Things that were once standards — computer punch cards, filmstrips or a wall of card catalogs at the library — are now as extinct as the Tyrannosaurus rex. If you didn’t grow up with those things, you might not know what they are, but people in generations to come will be just as puzzled by the mention of cash and these 24 other items that are disappearing rapidly.
Last updated: Aug. 21, 2019
Cash is giving way to credit cards and payment apps, and marketing expert/entrepreneur Steve Kurniawan said that it will soon be obsolete and will take two familiar institutions with it.
“Printing money is expensive; $1 bills cost 4.9 cents to make, and $100 bills cost 12.3 cents, and there is always the risk of counterfeits,” he said. “This is why many, if not most, countries are working towards 100 percent digital payment. It doesn’t mean digital money and digital payment system[s] are invulnerable to hacking and other crimes, but it’s far more traceable and secure, at least for now. With the physical money becoming obsolete, we soon won’t have the need (for) physical ATMs, and soon to follow, physical banks and money changers.”
Paper maps are nearly impossible to refold once you’ve consulted them, but you don’t need to face that challenge any longer. Their death knell was first sounded by GPS units, and then smartphones with navigation apps pounded the final nail in their coffin. As of 2018, 77% of smartphone users were using navigation apps regularly to get where they were going, with 36% looking up the directions before they left home and 34% opting for navigation tools that guided them along their route. Maps also have vanished for other transportation modes, with people also using navigation maps for walking and cycling.
Disposable Plastic Straws
Paper straws make for a soggy sip, but plastic soon won’t be an alternative. Paper straws first came on the scene in 1880 and plastic straws became everyday items in the 1960s. Now, Americans use 500 million straws per day, which makes for a walloping impact on the environment in terms of plastic waste. Major cities are now banning them, with Seattle leading the way in 2018 and Washington, D.C., doing the same in 2019, and coffee giant Starbucks is phasing them out by 2020. If you don’t like the paper replacements, look for reusable straws made from materials such as metal or glass to gain popularity as alternatives.
You didn’t have change for the meter, and you were only running into the store for a minute, but there nonetheless was a ticket waiting for you when you returned. Fear not. The parking meter’s reign of tyranny is coming to an end. More cities, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Burlington, Vermont, are opting for parking apps and online payments, and some remaining old-style single and multispot meters are being replaced by models that read credit cards.
Soon, you might not have to worry about navigation and paying to park — not just because of changes to maps and meters — because you won’t even have a car.
Sean Pour, the co-founder of SellMax, a nationwide car-buying agency, said car ownership is on the way out. “It’s evident that the trend is shifting toward driverless cars,” Pour said.
He added: “As it shifts that way, services like Uber and Lyft will make it so affordable to ride that it won’t be practical owning a vehicle.”
Shawn McBride of the Future Done Right Show agreed. “I think steering wheels — and perhaps the ownership of cars — will be gone within the next 20 years. Despite the temporary setback in self-driving cars, the technology is improving. Since the cars are essentially networked they will learn to be better and better drivers. As crazy as it sounds the day is coming where it will seem very unsafe for a human to be behind the wheel of a car.”
In-Person Notary Public Services
Having a document that needs to be notarized often leads to a guessing game of where to get the service. Does your bank offer it? Is there a nearby office with a notary? Soon you won’t have to worry because 22 states already have implemented Remote Online Notarization (RON), with more to follow.
According to attorney Diane Vidal of the law firm of Chiumento, Dwyer, Hertel and Grant, “RON is revolutionary in that it enables a signer to appear before a registered Notary using a simple webcam via internet-enabled audio-visual programs. This groundbreaking direction in the way we verify identity will change the ways we handle real estate closings, sign wills and testaments, financing instruments such as mortgages and other important documents. Hence, the requirement of being physically present in the same room before a Notary, and all the inherent hassles that come with physical in-person notarization, will become obsolete in the very near future.”
Jessica Campbell, a financial writer and CPA for Collins P.C. Financial Group, said checks soon will go the way of the dodo bird for many reasons.
“Checks are considered an old-school method of payment. Not only are they less convenient, but they’re also less secure than debit and credit cards,” she said. “For example, you can easily close a debit or credit card if it gets lost or stolen. But if a check falls into the wrong hands, your bank account number and address has just been compromised by a complete stranger. With the world moving in a paper-less direction, checks are quickly being phased out. Plus, people are drawn to the perks and benefits of credit cards. You can easily apply for one online and open it up for free. Then you’ll earn rewards on everything you buy while building your credit history. If you manage your credit responsibly, then it’s a win-win.”
Find Out: How Long Is a Check Good For?
Keys are one of the most commonly lost items, with 27% of Americans losing them at least once a week. Even when you have your house keys with you, it’s a pain to dig them out when they’re buried at the bottom of your purse, and then you fumble to get the right one into the lock when your hands are full. Technology is making house keys obsolete, with combinations deadbolts, smart locks and touchscreen locks allowing people to simply punch in codes. Apps are another alternative, allowing you to access the door yourself or give someone else access remotely.
Every January, community gyms are packed with the New Year’s resolution crowd, and attendance drops throughout the year until the cycle begins all over again with another packed house.
That will change soon, according to Amber Nash, fitness expert and founder of FitHealthyBest.com.
“Large, overcrowded commercial gyms will become the Blockbuster in the fitness industry sooner rather than later,” she said. The new in-home fitness products on the market that bring group workouts and personal trainers into your home combined with the popularity of boutique gyms and functional fitness will crush the traditional commercial gyms. In addition, the average American is more confused about fitness than ever. On top of that, we are all busier than ever.
“We need a professional to come into our home on our time and schedule and tell us exactly what to do. We don’t have the time or desire to fight crowds or traffic to drive to our busy, intimidating commercial gym. You can get a phenomenal workout in the comfort of your living room with a professional trainer.”
Calculators all but eliminated the need to do math by hand, but now they’re getting their comeuppance in the era of mobile phones. A Pew Research study showed that 96% of Americans owned a cellphone as of 2018, and 81% owned smartphones. Smartphones come with built-in calculators, and even some “dumb” phones have this capability, too. That eliminates the need for the mobile phone crowd to have a separate device for crunching numbers.
Fewer people feel around on the nightstand in the dark these days to try to smack their blaring alarm clocks into silence as dedicated alarm clocks quickly are becoming a thing of the past. With 81% of Americans owning smartphones that easily double as alarm clocks and a quarter of American households owning at least one smart speaker, such as Google Home or the Amazon Echo, there’s no sense in having a standalone clock to jar you awake in the morning.
Radios once were a quick and easy source of music, news, sports and talk shows, but listeners were subject to what was being aired at any particular time. Now smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home let people listen to what they want to when they want to. A Nielsen study found that 90% of Americans with the devices use them for music and 68% tap into them as a news source. Feeling lonely? Join the 68% of smart-speaker users who chat with their devices just for fun. Radio is doomed if it doesn’t learn to match Alexa’s talents.
Old-school dial timers are a simple machine being squeezed out by mobile phones and smart speakers. Timer apps are ubiquitous on most phones, and all you need to do is ask your smart speaker to set a timer with no other effort on your part. Nearly 70% of owners of smart speakers are doing just that, so there’s no need to keep a timer around to clutter up the kitchen.
Shopping malls are becoming ghost towns, and there’s no end in sight. In 2017, major mall owner Simon Property Group saw a 5.4% decline in foot traffic over the prior year, while competitor Taubman Centers Inc. was coping with its own 6.2% drop. Malls are affected by many factors, especially the rise in online shopping. U.S. retailers are feeling the pinch, announcing 7,922 store closures in 2019 as of August, as opposed to only 3,231 openings to offset them, according to Coresight Research.
Camping out for hours, and even days, and competing in the crush of the crowd to get the best Black Friday deals soon will be a thing of the past. Amazon, with its Prime Day, has encouraged dozens of retailers to have deep discounts on days other than the post-Thanksgiving Friday. In 2018, Target’s Prime Day sales were triple that of other average two-day spans during the rest of that year. The online shopping trend is already molding Black Friday and the Thanksgiving shopping weekend into more of an online event. While in-store traffic was down 1.7% on Black Friday in 2018, online sales reached a record $6.2 billion, up 23.6% from 2017.
Bank Deposit Slips
People avoid going into banks to get money by using ATMs, but some banks still require deposit slips, whether account holders are depositing funds at the ATM or inside with the teller. That paperwork soon will be obsolete, as will any sort of trip to a financial institution or ATM, as long as your mobile phone is handy.
Marsha Kelly, the president of the Best4Businesses.com entrepreneur resource website, said, “Most major business banks, including mine, Capital One, (are) almost exclusively paperless. I can deposit checks via mobile scanning.”
Once upon a time, you called a phone number and hoped the person you were trying to reach would be home to answer. You had to know the number and manually dial or punch the numbers on the phone. Household landlines are quickly disappearing as more Americans opt to go mobile-only for their communication needs. A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that as of the last half of 2017, more than half of all U.S. households had ditched their landlines. The number leaped to more than 70% for adults between the ages of 25 and 34, and also for those who rent rather than own their homes. Those ages 65 and older are still clinging to the old ways, with only 26.4% making the complete switch to mobile, but expect those numbers to rise as the baby boomers all turn 65.
Reading the Sunday newspaper was once a weekly ritual for families. The adults soaked in the news and features and clipped coupons while the kids fought over the comics. Weekday papers were a link to the news that happened in between that massive issue, but that’s all coming to an end. Weekday print circulation plummeted from nearly 60 million in 1994 to only 35 million in 2018. That number looks even worse when you consider that it included both print and digital circulation. Advertisers are abandoning print newspapers, with $65 billion in ad spending in 2000 dropping to less than $19 billion in 2016. Smartphones and other devices give people the ability to track news almost as it happens, so it’s no surprise that stale print news can’t compete.
Thick college textbooks with dog-eared, highlighted pages are being phased out as college students move away from buying books and toward digital options. According to Cengage CEO Michael Hansen, students want more environmentally friendly options that reduce paper waste. Add that to a desire to save money and you have more students moving toward things such as Cengage’s subscription service, which he likened to a “Netflix for textbooks.” The notion of textbooks’ demise has some big support by the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates, with the couple referring to them as “obsolete” in their 2019 annual letter.
Exchanging business cards was once a professional ritual as time-honored as the handshake, but at a time when 81% of Americans own a smartphone that holds names, numbers and other contact information, there’s no reason to carry around little cardboard rectangles that get lost, or in the case of 88% of recipients, are simply thrown away within a week of receipt. People don’t have to remember whole addresses and phone numbers anymore since a simple URL can get them in touch with most businesses. That has all but eliminated the need for a physical reminder that must be saved and filed.
The 1980s hailed the start of the personal computer era, but now those bulky PCs are losing ground to laptops. According to the research firm Statista, only 88.4 million desktop PCs are projected to be shipped in 2019, compared to 94.4 million in 2018. That’s down drastically from a peak of 157 million in 2010, and the number has declined in every subsequent year. While laptop shipments have fallen most years, too, in the wake of rising smartphone use, they’re rebounding in 2019, with an expected shipment of 166 million units, and Statista projects that to rise to 171 million by 2023, while desktop shipments will likely be down to 79.5 million in that same year. Laptops easily fulfill the same functions as their desktop counterparts, with the advantage of being portable.
Digital cameras were a vast improvement over old-style models that used film, which required developing before you could see your artistic results, but now they’re undergoing a decline of their own as smartphones take over. Cameras once held a monopoly on quality of image, but smartphones have caught up. Advanced technology allows them to capture impressive images, and editing tools let you correct mistakes or enhance photos. While some purists might cling to their dedicated cameras, smartphones likely will win out for the masses.
Portable Music Players
Portable cassette players — think Sony Walkman — morphed into portable CD players and then into the iPod and a variety of other devices capable of playing digital music at a fraction of the size of their bulky and often unreliable predecessors. Now the venerable iPod is on its way out, with Apple waiting four years to launch the latest model and modeling it after the iPhone XR to make it much more of a multipurpose device. The classic iPod was discontinued in 2014, and the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle are also history. This demise isn’t surprising because smartphones have the capability to play music, so there’s really no need to lug around a separate device.
Before mobile phones gave us the ability to call or text anyone from virtually anywhere at any time, people fed coins into pay phones when they needed to reach someone while on the run. In 1999, there were 2 million pay phones, but that number has plummeted, with only 100,000 still clinging to life as of 2018. The market once was dominated by giant phone companies such as Verizon and AT&T, but independent companies operate the remaining pay phones now. The phones remain a niche necessity in some places with limited cell coverage.
Handwritten Love Letters
Handwritten love letters were a staple of romance in the paper era, but relationship expert April Masini said they’ll soon be rare.
“Because of digital communication, artisanal love letters, written on beautiful paper, where penmanship counts, and the intimate act of putting a composed missive into an envelope to post or hand a recipient, is becoming obsolete,” she said. “Not only are emails and texts diminishing love letters, but emojis are causing the written word to disappear. Instead of crafting sentences, a heart or a poop or thumbs up emoji replace nuanced, specific emotions. Modern romance = no more handwritten love letters.”
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About the Author
Barb Nefer has been writing professionally for nearly 30 years, cutting her teeth as a news writer for the Daily Southtown in Chicago. She’s a doctor of psychology, and her eclectic expertise includes personal finance, psychology, travel and the pet industry. Her work reflects that diversity, with pieces appearing in places like About.com, CBS Local, Yahoo.com, WebPsychology, and Animal Wellness magazine.