Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Vanishing

I love lists and one of the fantastic results of my list-loving on KRConnect has been more lists from readers. This week, I was a sent a link to a list on walletpop.com of Top 25 Things Vanishing from America. Their selection is smart and provocative as it tracks products and services, behaviors and technologies, and everything in between. From maple syrup to cars-with-manual-shifts, neighborhood-kids-who-will-do-odd-jobs, butcher shops, sidewalks, cameras-that-use-film, personal checks, and a personal favorite I have posted on before, handwriting. A great list is a constant work in progress, so in that spirit here are a few of my own additions.

Analogue watches. When I was a kid, learning to tell the time was all about the big hand and the little hand. No longer. Even the few clocks and watches with hands on their faces are just facades for digital innards. It’s a classic And/And solution and typical of much technological change. It is what kept cars looking like horse buggies for years and why airlines tried to reproduce ocean liner service for so long. The loss? You can’t fix a digital watch yourself. The gain? It probably won’t break down!

DVDs. They are still with us, but spend even five minutes with someone under 30 and you’ll know that online downloads is where it’s headed. As for the last remaining video rental stores (they didn’t even get a chance to change their name to DVD rentals), they’ll need to find something else to do with that space. Strangely, in amongst this incredible change, movie theaters are doing very well. I suspect that this is as much about the community of sitting together for a shared experience than anything else.

Passivity. It’s vanished. Once people got their hands on easy-to-use, personal screens, they were off on an action high. Try telling the movie industry that viewers aren’t in control as hundreds of messages panning or praising a movie zap out of the theater before the end credits have rolled.

SMS. It seems that texting has just arrived but it’s already coming under pressure. Young people seem to love communicating across a community rather than one-on-one. Think Facebook, MySpace, and now Twitter. Just look at the names! Which sounds more now – texting or Twitter?

Ashtrays. All I can say is, if they can stop public smoking in France and Turkey, they can stop it anywhere. RIP ashtrays, and good riddance.

Plastic bags. They’re on my mind. I wrote about them and Anya Hindmarch’s great tagline “I am not a plastic bag” last year. A New Zealand supermarket chain recently made a move to charge five cents for each bag. It might not match the radicalism of countries like Bangladesh where plastic bags are banned, but it’s a start. I am bemused by some supermarkets who won’t have plastic at the register but supply nothing but plastic bags to pack fruit and vegetables into as you wander through the store.

Photo albums. Kodak built a Lovemark on the icon of a family sitting together, flipping through the photo album. No more. With huge photo sharing and management sites like Flickr, the family album has vanished into cyberspace. Digital photography has stripped the costs and multiplied the choices. Though one thing that will never vanish is parents mooning over photos of their kids and grandparents of their grandkids while the real thing is playing in the same room!

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