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Still More Things That Are Slowly Vanishing (Or Gone)

Here’s another bunch, some from me, some from readers. Time passes. The world changes. More and more, the world that’s vanishing is the one we grew up in.

  1. Mechanical charge-card imprinters. You know, when charge cards used to have embossed numbers, and the store clerk would put your card down and a 3-carbon slip over it, and go snick-snick to transfer the embossed card number onto the charge slip. I haven’t had an embossed card for quite a few years, so these are well and truly gone.
  2. Pocket radios. I still have a couple of these, but I don’t remember when I last listened to any of them. Carol and I have had a “kitchen radio” (the solid state successor to the archetypal “All-American Five”) for over forty years. It’s in the kitchen. It doesn’t get much use.
  3. 4:3 computer monitors. Although you can get them used on EBay, the canonical 4:3 aspect ratio flat-screen monitor is long out of production. I have several, but if they ever flake out on me I suspect I’m going to buy a big-ass 9:16 and force myself to get used to it.
  4. Churchkeys. And by that I mean the kind with two ends: One to pop the tops from soda/beer bottles, and the other to poke triangular holes in soda and beer cans. Cans are all pull-tab now, and it’s only imported sodas (and some beers) that need a churchkey to open.
  5. Rolodexes. I still have one, and I still use it to keep significant business cards within easy reach. However, I’m pretty sure that my generation will be the last to use them on a daily basis.
  6. Green River soda. This was and would probably remain my all-time favorite soda—if I could still get it. We used to buy it at a quirky grocery store near our condo in Des Plaines IL. They had regular and diet, both in glass bottles and in 2-liter plastic bottles. I used to get the 2-liter diet sku, which I haven’t seen since we sold the condo in 2015. It still exists (and has its own web page) but can mostly be found in quirky little grocery stores in or near Chicago.
  7. In-house intercoms. The 1958 house Carol grew up in had one. Ours (1949) did not. The new house we bought here in AZ in 1990 had one, and that’s as recent as I’ve seen one. My folks had a Talk-a-Phone intercom put in when my sister was born, and for awhile it was a baby monitor. I took the two units apart circa 1969.
  8. Dehumidifiers. These generally sat in the basement, and a refrigerated coil of aluminum tubing would condense all that Chicago humidity into drips that gathered in a pull-out well in the bottom. These may still be in use in humid climates; needless to say, they aren’t necessary in Arizona.
  9. Superballs. Again, these may still exist, but I’ve never seen one recently like those we used in the mid-1960s: Their surfaces were under considerable tension, and even a tiny scratch would spread into a crack. Eventually they just split into chunks. But damn, those things bounced high.
  10. Pocket calculators. When every smartphone is a pocket calculator, there isn’t much call for standalone pocket calculators. I still have my late ‘70s red-LED TI Programmer, and my 1982-ish TI-30 SLR.
  11. Slot cars and retail slot car tracks. Bill Beggs reminded me of slot cars, which were never an interest of mine but in their heyday were a very big thing. There was a storefront slot-car track less than a mile from where I grew up, on Devon in Park Ridge. Long-gone. Still with us, however, is Dad’s Slot Cars in downtown Des Plaines, just outside Chicago. Fifteen years or so ago they added an ice-cream parlor at the back of the storefront. It’s only open on weekends now, but there must be slot car fans somewhere or it would not be open at all.
  12. Car CD players. My 1996 Jeep Cherokee was the first car I had that came with a CD player. The 2001 4Runner we bought not only had a CD player but a CD changer that could play six CDs without needing to reload. By the time we bought our 2014 Durango, the CD player had been superceded by the now-ubiquitous USB port and thumb drive player in the console.
  13. Rear-projection TVs. We bought one of these just before Christmas 2005, and used it until something inside it fizzled out and died in 2012. The picture, while big, was never exceptionally sharp, and once LED panels could be mass-produced in 56” (or more) diagonal sizes, rear projection died in a hurry. I had to pay $75 to a recycling company to get rid of it after it croaked.
  14. Pastel-colored toilets. These were huge in the late 1950s. Carol’s childhood home (1958) had three bathrooms, each with a toilet/sink of a different color. I believe we added a pink toilet and sink when my folks had a second bathroom put in in 1957. You can still get them, but they are now Midcentury Modern retro exotica.
  15. Pastel-colored Kleenex. This was common through the 1970s and then started getting scarce. Carol and I passed a light blue tissue between us as we knelt on the prie deux during our wedding mass in 1976, alternately mopping our eyes.
  16. Paper encyclopedias. My family bought the 1958 Encyclopedia Britannica. It was wonderful. Carol and I bought the 1974 edition shortly before we married in 1976. I read it a lot until the Internet happened, and then little by little Alta Vista searches (and later Google) made research a whole lot easier. We sold it to the people who bought our Colorado house when we moved back to Arizona in 2015. The leather bindings were drying out and cracking, and in truth we went years between sessions with it. I’ve heard they’re now “shelf candy,” and can be rented to stage houses.
  17. Dollar coins. Half-dollar coins died about 2001, though the US Mint struck collectables for a few years thereafter. Just to be perverse, I asked my bank for a few Sacajawea dollar coins circa 2012 and spent them. Older cashiers just grinned. Young people at the register looked hard at them. But really: When was the last time you handled or spent one?
  18. Horse racing. Like slot cars, I’ve never been interested in horse racing, but Rich Rostrom told me that the Chicago Bears bought Arlington Park racetrack, had the grandstands demolished, and may be planning a new football stadium there. Apparently horse racetracks are shutting down all over the country.
  19. Smoking pipes. (And I don’t mean crack pipes, or anything else in the line of drug paraphernalia.) This again came from Rich Rostrom, and he’s right. My father had a pipe but I never saw him smoke it. A friend and I tried to smoke marijuana in a cheap pipe in 1971, and mostly failed. I truly don’t remember the last time I was in the presence of a pipe smoker.
  20. Stove-top percolators. (This from Bill Beggs.) When I was a kid, my folks used a beat-up aluminum percolator to make their coffee. Mr. Coffee drove percolators off the edge of the world, and I think Mr. Coffee is now being shoved toward the same abyss by K-machines. I now mostly buy my coffee at McDonald’s.


  1. Rob says:

    There is still a niche culture for tobacco pipes. They’re out there and still spending the dollars on good briar and tobaccos. Sadly, McClelland shut down a couple of years ago, which is a severe loss. We’re around, and Captain Black may be so obscure as to be unobtanium, but it’s possible to find a pipe-smoker. Likely most in urban areas where there are more options than “tobacco-vape-CBD-Best-Price” joints you might encounter on every street corner. …which brings up a relevant question – why is a vape joint on every street corner instead of a 7-11. You can’t get a crappy beefstick or a big gulp from MegaCBDunlimitedVapeandCigarette with the big green sign. Sigh

  2. Mike Weasner says:

    When we had our home built in 2008-9 we had an in-wall intercom installed. It is also connected to the front door doorbell. Very handy since it is a large home.

  3. RH in CT says:

    1. One of my charge cards has nothing about me on the front. Account, expiration, signature block and 3 digit code are all on the back. Convenient when ordering online, no reason to flip the card.

    3. I’ve been using an ultra-wide 34″ 156×1600 (8:5) for years. Would never give it up.

    8. Yes, humid climates still need dehumidifiers.

    16. Ours was Americana. Like most things my folks bought, of necessity the less expensive brand.

    18. I see horse racing on TV, one one of those obscure cable channels for sports.

    20. I don’t drink coffee, and never have. When my future wife, who was addicted, came to my apartment (early ’80s), she was very disappointed. I bought an aluminum stove-top percolator, and the makings. That scored me BIG points with her! When I moved after her death it went into the recycle, as it had never been in the 33 years of our marriage, as she had much better tools.

  4. David Stafford says:

    This one is for “fully vanished” bucket: S&H Green Stamps. I remember the cash register at the grocery store dispensing green stamps and my mother carefully pasting them into a savings book. When she had collected enough (usually several books of stamps) we would drop by an S&H store to trade them for something for the home.

    1. Bob Halloran says:

      The stamp programs died with the rise of the ‘net, replaced with per-store loyalty programs tied to your email or mobile number.

      1. Rich Rostrom says:

        And by “Frequent-Flyer Miles”, which became generalized.

  5. Bob Halloran says:

    You may not need dehumidifiers in AZ, but here in FL they’re readily available at Your Favorite Big Box Store.

    Our heat pump handles the job for us, with a drip pan under the internal coils running out to an open PVC next to the external unit. A splash of bleach when the air filter gets changed keeps things from getting funky.

    I think the last time I saw manual card slips used was when the store I was in had a glitch with their billing provider, and the cashiers were having to copy card info manually onto them since most cards aren’t embossed anymore.

    1. Bob Halloran says:

      And on the encyclopedia front, apparently you can still buy World Book in hardcopy ($1200). Ars Technica did a writeup in June:

      This is the one my folks had when I was growing up; I remember them picking up the annual supplement volume for my sisters & I through our high school years.

  6. David Stafford says:

    Here’s another one: Pneumatic tubes in office buildings and department stores. And while we’re at it: Department stores. So many things from my boyhood days are vanishing.

    1. Jon Barrett says:

      Bank driive-up windows still use them (some variant, at least).

      1. Our local bank just replaced all the pneumatic drive-up tubes with “video tellers” (a variation on ATM machines). One more reason to go inside.

  7. TRX says:

    > 4:3 monitors

    And it’s a sad thing; web pages are increasingly oriented to vertical to accomodate the low-life phone users, turning almost any site into needless scrolling or paging up and down. 16:9 isn’t nearly as useful to me. Sure, I could stand them on one side and go for portrait mode, but then the I still lose the use of much of the monitor without bobbing my head; bifocals, you know.

    > pocket radios

    In many regions, there’s not much to listen to on the radio. All the stations in my local area got bought by national chains; all with genre programming sourced from the chains. Then one day in the late 1990s I was out in the shop working, and realized I had been tuned to a theorically music station for four hours, and all I had heard was annoying over-loud advertisements and babbling-idiot canned DJs. When traveling later, I found it was nationwide; you could drive between counties and state lines, and when the signal faded, you could twiddle until you picked up on the exact same show with the exact same blithering idiots broadcast from a different call sign.

    > dehumidifiers

    Necessary here in the swampland, if you want to stay ahead of the mold.

    > pocket calculators

    Not that the default that comes with Android is worth much… “the free drives out the good.”

    BTW, there’s a program called “speedcrunch”. It runs in a Linux terminal window. It’s… I don’t know if you’d call it a “math terminal” or a “math editor.” You can scroll back and re-edit formulas, chains of addition, etc. FYI.

    > dollar coins

    Mostly hated because if you weren’t paying attention and fed one into a vending machine, it would happily identify it as a quarter. And if you tried to get it back, it’d give you a quarter, not the dollar you just dropped in.

    The big helpings of feminism and ideology with each new dollar coin didn’t help anything, either.

    > pastel-colored toilets

    I remember green and blue, but they were pretty rare. Most everything here was white.

    I was in Colorado Springs in the early 2000s and went into a hardware store. Walking around, I saw a fire-engine red bathroom set on a raised display. The red toilet had the longest bowl I’ve ever seen, it looked like it was set up for double occupancy. And it had chrome nozzles down in the bowl, like a little red Jacuzzi.

    1. I still have two venerable 4:3 Samsung monitors with pivot stands allowing them to be used in either portrait or landscape mode. Since so much of what I do involves staring at letter-format pages while writing or editing, it was an obvious thing to try. But even with single-prescription computer glasses, the “head bobbing” got to me pretty quickly. That’s been awhile now (midlate oughts) so I should try it again and see if my neck complains again.

    2. Radio’s sad state: The only station we listen to these days is KBAQ, the classical station. There is still FM pop and country music here, and back when the 4Runner’s CD player crapped out, I listened to it. What you say was true even back in 2014, so I turned out all but the music.

      KBAQ can be streamed off the Internet now, so in truth we no longer even need our nice stereo unit, which is now almost 45 years old.

      1. Jim Tubman says:

        🎩 tip to you, Jeff, for mentioning KBAQ two or three years ago. I listen to it regularly, streamed via the Apple TV unit that I have hooked up to the stereo in my office/den.

        The other station I listen to frequently (and support financially) is CKUA, a donor-supported music & culture station. Classical, folk, blues, jazz, reggae, country, bluegrass, Celtic, etc. Music genres are usually played in specific scheduled programs, not all mixed up. They stream as well as broadcast. You might like it.

        1. Yes, very cool. They stream, and I am listening to their stream right now. I’m not familiar with all the music; just heard Katie Tupper, but from what I can tell, the name of the current show is “Discoveries” and I intuit that they’re playing obscure music in the hopes that some people will say, “WOW! I like that!” Playing an old Beatles cut right now. So yeah, they cover a lot of ground. Worth some further exposure, if that’s the word.

  8. Jason Bucata says:

    At the drive-thru yesterday, one of the dollars I got in change was… change! The employee half-apologetically pointed out the dollar coin he was handing me. I actually asked if he had any more, that I could trade him for them. (He didn’t.)

    I’ve got a small container that I keep dollar coins in as emergency payments for toll roads that might only take cash, and it got depleted when I unwittingly wound up on a toll road on a trip through West Virginia. (While more modern unattended tollbooths do accept bills and/or credit cards, I still know of at least a few where the big coin basket is the only payment method.)

  9. Rich Rostrom says:

    Regarding Arlington Park: the Bears bought the property in February, and started demolitions in June. The grandstand is just now down.

    The Bears more-or-less committed to the site – but the tax assessment was just massively increased, so they are now hinting broadly that they will consider other sites. Naperville, Waukegan, and now Richton Park have all made proposals.

    1. Everybody else appears to be leaving Chicago; maybe the Bears should shop themselves instead of venuesniffing for a better deal. The Omaha Bears? Could happen. But it won’t.

  10. Bill Meyer says:

    Green River. A fond memory of my early childhood in southwest Michigan, where it was offered only at a small soda fountain in the minuscule town in which I was raised.

  11. Paul Woods says:

    Our local hardware store I believe sells Green River Soda, among various other “out of production” pops and sodas from time past. I’m pretty sure a local cannery has the licensing and is making small production runs. It is apparently on sale at Amazon as well – one example

    I’ve never purchased as no one else in my family is a fan of carbonated drinks, but the packs of 20 different brands of root beer has always intrigued me!

  12. Stephen Gilbert says:

    I miss the in-car CD player with our new car. On a road trip, my wife and I would always go to the library where we found an almost endless number of books on CD to listen to while we drove. On the last road trip, we had to make do with the audio books we could download from the library via Libby. We could always take the plunge and subscribe to Audible, but I’m not ready to do that yet.

  13. Paper maps. Road atlases. Some years ago, my Stepfather asked for a new road atlas since they’d just moved to the Denver Metro area. He was looking for something like the Thomas Brothers books from years past. Sadly, the one I found him was new old stock. Handheld GPS replaced them, and Google/Apple maps replaced handheld GPS.

  14. Paul McEvoy says:

    Still using my HP11c now some 40+ years old. My brain is permanently wired for RPN.

  15. Well, I’ll chime in too, as I was surprised to see some daily and common things on your list.

    1- charge imprinters, yup, gone.

    2- the actual pocket radio has been replaced by the smartphone. My kids (12 and 14) stream almost constantly. It’s weird how they relate to music though, they have no sense of progression or history. They don’t know what came first or evolved from something else. And they love all the 70s stuff they hear that is slow and maudlin, as that seems to fit the times. I hate that stuff but it’s because it was on in heavy rotation, not because it was bad… although my favorite worst three are the “left a cake out in the rain” “hey jude” and “you’re so vain”… kid one has them on her playlist just to annoy me.

    Radio is alive in Houston, but it’s not for everyone. The hispanic stations and increasingly the indian stations are all over. I even listen to AM for one of the indian stations. The music is upbeat, I haven’t heard it 10,000 times, and most of the time I can’t understand the lyrics so it can’t make me mad 🙂

    3- I’ve been using multiple monitors since working for a company that specialized in that, and especially large format projection. I used to carry an extra flat screen for my lappy in the late 90s for the extra real estate. Wide screens rock.

    4- I’ve got a bunch of bottle openers stashed everywhere I might need one, and many are vintage churchkeys, but there isn’t much use for the pointy end. It can save a fingernail when prying up the pop top, so it’s not completely useless.

    5- rolodex – still sell well on ebay so someone besides you is using them…

    6- I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, and the Calumet Region, and don’t think I ever heard of Green River. I’m happy to see Dotz pretzels now getting national distribution, when I used to only get them in the midwest.

    7- when we both work from home, my wife and I will text message each other, rather than yelling across the house, but yeah the intercoms are gone.

    8- lots of dehumidifiers here in Houston, and no shortage in Michigan or Chicago that I could see.

    9- superballs, I know the ones you mean. There are still some out there, but any choking hazard toy is pretty much confined to the dollar stores and hispanic markets around here. My girls bounced theirs a few times, then the dog ate it.

    10- they are a little big for a pocket, but the TI 83, 84, and 85 are being used and taught to our kids in school. It’s the graphing functions that are critical for the district’s use. I still use specialized calculators for construction, and I have one for machinist work, both from Calculated Industries. I like the feel of the buttons, even though I’ve got the virtual version on my phone too.

    11- oh how many hours I spent with my slot cars… but there doesn’t even seem to be a nostalgia or collector market for most of the sets. The bigger ones seem to be more popular than the small, almost HO scale cars I had as a kid. The smell of the oil and the little motors still sticks in my brain.

    12- my 2017 Expedition still has a CD player, with the advantage of playing mp3 files from a CD as well as audio CDs. I have been jumping thru hoops (and using headphones) to listen to audiobooks that were only available as mp3s when I’m driving in my older Ranger. That CD player only works with audio cds so I moved the mp3s to my phone. MP3s and thumbdrives sure are convenient if you have a way to play them.

    13-15 are gone but

    16- paper encyclopedias are popular among a certain crowd, one that doesn’t like the idea of needing electricity to have access to knowledge, or the idea that publishers can revise articles at whim and to meet whatever current woke fad is sweeping the nation. I spent a long time trying to buy the 1965 Britannica for less than $100. That’s the one I grew up with, and I think it hits a sweet spot between out of date science and the start of political influence on content. Anything newer is full of the 70s new environmentalism or worse, the multi-culti cult. As a plus, the country names match again…

    17- the tooth fairy gave my girls golden colored dollar coins, but they are a novelty.

    18- last time I was at a horse track it was for the wiener dog races. If you’ve never watched wiener dogs race, it’s hilarious… oh the floppy ears…

    19- pipes. There is a growing culture among younger men that are taking up the pipe. Some of it might be a longing for the older days, or nostalgia for a grandparent or mentor, or a political statement about traditional America, but there are a number of youtube channels dedicated to collection, refurbishing, and using tobacco pipes to smoke tobacco. I’ve taken up the pipe myself this year and find it very different from smoking cigars- it’s more contemplative and less celebratory. It’s also a lot cheaper than cigars (putting aside the cost of the pipes). I’ve been buying “estate pipes” and refurbing them for my own use as well as resale. Cleaning supplies and cheap aromatic pipe tobaccos are still in the cage at my local grocery store, I looked just the other day. They are located at shin height, so not big sellers, but they are there. I found one store in Houston that carried nicer blends of pipe tobacco, I’m sure there must be more, but you can order online from Cigars International among others.

    At a recent group meeting/ convention unrelated to pipes, I discovered that two other people in the group were pipe smokers, both younger than me (I’m 57). Several of my old friends have also taken up the pipe or returned to pipe smoking after a long break. Most comment that their wives prefer the smell to cigars, or cigarettes. If I wasn’t in the process of actually buying a pipe, I don’t know if they would have ‘outed’ themselves to me. I’d known them for a couple of years and didn’t know…

    20- percolators have their aficionados and hold overs too. You can still buy the classic GE chrome electric countertop pitcher/percolator, or chinese copies of it. The Moka Pot has almost a cult following, and MCModern pyrex and corningware sells well on ebay. You can still get the filters in the mainstream grocery store in the town I grew up in south of Chicago, they were on an endcap too. And our local sporting goods chain has a camping percolator in their own house brand for sale. Given the cost of shelf space someone must be buying them.

    There is clearly a large regional difference for some of the things listed, but also a sub-cultural difference as well. There are so many distinct little subcultures that have arisen from various fandoms or from some retro movements (dark academia, cottage-core, steampunk, dieselpunk, the DIY and maker movements, back to the land, modern homesteading, etc) that develop and grow because of social media and the splintering of mainstream culture… and some of them grow and become widespread in their influence. My kids tell me that cottagecore is now played out because mainstream culture adopted parts of the look. The seller with the estate pipes thinks that the movie Oppenheimer might spur increased pipe smoking (if it’s true to the period and shows tobacco use. Haven’t seen it myself.)

    I think some of the things on your list are a loss to society, some could be seen thru a sinister lens, and some might be like the proverbial ‘buggy whip maker’. Instead of vanishing, there are still buggy whip makers, and they still have a market to serve, but it’s much smaller than it was.

    Enjoyed thinking about it in any case,


  16. Oh, forgot about paper road maps. Still have a place for them. Our fire department in Houston, and I’d bet other metro areas still dispatches by KeyMap page number… and I’ve still got a Keymap in the truck.

    Don’t know if they still update them, but if the FD is using it, I’d bet they do.


  17. Orvan Taurus says:

    I recall seeing the “knucklebuster” credit card gadget, but never had to use such, for which I am grateful.

    The last can/bottle opener like that had a magnet – so weak I had to use proper magnets so it could stick to a fridge. Chinesium?

    Uncle built a house (since moved out of) and included an intercom system. Unfortunately he did NOT consider (was unaware of?) the obvious feedback issues of using non-shielded wiring for it.

    My current vehicle has a CD player, but then it’s 11 years old. My previous vehicle did not have such (it was an option…) but did still have a cassette deck. 1998 model, that one.

    I’ve seen percolators for sale, generally amongst camping gear, but have never used one. There seem to be two schools of thought on them. One maintains nothing good can come from a percolator, and the maintains that good results can be had, but one must watch things very closely indeed.

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