Wednesday, 20 February 2008

You know you're old when ...

The traditions continue ...Maybe I never needed to paint cave walls, hunt a woolly mammoth nor chip flint or obsidian tools, but I certainly feel positively prehistoric to read some of this list of Obsolete Skills and realize that far too many of them are skills / items I've used regularly at some time in my life.

So there's a bit of poetic licence; not everything listed is a skill and not all of them are obsolete (thank goodness), but it's still fascinating social history.

Either, you're going to remember stuff and think, Shit, am I that old?

Or you'll wonder, Did people really do that? :)

Just some of the "obsolete" things that have been normal to me; Getting off the sofa to change tele channels, tuning a radio, paying by cheque, dialing a rotary phone, remembering phone numbers, loading film in cameras, shorthand, telex, balancing the tonearm on a turntable / placing a coin on a tonearm to prevent skipping (I'm only a bedroom/livingroom DJ, but my ex-husband was a real one), booting off a floppy disk (in fact, I've run the accounts for small companies on computers that booted off floppy disks!), shillings and pence, plus a whole range of things to do with manual typewriters.

I've done car repairs, darned socks and repaired small appliances too. Like most people, I'm glad not to have to do those things any more. It also bothers me that we just throw things away, instead of making them last longer now.

To make me really feel old, some of those things I still do; Adjusting the rabbit ears on your TV set (adjusting the position of the bent coat hanger anyway), Cleaning head of a VCR (this week) or Defrosting the Icebox (last week).

At school, I used slates the hand-cranked adding machines that came before calculators (yes, I will admit that I have seriously used an abacus too) and, if I wanted to, I could still do long division manually. That's a good thing. Never could get my head round slide rules though. I'm glad I don't need to!

Want to write gud lolcats? Lern fonetik shorthand ... Robert Scoble rates shorthand as a skill that's no longer very useful to us.

I can has disagreement, 'cuz if you go here and read teh epitaph of Jacob Pitman (1810-1890) - brother of Sir Isaac Pitman (1813-1897), da man who invented Pitman Shorthand - and tell me, does that not read just like Lolcat?

See Lolspeak entry: "Spelling - something that has no clearly defined rules in lolspeak. As long as a word is phonetically understandable, you're doing fine."

So who sez shorthand is not very useful to us for something efurryday? :)

(Is this whole concept "useful?" "Cheezburger" and "Tofuburger" probably think so every time they get a payment from Google Adsense, Blogads, etc!)

Maybe I just have fond memories, since shorthand was one of the [few] things I ever got a 100% pass mark for in my exam? (I learned Teeline Shorthand and, that's not obsolete. You can still learn it online, if you want to.)

Whilst I don't use it fully (actually, I can't remember all of the symbols or how to write them), I do use some of it's principles, like scribbling words down with vowels missing. It's also useful to remember that a couple of thousand words is about all we use in English for everyday conversation. So, the initial vocabulary one learns for shorthand would also enough of a new foreign language to get by with. Anyway, getting back to the obsolete list ...

It's only in the last couple of years that I finally gave in and got rid of my record deck and vinyl record collection. And there's a box of audio cassettes (to be thrown out, after I've had a quick sort through to see what I might replace), sitting right next to me, even if I don't have anything to play them on now.

There are "new" things listed that I never got round to learning, because they got invented, passed me by at such high speed and became obsolete before I even had a chance. Maybe that's a good thing too. Who needs to learn how to aim a C-band satellite dish or blow dust out of a Nintendo cartridge?

Then, I personally may not have had to harness a team of oxen, but as the image above suggests, I know a man who can as it's still done where I live.

There are also plenty of things I've seen my dad do too, like hand cranking a car to start it, interpolating logarithms or navigating by compass. He didn't just use Morse code to send messages, he also taught Morse code to others.

My father had also tried to teach me how to double declutch, in the 1970s, which even the Obsolete Skills entry says, "Went Obsolete Somewhere around the 50s". As it should have! In fact, we had a blazing roadside row about this, because, though I understood the principle, I flat out refused to "confuse myself" by practicing it. Synchromesh gearboxes had been around long enough already that I was certain never to need the skill, unless, maybe, I'd planned to become a test driver for the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, which I didn't!

Barring the ability to send a distress signal, in case of an alien invasion maybe, reading that list generally though makes me think, dit dit dah dit, dit dit dah, dah dit dah dit, dah dit dah me, now I know I've become obsolete too! :)

Obsolete Skills Via: Microsiervos

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