On account of Bennigan’s closing down yesterday, it seems the appropriate time to see what else could be close to extinction. Like the old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” not to be confused with the Cinderella song, which is a good tune to play only if you’re on a mission to drink yourself to death.
Walletpop.com recently featured a a list entitled “Top 25 Things Vanishing From America.” And now, a few highlights:
The Family Farm
Since the 1930s, the number of family farms has been declining rapidly. According to the USDA, 5.3 million farms dotted the nation in 1950, but this number had declined to 2.1 million by the 2003 farm census (data from the 2007 census hasn’t yet been published) (MB/editor’s note: big surprise). Ninety-one percent of the U.S. farms are small family farms.
Who amongst us has not secretly fantasized about living on a farm? It’s a nostalgic, sweet thought : no more suits, ties, business-casual wear, supervisors, or cubicles. The 9-to-5 taking orders from “The Man” is over. The family farm, with all it’s sweaty labor, is sort of like the American Dream.
By the 2000 Census, the number of Americans who lacked indoor plumbing was down to 0.6%. Even though that’s still an awful lot of Americans using an outhouse or pit toilet — 670,000 households or 1.3 million people — it’s a huge improvement from 1950 when 27% of households (and over half of rural households) didn’t have complete indoor plumbing.
I can’t say this is a bad thing to vanish. Good riddance to outdoor commodes!
This year will be pivotal for the global Yellow Pages industry. Much like newspapers, print Yellow Pages will continue to bleed dollars to their various digital counterparts, from Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs), to local search engines and combination search/listing services like ReachLocal and Yodle. Factors like an acceleration of the print “fade rate” and the looming recession will contribute to the onslaught. One research firm predicts the falloff in usage of newspapers and print Yellow Pages could even reach 10% this year — much higher than the 2%-3% fade rate seen in past years.
This one’s not really a tragedy either. One phone book is semi-useful to keep around; a stack of them in the hall closet is a pain in the arse.
The Internet has made so many things obsolete that newspaper classified ads might sound like just another trivial item on a long list. But this is one of those harbingers of the future that could signal the end of civilization as we know it. The argument is that if newspaper classifieds are replaced by free online listings at sites like Craigslist.org and Google Base, then newspapers are not far behind them.
In my early teens, I’d read the “looking for love” classifieds in the Pennysaver. Hundreds of little blocks, 20-30 words each. Even then, I was shocked that people would look for romance in such a fashion. After I got the various acronyms down, I’d always look for the most scandalous ad. But mostly, they were picky and I wondered who would want to put themselves through this? “35-year DWM of 3 young children ISO SWF. Preferably petite, athletic, who enjoys taking care of the house and family. D/D free seeking the same.”
Now we have websites like Match and EHarmony, which are a little less scary, and I know several people who have had great success with these things. But if you think about it, even Myspace is sort of like the classifieds.
Dial-up Internet Access
Dial-up connections have fallen from 40% in 2001 to 10% in 2008. The combination of an infrastructure to accommodate affordable high speed Internet connections and the disappearing home phone have all but pounded the final nail in the coffin of dial-up Internet access.
Good riddance. Not much to miss about staring at your computer screen for 5 minutes.
Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs
Maryland’s icon, the blue crab, has been fading away in Chesapeake Bay. Last year Maryland saw the lowest harvest (22 million pounds) since 1945. Just four decades ago the bay produced 96 million pounds.The population is down 70% since 1990, when they first did a formal count. There are only about 120 million crabs in the bay and they think they need 200 million for a sustainable population. Overfishing, pollution, invasive species and global warming get the blame.
Now, THIS is like a kick to the stomach. If you do not live in the DC metro area, you may as well skip down to “Answering Machines,” because you won’t understand. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs are the very heart of Maryland, and summertime. Any true Marylander will agree with me on this. Forget Alaskan “crab legs,” they are for the whiners that complain about how hard it is to pick real crabs. It’s not. You have your crabs, and you have your beer. You’ve got melted butter, vinegar, and Old Bay. Pick, dip, eat, drink. It is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a warm afternoon.
The increasing disappearance of answering machines is directly tied to No. 20 our list — the decline of landlines. According to USA Today, the number of homes that only use cell phones jumped 159% between 2004 and 2007. It has been particularly bad in New York; since 2000, landline usage has dropped 55%. It’s logical that as cell phones rise, many of them replacing traditional landlines, that there will be fewer answering machines.
Answering machines became inconvenient when it came to the uncomfortable moments of hearing your personal voices messages broadcasted on loudspeaker, while not alone.
Cameras That Use Film
It doesn’t require a statistician to prove the rapid disappearance of the film camera in America. Just look to companies like Nikon, the professional’s choice for quality camera equipment. In 2006, it announced that it would stop making film cameras, pointing to the shrinking market — only 3% of its sales in 2005, compared to 75% of sales from digital cameras and equipment.
Is it possible digital cameras have been the downfall of america? Or at least greatly contributed to the vanity problem these days? Cameras using film captured moments much more…genuine. Sure, some of these moments were…unflattering. But…pictures were meant to capture something real, not so rehearsed, right? Opening that envelope of freshly developed photos was magical and full of surprise.
Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys
BowlingBalls.US claims there are still 60 million Americans who bowl at least once a year, but many are not bowling in stand-alone bowling alleys. Today most new bowling alleys are part of facilities for all types or recreation including laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, video game arcades, climbing walls and glow miniature golf. Bowling lanes also have been added to many non-traditional venues such as adult communities, hotels and resorts, and gambling casinos.
The Big Lebowsky would be mortified!!! Leave the bowling alleys alone! And whatever happened to roller skating rinks? There’s nothing quite like rolling around in circles to “oooh Heaven is a Place on Earth.” I think those are going out of style fast as well.
In 2006, the Radicati Group estimated that, worldwide, 183 billion e-mails were sent each day. Two million each second. By November of 2007, an estimated 3.3 billion Earthlings owned cell phones, and 80% of the world’s population had access to cell phone coverage. In 2004, half-a-trillion text messages were sent, and the number has no doubt increased exponentially since then. So where amongst this gorge of gabble is there room for the elegant, polite hand-written letter?
AHEM. I said this three weeks ago, in a little blog called “Sealed with a Kiss” http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=117952&blogID=412730505
Not tooting my own horn, but honk honk. Perhaps we need one of those organizations to get on this one. Bring back handwritten letters!
According to an American Bankers Assoc. report, a net 23% of consumers plan to decrease their use of checks over the next two years, while a net 14% plan to increase their use of PIN debit. Bill payment remains the last stronghold of paper-based payments — for the time being. Checks continue to be the most commonly used bill payment method, with 71% of consumers paying at least one recurring bill per month by writing a check. However, on a bill-by-bill basis, checks account for only 49% of consumers’ recurring bill payments (down from 72% in 2001 and 60% in 2003).
Anyone who’s ever stood in line at Walmart for 30 minutes may agree automatic debit/check cards and paying bills online is a step forward.
During the peak in 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in this country, but in 2007 only 405 drive-ins were still operating. Exactly zero new drive-ins have been built since 2005. Only one reopened in 2005 and five reopened in 2006, so there isn’t much of a movement toward reviving the closed ones.
I’d love to hear from anyone who’s ever enjoyed one of these. They look awesome in the old movies like Grease.
News Magazines and TV News
While the TV evening newscasts haven’t gone anywhere over the last several decades, their audiences have. In 1984, in a story about the diminishing returns of the evening news, the New York Times reported that all three network evening-news programs combined had only 40.9 million viewers. Fast forward to 2008, and what they have today is half that.
Checking the news online is easier and usually free. Visiting CNN.com keeps one up to date on all the major headlines. Still, reading magazines and newspapers comes with its own merit. This one gets 2 thumbs down.
So there you have it, see all 25 items at : http://www.walletpop.com/specials/top-25-things-vanishing-from-america.
FOCUS: What else are we missing?
What other things are vanishing from our daily lives?