Four Relics of the Past Future Generations Won’t Understand

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With Zoomers – born after 1995, the generation following Millennials – largely coming of age – I thought it might be fun to bring up a few relics of the past, which I remember as a kid, and which future generations will have no clue about.

Since we haven’t really arrived at a cut-off for Generation Z (the scholarly name for Zoomers), we don’t have a frame of reference to say when most have forgotten what these are or what their origin or purpose is. 

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I realize that by writing this, I’m dating myself, but what can you do? There’s almost no way to avoid it when talking about any sort of cultural relic. Oh, well. Here goes.

The “Save” icon

I thought this was a good place to start since it’s the one friends of mine have pointed out that their younger relatives have no idea of what it is.

The icon that lets you save your progress in a word processing document is, as many of us are aware (unless they changed it suddenly and I wasn’t aware), a floppy disk.

Yet floppy disks haven’t been used in most cases for over a decade, and modern PCs don’t have drives that can read them – at least, built into them. You can get a driver that can read them, but they’ve largely been replaced by external hard drives that have hundreds of gigabytes of storage (along with infinite gigabytes of storage in the cloud).

Unless they change the icon, we will soon see a vast swathe of our population unaware of its origins.

Cassette players (and cassettes, for that matter)

When I was growing up, before my parents bought a CD player, if anyone in my immediate family wanted to listen to music, we only had cassette tapes.

Cassettes were convenient because they were compact and could be stored quite easily. But they had quite a few downsides. For one thing, you had to guess where a song started and ended if you wanted to listen to a specific track, and the tape wore out eventually; unlike CDs, which solved both of these issues. It is now one of the relics of the past.

And now that cassettes have largely been rendered obsolete (although they are still quite sought-after in indie, experimental, and black metal music circles), we’re going to see the number of people with zero ideas of what these things are or their purpose.

Offline radio

Here’s one that didn’t even occur to me until the other day, when a good friend and I were talking about how it feels like a time warp to listen to local radio.

With the prevalence of services like Pandora and Spotify as well as more and more podcasts popping up every day, streaming media has taken the place of old rock, hip-hop, and Top 40 stations. And the reach is continuing to grow stronger.

Radio stations are falling by the wayside with every passing generation. This isn’t a bad thing; I myself like it mostly because of how out-of-place the slightly-static sounds seem in the age of digital media and instant access through smartphones.

Depending on the market, it’s entirely possible that one day there won’t be any radio in the original sense of the technology. This isn’t a bad thing, either. Times change.

As technology changes along with the times, things like radio will be experienced in unforeseen ways. One day no one will remember listening to the radio in the family car or on a boombox, and that’s just the way it goes in this world of ours. Radio is also now one of the relics of the past.

Physical media (CDs, DVDs/Blu-ray, etc.)

Now, kids today do still know what things like CDs and DVDs are. We’re not that far removed from physical media. But with Spotify, Netflix, cloud storage, and other modern amenities available, the days of physical media being a thing of the past aren’t as far away as one might think.

Even I don’t use many physical media. I have an external hard drive and a flash drive for my important documents, but I haven’t listened to a CD in a few years. I can imagine that in a decade or two, no physical media will be available (except for collectors, specialized, niche markets like certain music and art scenes, and similar things of this nature).

As technology improves and we move away from the things of the past, it’s interesting to see what future generations will find alien and bizarre. I’m beginning to see what older generations were talking about when I was growing up when it came to things like rotary phones. I never could get those things to work.

And now technology and the things we loved once have become relics of the past for future generations.

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