Planned Obsoletion

No Telling

I‘ve been sitting here staring at Huffington Post’s photo slideshow. It’s called “12 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade” and it’s funny in that way that makes you laugh and shake your head just before you cry.

Many of these took me by surprise – I guess I’m such a geezer that I missed out on some kind of sea-change. Yes, I received a Googlewave invitation about a month ago, and no I haven’t clicked on the link yet. You can’t expect much from a gal who collects manual typewriters anyway, so that should give me a pass.

Just so you’ll be In The Know, here are the twelve things that are suddenly obsolete in the past ten years:

1. classified ads in newspapers
2. dial-up internet
3. encyclopedias
4. CDs
5. landline phones
6. film and film cameras
7. Yellow Pages and address books
8. catalogs
9. fax machines
10. wires
11. calling people on a phone
12. hand-written letters

Are you kidding me? I still have (or do) at least nine things from that list. To be honest, the daily business of our university would come to a halt if the fax machine went down, so it’s not just me.

I started thinking a bit on the whole idea and it only gets worse. I have a whole gaggle of obsolete skills – many of which cost me good tuition money to learn. I can take shorthand, queue up records for radio, edit sound tape with a cutter and – um – tape. I can drive a stick-shift. I can operate both a film projector and a slide projector, and – stand back – I know how to lay out an entire newspaper using wax, Exacto knives, and a light board.

None of these skills mean anything anymore, but I can understand that. It’s been quite a few years since technology shoved it’s wide shoulders to the front of the line. I always hated shorthand anyway. That’s not the problem.

The problem is speed. My music has gone from record, to reel-to-reel, to 8-track, to cassette, to CD, to digital in an instant. I’ve bought The White Album six times. If we can lose landline phones and speaking to another voice over them in only ten years, what’s next?

Some of these may pass by without much notice, but there are at least two generations of Southern women who’ll have to die before the hand-written thank you note does. Just sayin’.

Phone Fail

No Telling

Maybe I’m making this harder than it has to be. I’m not sure exactly how long should I read the book and fiddle with the touch screen of a new cell phone before I give up. The learning curve between the Sorry Cell Phone I had and the shiny new electronic wonder beside me now may just be a little much – like walking out of a Math for General Ed course right into Calculus. It’s not an exaggeration.

I think I’m flunking Cell Phone.

The thing intimidates me. It’s crouching here on my desk in all its Samsung Omnia sleekness, taunting me, making me feel unbelievably stupid. Oh, it takes fabulous pictures – I figured that out first thing – and even sends them to my email. I got that part down, easy. It’s just a nightmare to answer a call. In fact, I’ve not been able to pick up a call yet.

I spent three hours last night attempting to return four phone calls and I don’t think success ever happened the same way twice. There was one texting attempt, but I mistakenly texted a person who also can’t work their phone. Neither of us may ever know if that message went through.

It’s time to screw my courage to the sticking place and learn this thing. I’m putting a limit on it, though, because using a phone shouldn’t require a PHD. If I can’t figure out how to pick up and make call by this afternoon, I’ll graciously admit defeat and take the damn thing back to Verizon for something with a little less abracadabra.

Meanwhile, Em is thumb-spinning away on her new rig as if it were a natural extension of her hand. Gen-Y whippersnapper.

The Death of the Polaroid


These aren’t really Polaroids. I know they look like a stack of Polaroid pictures, but in reality they’re just a little Picasa 2 magic. Pick a folder, click the button, and all your pictures pile up like a mid 70s post-Christmas coffee table. It’s quick. It’s fun. It’s technology.

You might as well have a jumble of digitally fake Polaroids, because ladies and gentlemen – this time next year you won’t be able to take a real Polaroid picture. That’s right. The company is shutting down factories that produce the instant film and whatever’s out there may be all that’s left.

Can you imagine?

I don’t want to sound curmudgeony, but that’s real family history we’re watching disappear. Holidays in the 60s weren’t complete without a hundred double-exposed pictures covering the stereo cabinet, the dining room table, the top of the TV, every flat surface, just waiting to develop.

And the shake – remember that? I’m not completely sure why we shook the pictures while they developed, but everyone did. The earliest of them had a strange pink squeegee-looking tool that spread some sort of noxious chemical over the picture to…well, what was it for? I don’t remember, but it was mighty important for us not to touch those Christmas pictures until Dad said they were dry.

A digital picture can be deleted at the source, or kept and manipulated using scads of different software. I can take digital pictures of The Perfect Grandson and turn his eyes from blue to green, or I can cut and paste the Loch Ness monster in the background and tell him he went to Ireland as an infant. Anything is possible, even if it shouldn’t be.

A Polaroid picture is truth, warts and all. There’s something comforting in producing something and then leaving it as it is. Digital manipulation is always its own state of flux because it can be endlessly altered. There is art, however, in timing the one perfect click and watching a Polaroid photograph bloom right in front of you. After that click, you’re a spectator.

There are some folks out there mad or sad enough to do something about it. At Save Polaroid they’ve already given up trying to get the company to keep manufacturing film. Instead, the Save folk are splaying themselves out over all sorts of digital media in an effort to convince someone – anyone – to buy the plants and keep making the film. There are TV appearances, photoblogs, online social networks, and a website full of petitions (signed digitally), but I don’t hold out much hope.

If Polaroid can’t make money they won’t make the film, and neither will anyone else. That’s just business.

Until all the film is gone, I think I’m going to hoard a little. Maybe put together a Polaroid photo essay and eulogize a photographic era.