their cells.

When we moved 2 years ago we opted not to have a landline phone installed because it seemed a redundant expense. We only use cell phones.

19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs
Maryland's icon, the blue crab, has been fading away in Chesapeake Bay. Last year Maryland saw the lowest harvest since 1945. The population is down 70% since 1990, when they first did a formal count. Over-fishing, pollution, invasive species and global warming get the blame.

This is really sad. Whereas we may be able to reduce over-fishing somewhat easily, the other contributors will be harder, if not impossible, to control.

18. VCRs
For the better part of three decades, the VCR was a best-seller and staple in every American household until being completely decimated by the DVD, and now the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). Pre-recorded VHS tapes are largely gone and VHS decks are practically nowhere to be found.

In my opinion this is simply 'progress'. DVDs provide much better quality and durability. However, we still have a VCR connected and I recently watched a movie made 20 years ago on it.

17. Ash Trees
In the late 1990s, a pretty, iridescent green species of beetle, now known as the emerald ash borer, hitched a ride to North America with ash wood products imported from eastern Asia. In less than a decade, its larvae have killed tens of millions of trees in the Midwest, and continue to spread. More than 7.5 billion ash trees are currently at risk.

This is sad, but again, appears to be something we have very little if any control over.

16. Ham Radio
Amateur radio operators enjoy personal (and often worldwide) wireless communications with each other and are able to support their communities with emergency and disaster communications if necessary, while increasing their personal knowledge of electronics and radio theory. However, proliferation of the Internet and its popularity among youth has caused the decline of amateur radio. In the past five years alone, the number of people holding active ham radio licenses has dropped by 50,000, even though Morse Code is no longer a requirement.

Huh? I thought ham radio enthusiasts were already gone. I suppose they would be handy after a disaster as long as they were battery powered.

15. The Swimming Hole
Thanks to our litigious society, swimming holes are becoming a thing of the past. '20/20' reports that swimming hole owners, like Robert Every in High Falls, NY, are shutting them down out of worry that if someone gets hurt they'll sue. And that's exactly what happened in Seattle. The city of Bellingham was sued by Katie Hofstetter who was paralyzed in a fall at a popular swimming hole in Whatcom Falls Park. As injuries occur and lawsuits follow, expect more swimming holes to post 'Keep out!' signs.

I'm not a lawyer, but couldn't the swimming hole owners post a sign indicating that anyone who chose to swim there would do so at their own risk? My grandparents lived "in the country" so I am familiar with the fun teenagers can have with a rope swing at a swimming hole.

14. Answering Machines
The steady decrease of answering machines is directly tied to # 20, the decline of landline telephones. According to USA Today, the number of homes that only use cell phones jumped 159% from 2004 to 2007. It's logical that as cellphones rise, many of them replacing traditional landlines, that there will be fewer answering machines.

I recently listened to an answering machine message that stated "I'm not home so call my cell phone..."

13. Cameras That Use Film
It doesn't require a statistician to prove the rapid disappearance of the film camera in America. Just look to companies like Nikon, the professional's choice for quality camera equipment. In 2006 it announced that it would stop making film cameras, pointing to the shrinking market. In 2005 only 3% of its sales were for film cameras, compared to 75% of sales from digital cameras and equipment.

With the affordability, ease of use, and seemingly limitless flexibility of digital photography, it seems hard to imagine why someone would want to use a film camera.

12. Incandescent Bulbs
With the green movement and all-things-sustainable-energy crowd, the Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (CFL) is largely replacing the older, Edison-era incandescent bulb. The EPA reports that 2007 sales for Energy Star CFLs nearly doubled from 2006, and these sales accounted for approximately 20% of the U.S. light bulb market. And according to USA Today, a new energy bill plans to phase out incandescent bulbs in the next 4-12 years.

I must admit that I was initially hesitant to switch to CFLs because the light has a slight blue tint (in my opinion) and because of their higher cost. However, when I saw how much electricity (and money) they save, I became a disciple.

11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys claims there are still 60 million Americans who bowl at least once a year, but many are not bowling in stand-alone bowling alleys. Most new bowling alleys are part of facilities for all types or recreation including laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, video game arcades, climbing walls and glow miniature golf. Bowling lanes also have been added to many non-traditional venues such as adult communities, hotels and resorts, and gambling casinos.

I don't know anyone who bowls occasionally. I only know people who bowl regularly on a league, or don't bowl at all, so this notion that people are bowling at casinos and laser tag venues surprises me a bit.

10. The Milkman
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 1950 over half of the milk delivered was to the home in quart bottles, but by 1963 it was about a third, and by 2001 it represented only 0.4%. Nowadays most milk is sold through supermarkets in gallon jugs. The steady decline in home-delivered milk is blamed, of course, on the rise of the supermarket, better home refrigeration and longer-lasting milk. Although some milkmen still make the rounds in pockets of the U.S. they are certainly a dying breed.

I wasn't aware there was ANY home milk delivery anymore. It seems a horribly inefficient system. Imagine the gasoline required to power a refrigerated truck delivering milk to homes all day long.

9. Hand-Written Letters
In 2006 the Radicati Group estimated that 183 billion e-mails were sent each day worldwide. That's 2 million each second. By November of 2007 an estimated 3.3 billion Earthlings owned cell phones, and 80% of the world's population had access to cell phone coverage. In 2004, half a trillion text messages were sent, and the number has no doubt increased exponentially since then. So where amongst this gorge of gabble is there room for the elegant and polite hand-written letter?

This makes me wonder if our history will be less rich going forward. Much of what we know about historical people comes from their letters. If hand-written letters are replaced by emails and text messages that aren't handed down to relatives or libraries, where will this information about us come from?

8. Wild Horses
It is estimated that 100 years ago, as many as two million horses were roaming free within the US. In 2001 National Geographic News estimated that the wild horse population had decreased to about 50,000. Currently the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board states that there are 32,000 free roaming horses in ten Western states, with half of them residing in Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to reduce the total number of free range horses to 27,000, possibly by selective euthanasia.

Euthanasia seems like a harsh and wasteful way of reducing the free roaming horse population. Wouldn't it be kinder to offer them free of charge to zoos, sanctuaries, and private owners who will assist with the capture of them?

7. Personal Checks
According to an American Bankers Assoc. report, a net 23% of consumers plan to decrease their use of checks over the next 2 years, while a net 14% plan to increase their use of PIN debit. Bill payment remains the last stronghold of paper-based payments, for the time being. Checks continue to be the most commonly used bill payment method, with 71% of consumers paying at least one recurring bill per month by writing a check. However, on a bill-by-bill basis, checks account for only 49% of consumers' recurring bill payments, down from 72% in 2001 and 60% in 2003.

Our bank offers a free online bill payment system that tracks all your bills and bill payments, and reminds you of future due dates. Paying bills online leaves me with a record of every transaction and saves significant time and money from writing out checks and putting postage stamps on them. Its a little surprising to me that checks still comprise more than half of all bill payments.

6. Drive-in Theaters
During the peak in 1958 there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in this country, but in 2007 only 405 drive-ins were still operating. No new drive-ins have been built since 2005. Only one reopened in 2005 and 5 reopened in 2006, so there isn't much of a movement toward reviving the closed ones.

This makes a lot of sense considering the plethora of access methods to movies these days. Netflix and cable/satellite on-demand libraries offer viewers the ability to see films conveniently at home.

5. Mumps & Measles
Despite what's been in the news lately, the measles and mumps truly are disappearing from the US. In 1964, 212,000 cases of mumps were reported in the US. By 1983, this figure had dropped to just 3,000, thanks to a vigorous vaccination program. Prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine, approximately half a million cases of measles were reported in the US annually, resulting in 450 deaths. In 2005, only 66 cases were recorded.

This is very good news, and a real tribute to school-based inoculations.

4. Honey Bees
Perhaps nothing on the list of disappearing America is so dire, plummeting so enormously, and so necessary to the survival of our food supply as the honey bee. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has spread throughout the US and Europe over the past few years, wiping out 50-90% of the colonies of many beekeepers, and along with it, their livelihood.

This is shocking. I'm surprised there is no mention of the cause(s) of CCD.

3. News Magazines and TV News
While the TV evening newscasts haven't gone anywhere over the last several decades, their audiences have. In 1984 in a story about the diminishing returns of the evening news, the New York Times reported that all 3 network evening news programs combined had only 40.9 million viewers. Fast forward to 2008 and what they have today is half that.

This is not surprising to me, as more and more people I know get their news from respected news sources online, at their convenience, instead of on TV at the network's convenience.

2. Analog TV
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 85% of homes in the U.S. get their television programming through cable or satellite providers. For the remaining 15% or 13 million who are using rabbit ears or a large outdoor antenna to get their local stations, change is in the air. In February 2009 these people will need to get a new TV, a converter box, or cable/satellite in order to get the all digital broadcast.

I'm amazed that there are still 15% of Americans that don't have cable to satellite. I would have imagined it being more like 3-4%. How can they be content with only 3 or 4 snowy channels?

1. The Family Farm
Since the 1930s the number of family farms has been declining rapidly. According to the USDA, 5.3 million farms dotted the nation in1950, but this number had declined to 2.1 million by the 2003 farm census. 91% of the US farms are small family farms.

Farming is hard physical work, and to do it on a medium-to-large scale requires lots of expensive equipment. Its no wonder that fewer families find this palatable. Perhaps farming will shift to become a business venture rather than a family one.

Crush du Jour: Quentin Alias


cb said...

I'm ok with the loss of paper things and phone service things and the like. but the environmental things really bother me-- especially bees. Without them we're fucked.

Seth said...

I think the folks who still use rabbit ears are also the ones who write personal checks to pay for their ham-radio setups, write hand-written letters to the newspaper, take out classified ads to sell their bowling balls, and still haven't figured out how to program their VCR.


Mechadude2001 said...

That's an amazing list. It's lke the future has been coming all alone. In a blink of an eye, the future is here.

Mechadude2001 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I still have my amateur radio license if only because it's a unique identifier for me, kd1s.

As to checks, I write one per month. That's the rent check because my landlord is 93 years old and isn't computer savvy.

We still have one home milk delivery company in RI. Of course they've expanded their selection but they're very expensive.

I haven't done a pen to paper letter in ages. All email or social media.

As far as Seth's tongue in cheek comment. I refuse to pay $47 per month for CATV to stream ads into my home. Instead net video and my Pinnacle Pro HD Stick let me which over the air (OTA) HD broadcasts if I really need the local flair.

Jeff said...

Interesting list! Like CB, I find the loss of bees the most distressing. Friends of our keep bees and we have been getting all of our honey from them for the past several years.

And Happy Valentine's Day to you and spouse!

Seth said...

LOL for a second I read jeff's comment as "loss of Beers - which I suppose would be a true American tragedy for many.

Joy said...

That part about the horses and the bees bothers me, too, along with the other environmental issues.

Blockbuster has an online service like Netflix which I use. I can return movies to the store or mail them. I also get a bonus movie free each month I can get from the store. I don't know why more people go with Netflix than, but obviously they do.

Funny comments, Seth!

Anonymous said...

As for the bees, I sawe something on NGC recently about a wway to rebuild their colonies. Wish I could remember more- but they are working on it...

but WHO is that handsome thing?

Eddie said...

I still have a Nikon film camera. I feel celluloid film will always and forever have superior quality over digital cameras. I refuse to bend. No matter how high the megapixel.

Amazing list.


Mistress Maddie said...

The list was very intresting reading! Thank for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I think I will always have a land line telephone only for the sake that if I need to dial 9-1-1, the operator will know where I'm calling from if I become speechless. Then again, Quentin Alias does a good job of that already. ;-)

Anonymous said...