Fifty years ago photos were black and white, music players were mono, phones were rotary, TVs had maybe five stations, milk came to your door, and if you wanted to send someone a message, you had to put a stamp on it and drop it in the mailbox.
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If you could somehow go back to 1964 and show someone a video of a day in the life of a modern teenager, the guy would probably become catatonic and you’d have to literally dial the operator for help because 911 didn’t even exist yet.
Now, I’m no futurist but if you’ve got little kids, I’d be willing to bet they’ll be living in a world without these 10 indispensable things you and I grew up with:
Cash. I don’t know about you, but I pay for everything by credit card. And mobile digital payment technology like Apple Pay will only accelerate that transition. It’s only a matter of time before cash becomes obsolete. Checks too. The same goes for fixed point-of-sale terminals. They’ll all be mobile, like at an Apple (AAPL) store.
Keyboards. Voice recognition is far from perfect and, besides, you wouldn’t want everyone to hear you dictate a blog post or a text in a crowded Starbucks (SBUX). Still, I’m thinking that within 10 years tops, physical keyboards will be replaced by virtual functions and software.
Fax machines. I mean, come on, isn’t it time? Fax machines were always dumb and they never worked right. Who needs them now that we can scan and email? Paper, pens, pencils, printers, copiers and scanners will be next, but I’m thinking they’ve got one more generation left in them.
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Remote controls. Before long we’ll be controlling everything remotely with our smartphones and other handheld or hands-free devices. Come to think of it, I doubt if there will be switches or fixed controls of any kind in 10 or 20 years. Everything will be voice or mobile controlled.
Maps. Remember globes, world atlases, Rand-McNally roadmaps and Thomas Guides? Maybe it’s just nostalgia about growing up wanting to travel the world, the magic of road trips, or that I was in sales back in the day, but maps have always been sort of special to me. Still, I can’t remember the last time I actually used one. Au revoir, maps.
3D glasses. If it isn’t Magic Leap -- the virtual reality company that Google (GOOGL) recently led a nearly unprecedented $542 million round of funding in -- it will be someone else who combines the real and virtual worlds in 3D and projects them directly to your eyeballs. But it’ll always be a trip to watch “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” with those hokey 3D glasses.
Finding the same product again. Mass customization has enabled everything from blue jeans and sneakers to toys and smartphones to be produced in so many versions that change so frequently, there may come a time when, even if you like something you bought, you’ll never be able to find it again.
The last three items are brought to you by your friendly neighborhood environmentalists, their attorneys and lobbyists, and of course, the good folks at the Environmental Protection Agency:
Oil-based paint. The phase-out began in my home state of California but it won’t be long before all oil-based paints, primers, stains and varnishes are phased out across the nation as paint manufacturers consolidate their product lines. In the mean time, some specialty oil-based products are still available, but only by the quart (and they are pricey).
Incandescent light bulbs. Not only are those old incandescent bulbs going away, their LED replacements last so long your kids may never have change them. That means they’ll never understand those dumb, “How many ___s does it take to change a light bulb?” jokes, either.
Wood-burning fires. When I was a kid I dumped a huge box of wood matches into a metal mixing bowl, put it on the floor in my room and lit one. I was enthralled until I tried to pick up the bowl … and my mom saw the burn mark it left on the hardwood floor. Obviously, I’m a pyro. The thought of going through life without a wood-burning fireplace just doesn’t seem right, but I see that day coming.
As for the one thing I really want to see gone but I’m not sure it’ll happen anytime soon: security passwords. What a pain in the you-know-what, right?