Excellent post with a lot of great comments. Let’s take a look at what Scalzi doesn’t miss:

  • Stupidly expensive long-distance charges.

  • Crappy old cars.

    Which cars qualify as crappy old cars? In my opinion, pretty much all of them. Pre-catalytic converter cars were shoddily-constructed, lead-spewing deathtraps, the first generation of cars running on unleaded were even more shoddily-constructed 70s defeat-mobiles, the 80s were the golden age of Detroit Doesn’t Give a Shit, and so on. You have to get to about 1997 before there’s a car I would willingly get into these days. As opposed to today, when even the cheap boxy cars meant for first-time buyers have decent mileage, will protect you if you’re hit by a semi, and have more gizmos and better living conditions than my first couple of apartments.

  • Physical media for music.
  • Smoking allowed everywhere.
  • Pull tabs on drink cans.

I can’t say I agree completely with all his points, but they are all well thought-out and amusingly presented.

What do I not miss? Getting lost. I have a famously poor sense of direction and the ability to use GPS, the maps app on my iPhone and just plain old Google Maps for printing out customized maps with instructions, well, let’s just say that they’ve all made my life much easier.

What don’t you miss?

Comments

  1. #1 qetzal
    January 22, 2010

    - Steel drink cans.
    – Manual channel knobs on TVs.
    – 5 TV channels (3 VHF & 2 UHF).
    – Typewriters.
    – Carbon paper.
    – Those enormous sets of bound books that used to be the only way to search the scientific literature. I can’t even remember their names. In fact, let’s just include all hard-copy indexes here. (Remember library card catalogs, on actual 3×5 cards? Shudder!)

  2. #2 Gray Gaffer
    January 22, 2010

    5 things, eh?

    1: waxed canvas bad weather motorcycling gear (you youngsters have no idea how awful that was).

    2: Lucas electrics.

    3: Film, especially if you processed it yourself like I did.

    4: cod liver oil.

    5: Vacuum Tubes. Except possibly for audiophile and guitar amps.

    But then there are things we lost that I want back:

    1: Real milk. Even today’s “whole milk” is colored water by comparison. Endemic to all derivatives.

    2: Engines I can work on. Those old cars may have been crappy, but it was possible to work on them (fix or improve) at home without $K’s of special tools.

    3: Vacuum tubes. Or equivalent – 44K1/16 bits PCM is not enough. Would consider 96K/32 bit float encoding instead. But it needs to be on what I buy from the music source. mp3 is a joke. At our expense. My 1/2 speed master of Dark Side eclipses everything else when played on my Thorens turntable. Analog Rules!

    4: Intelligent entertainment. When it was a Good Thing ™ to be intelligent in public. Exemplar is the old British radio show “My Word”, with Denis Norden and Frank Muir, and frequently with Anais Nin. If you can find a recording of the “Proof of the Pudding” one let me know – it was priceless!

    5: The constellation of words surrounding “gay”. I do not know what word to use instead today. It used to denote a particular state of doing or being that had everything to do with joy and nothing to do with gender or sexual preferences.

  3. #3 Josh W
    January 25, 2010

    Too busy today to consider this more fully, but I’ll give you one: Floppy disks. Notoriously unreliable and finicky, and didn’t hold much even by 1980s/1990s standards.

    Sorry I missed meeting you at Science Online. I was at the online reference managers session but had to duck out before it was over. Maybe next year!

  4. #4 Gray Gaffer
    January 25, 2010

    I would extend floppies to include all flexible magnetic tape based storage. As far as I am concerned, every single one of the many tape backup systems I used is WOM (Write Only Memory).

    Just for fun, in the 60’s I had to make one of these beasties work:

    http://www.ncr.org.uk/page78.html

    The NCR/ELLIOTT CRAM (Card Random Access Memory). I consider this the ultimate in Rube-Golberg-ish ideas promoted as the “Latest Greatest Technology”. The tape strips moved through the system fast enough to remove fingers. The system relied on high precision guides and vacuum technologies. Mylar film is not high precision. Hilarity ensued. The 9-tracks I also worked on were more reliable by far, but also delicate to get set up.

  5. #5 John Dupuis
    January 26, 2010

    Thanks, everyone. Keep ‘em coming!

    Josh, yes, that was the feeling I got after the conference — I met so may great people but that there were just as many that I wanted to connect with but didn’t.

  6. #6 Bruce Sharp
    January 26, 2010

    I’m heading off on a slight tangent, but I’d like to make note of two fields where few people fully appreciate the vast advances we’ve made in the last 10-15 years: cheap backyard swimming pools, and frozen pizza.

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