I Think I’ll Lick a Stamp After Programming the VCR

I started thinking the other day about how it had been a long time since I’d balanced my checkbook, and that I’d better get on that ASAP. But then I had a revelation that hit me hard, and I thought, why should I bother? You know how many checks I write each month? One. And even that bugs me – I like to pay my bills online, and my homeowner’s association bill can only be mailed in. (The mere fact that I even have a monthly HOA bill irritates me. HOAs are great…in the same way that Communism and Justin Bieber are terrific. But I digress). What is the point of balancing a checkbook if you don’t write checks? All the information is available through online banking, and it’s pretty much up-to-the-minute. Besides, it’s depressing when you’re jobless and counting your balance in pennies rather than dollars.

So, forget it. I’m no longer bothering with balancing the checkbook. The practice feels about as antiquated to me as using a typewriter or a rotary telephone. This made me think about other once-common practices – and things – that are no longer relevant in today’s society. Stuff like…

  1. Cursive writing. Other than signing your name on a check (which I’ve just explained I no longer do), is there any use for writing in cursive nowadays? On the rare occasion that I write anything by hand (birthday cards come to mind, and…well, that’s it), I use print. My handwriting already sucks. Add in cursive, and it’s worse. I agree that it looks more elegant, if done legibly – I can’t imagine the Declaration of Independence written in block lettering – but it’s sort of a lost art form. Not to mention pointless.
  2. Cameras with film. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, when we took pictures not only were we unable to see the image immediately, but we had to send in the film for processing and developing, and pay for it! There was no such thing as instantly deleting a blurry photo on your camera, and you were limited to 24 (or 36, if you splurged) shots per roll of film. Depending on how often you used your camera, you might wait months between the time you snapped a pic and actually got to see it. Remember how revolutionary one-hour photo developing was? And how expensive?
  3. Video stores. Remember the ritual of heading to the video store on a Friday evening to pick out a movie or two on VHS? You had to get there early if you wanted a shot at the newest releases, which were always in frustratingly short supply. Otherwise, you’d be relegated to the older sections, and stuck with schlock like Police Academy 32. It’s hard to believe that such things as late fees existed, and “be kind, rewind” was a slogan we all knew and appreciated. How irritating was it to slip a tape into the VCR and find yourself midway through the latest Danny DeVito flick?
  4.  Porn magazines. Thumbing through a well-worn copy of Playboy in order to catch a glimpse of boobies was a rite of passage for many a young male. Sadly, you had to either be a certain age to buy them, or know where your dad hid his secret stash. If you really wanted to get your jollies, you’d seek out Penthouse, which was considerably dirtier (and contained the awesome Forum section). (I mean, or so I’ve heard; oh, and hi, mom and dad!). The mere act of paying to see naked people who just stare back at you on a page and don’t, umm, do anything else harkens back to a more innocent era.
  5. Not knowing what everybody else was doing every second of the day. How strange it was to have no idea what your friends were doing at any given moment! How did we survive without knowing that Adam was enjoying his morning coffee, or Denise was watching So You Think You Can Dance (with 5,648 others), or Tom was Frosty, baby! at Wendy’s – with Matt and Laura? How many funny cat videos did we miss because we didn’t have a handy link to them? We were certainly living in the dark ages back then!
Anybody know what this is? Anyone...? (Courtesy of co-buildings.com).

There are a million more. Manual car windows, stamps, watches, answering machines, boom boxes, encyclopedias…the list is endless. And that’s not counting things our parents or grandparents knew, like milkmen and girdles and slide projectors. On the one hand, it makes me sad that so many of these things are obsolete. Take, for instance, the once-ubiquitous phone booth. They were not only handy if you needed to make a call, but served other essential functions, as well. Lex Luthor would have taken over Metropolis long ago if Clark Kent hadn’t been able to duck into a phone booth and change into his Superman costume. And Bill and Ted? Not only would they have not had an Excellent Adventure, but they also would have flunked their history exam, as well. I miss phone booths!

On the other hand, viva technology! Progress is a good thing…right? (Except when it comes to books. Now that I’m publishing one, they’d better never go away. E-readers are fine and dandy, but nothing can replace the look and feel and smell of a real book).

What are some of the things you miss most from the “good ol’ days”?


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

37 thoughts on “I Think I’ll Lick a Stamp After Programming the VCR

  1. I miss 3 television stations, and only 3.
    I remember standing up in the backseat of the car, between my parents’ seats, and jumping around, sans seatbelt…or, laying way up in the back, up next to the back window, on the little ledge up there, or sitting in the “way back” to play dolls while we traveled down the interstate to South Dakota.
    I miss drive in movies (and, more often than not, being smuggled in under a blanket)(this is how I saw, but didn’t see “Deliverance”–my parents put me back under the blanket when it came on, after “The Poseidon Adventure”)
    long walks
    cooking/baking with ingredients (when “convenience” foods were not the norm)
    home perms

    Mark. This post made me sad. In a good way. But, sad.
    although, how would you and I know each other if we were still sitting around, giving ourselves home perms and going to the drive in movies?



    1. That last sentence alone is reason enough to embrace the modern world!

      But I agree with so much of what you have written here. I forgot about drive-in movies – there’s an excellent example. I fondly recall seeing the original Freaky Friday, and that movie about a mule who could kick a football, at the drive-in. Among others. Even as a teenager, there was still a drive-in theater in San Jose, and my girlfriend (and future wife) and I would go often, bringing in sandwiches or pizza and watching movies while putting up with crappy sound. Still, that didn’t matter – we had a blast.


  2. This is perfect, Mark, and so, so true! Good God, newspapers and books are even on their way out–not to mention fold-up maps. I don’t even think answering machines are made any more. It’s a weirdly wired world we live in–or wireless, as the case may be.

    Great post!



    1. Ooh, maps – good one! Not once during my 13-day, 6000-mile road trip did I even glance at a fold-up map. If anything had happened to my trusty GPS, I’d have been lost! (Literally). I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing…


  3. We need to bring phone booths back. They might not even need to actually have phones in them, thanks to cells, but a dedicated “private-phone-talking-area-in-otherwise-public-spaces” is so definitely becoming a necessity.

    I can’t tell you how often people who want to have a private conversation (whether that’s talking-to-family private or needing-to-share-account-info private or follow-up-with-the-doctor private) at work step out away from their cubicles and talk in the hallway. Ostenisbly a good idea; now their colleagues aren’t listening in. But it’s NOT really private; anyone and everyone straggling by can now listen in. OR they step into the stairwell, which WOULD be more private in that there’s less foot traffic during the day, except it’s like an echo chamber in there, so the slightest whisper can be heard up and down the height of the building. OR they take the call into the restroom. Omigosh, don’t even get me started on how much I hate that!

    So yes… let’s DEFINITELY bring back phone booths. Soundproofed. Perhaps with built in dongles so you can plug in while you talk, if (when!) your battery is low midcall. (Which means, we’ve just reinvented wired phones. Yay us!)

    Plus, Metropolis will thank us. 🙂


    1. You put up a convincing argument for saving phone booths! I’d never considered the reasons you list, but they’re all pretty valid. Plus, if you’re caught in a hailstorm, they offer you protection from the elements.


  4. A few years ago we had a high school intern work for us during the summer. She had to make labels for some folders….and didn’t know how to use the typewriter. That made ME feel old!

    And checks? Yeah, us hicks are a little behind when it comes to online bill pay technology; power, water, landfill, and our local clinic/hospital get checks from me every month. My friend Ray always insists on paying me with a check whenever he reimburses me for something, which is irritating because I have to swing by the credit union, but I look forward to his little notes in the memo line. The last one said the check was for “Last Night”.


    1. OMG – Ray is awesome!! I want to start writing checks again just so I can do something like that. Love it!

      When I graduated from high school in 1987, my gift was an electric typewriter for college. I actually used it for a year or two, but then computers completely took over and I moved on to a very slow dot-matrix printer. I thought that was revolutionary at the time.


    1. That’s great! And so true. Thanks for sharing…I can always count on you for a good link or two.

      I miss video stores. I linked to an earlier post called The Death Of Hollywood in this one. I wrote it when nobody read my blog…but it laments the passing of video stores. You just can’t find them around here anymore. Oddly, I saw a bunch in South Dakota, though. Go figure.


  5. “But then I had a revelation that hit me hard, and I thought, why should I bother? You know how many checks I write each month? One.”

    HA!I so agree with you because do you know how many checks I write? Like, THREE! I no longer balance my checkbook using the paper method, I balance by using the automated over-the-phone system. And I only do that because I use my ATM card so much, I have to.

    OMG…and CURSIVE WRITING?? Ever since I got online I have TOTALLY forgotten how to write. My checks look like a child wrote them.

    And how ironic you posted about VHS tapes because my post on Friday makes referrence to them – HA! I DO have VHS tapes because I have so many old films that I can’t get on DVD.

    Porn Magazines? “The mere act of paying to see naked people who just stare back at you on a page and don’t, umm, do anything else harkens back to a more innocent era.”

    Bwhahahahahahahahahaha! Hilarious. I’ve got NONE of those!

    “I miss phone booths” Oh, me too! We have a few still standing in this city, but only for decoration because NONE of them work!

    Faaaaaaaaaabulous post, Mark!


    1. My hand literally HURTS whenever I try to write anything in cursive. The optimist in me would say, “You’d better learn how to do it again, since you’ll be signing a whole bunch of books soon!” I fear that, even if I do, I’ll still be writing things out in print lettering…


  6. Really love this post. I, too, miss a lot. I miss my Atari and the cool games that came with it, as well as the controllers that were actually wired to the console. I miss the little cassette recorders where you push both the play and record buttons at the same time! I miss how some of the girls in the family would sit under the hair dryer instead of the hand held ones we have now. I miss playing games outside (croquet, badminton, horseshoes etc…) and I miss drinking water out of the hose.

    Sheesh…I miss being young!!


  7. There was a FP post about cursive writing and how it’s a shame it’s being left out of school curriculum. I said something about it being akin to hieroglyphics… But I miss vinyl records. The first listen was the best. Digital is convenient true- but album art? I miss it.


    1. I LOVE vinyl records, and still buy them! I almost added that as an addendum to my post, but I think it deserves a separate entry someday. I actually bought a new record player a couple of years ago and listen to albums all the time.


  8. My 2003 Kia Rio has manual windows AND manual (not power) steering. Of course, they no longer make this basic, totally no frills model of the Rio any longer for some strange reason.


  9. Well I will miss video stores because I worked at one for 5 years and it was a really fun job. I miss that kind of people interaction. And I’m kinda bummed about cursive no longer being taught in a lot of schools; I don’t know why it irritates me I don’t write in it either anymore, mine is more like scrawl, half cursive half printing.

    I will miss certain candy like Big League Chewing gum (made to look like tobacco), and Bazooka Gum. I haven’t seen that in awhile. Apparently I was a gum connoisseur back in the day.


    1. I remember Big League Chew! That was fun, wasn’t it? There was also a product that consisted of shredded beef jerky that had the consistency of sawdust and came in a fake tobacco tin. Man, you’d never get away with that kind of thing nowadays, would you?


  10. Very fun post Mark. I miss my Dad making popcorn on top of the stove on Saturday nights. Mom used to have a special popcorn bowl that it always went in, a big aluminum thing with grapes designs pressed in the edges.

    I was a very popular girl in 1983 with my very own electric typewriter on a dorm floor of 50 girls. Mine was one of only two on the floor.

    I miss my old roller skates with the skate key….and when Pepsi or any pop for that matter came in a glass bottle….oh but I am dating myself now 🙂 Jeanne


  11. Great post, things have changed quite a bit in a short period of time. I still have rolls of film I never used and a disposable camera, maybe I’ll have to try and figure out how to use it again. I kind of miss having only a few pictures and developing them and all that instead of just posting them on facebook.


  12. “contained the awesome Forum section”
    What was in the Forum section, exactly? LOL – I don’t know why, but I’m curious.

    I’m young like Tori so I remember later things, like pagers and my first IM conversation on AOL 🙂 Haha….Remember when you used to get like a million CDs a month trying to convince you to join AOL??


    1. OK, Catherine, since you asked, the Forum section went something like this:

      Dear Penthouse Forum,
      I have read these letters before and never believed they were real…until last Friday night. My buddy and I had just ordered a pizza. When the doorbell rang, a statuesque blonde with gravity-defying breasts said, “I’m sorry your pizza was late, boys. Since we have a thirty-minute guarantee, it’s on me. Literally. The next thing you know, we were….

      Well, anyway. There you go. 🙂


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