Things We Don’t Use Anymore

by Valerie Nusbaum

Not long ago, I was manually searching through some of my dad’s old photographs and slides, looking for a particular scene that I wanted to paint. I was grumbling to myself that my dad rarely took pictures of places or scenery. No, most of Dad’s photos were of us—Mom, John, and me. Then it dawned on me that Dad used 35-mm film and cameras. Rolls of film had either 24 or 36 frames, so Dad was limited to how many pictures he could take. Film cost money. Getting film developed cost more money, and we weren’t rich. We have it so easy now with digital cameras, downloads, and home printers. Yes, photo paper and ink still cost money, but we don’t have to print out every picture we take now, especially those shots of the floor or our fingers, or the horrible pictures Randy insists on taking of me with my mouth full.

Long ago, in another life, I was a photographer. I had a studio and a darkroom, and I specialized in weddings and portraits. Like my dad, I used 35mm film, and I had a plethora of cameras, lenses, attachments, and filters. I took photography classes at college and learned how to develop and print my own film. I invested a fortune in supplies and equipment, and it’s now pretty much obsolete.  My darkroom equipment is gone, and Randy and I are slowly finding homes for the cameras. Yes, there are still people who use what are now considered vintage cameras, but I’ve given up on it. I rarely take digital photos unless it’s business-related or it’s a family event, and when I do take a picture, I just grab my phone. Randy is our family photographer now, and he’s won several awards for his photos.

Does anyone remember video cameras? I’m talking about those big, boxy, heavy jobs that recorded on VHS tapes. My video camera cost around $1,000 years ago, and it’s been sitting in a closet collecting dust. Randy and I took a class in videography, and the things we learned definitely do not lend themselves to taking videos on cellphones. Now everything is point and shoot. It’s easier, but is it really as much fun as learning an actual skill and practicing it? You tell me. Along with the disappearing video cameras are the VCRs and VHS tapes. We still have a VCR because we might someday want to watch those videos we made. I know there’s a way to digitize all those old family memories, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to do that right now. We’ve managed to pare down our VHS and DVD movie collection, too. We don’t need them now that we can find pretty much anything on a streaming service or on-demand. We do pay a lot for those services, though. I can remember when watching television only cost us a little electricity and the price of an antenna on the roof. Of course, there were only four networks in those days and not a lot of choices.

Let’s talk about telephones.   Randy and I lived during the days of rotary dial phones, which morphed into push-button phones and then became cordless phones. We had actual answering machines that used cassette tapes, and we delighted in recording ridiculous outgoing messages for our friends to hear when they called us. Those things are mostly gone now, although we do still have a landline (Yes, I said it), and we have a digital answering machine, too. And we still record and leave silly messages when we remember to do it.

The way we listen to music has changed drastically during our lifetime, too. I’m happy to see that vinyl is still around and making a comeback of sorts, but CDs aren’t nearly as popular as downloading music or streaming it. Gosh, I can remember portable CD players. Raise your hand if you owned a Walkman. Headphones are now earbuds. Oh, does anyone remember cassette tapes and players? And boomboxes?

There are lots of people who don’t wear wristwatches anymore because they can check the time on their ever-present phones. Smartphones have also partially eliminated the need for alarm clocks.

Calculators and adding machines, calendars, and half a dozen other things I can’t think of right now have all been rendered obsolete by the magnificent smartphone. The smartphone has made all our lives simpler and easier, so we’re told. It has certainly eliminated the need for shelving to hold all our electronics. I could make the argument that a whole lot of jobs have been eliminated, too, and a lot of electronics manufacturers have struggled through the last 15 years. On the other hand, I’m as guilty as anyone of relying on my phone for things I used to have separate devices for. I confess that I don’t always have my phone with me, and when I’m home, I rarely turn it on except to check for messages. I don’t have a need or desire to be accessible 100 percent of the time. I still enjoy having an actual in-person conversation with someone, and I like looking at the world around me. For me, some things will never change.

With that being said, Randy and I stumbled upon a video game that we’re hooked on. Who knew?

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