The past few weeks have delivered to us news regarding obsolescence.
First came word venerable Encyclopedia Brittanica will no longer publish a print edition of the majestic multi-book marvel of myriad knowledge, ending a glorious 244-year run that helped educate — and decorate the bookshelves of — the masses.
From here on in, the encyclopedia will be an online version only.
Then came word during last week’s federal budget that the ruling Conservatives will eliminate the lowly penny from the Canadian currency clan, the explanation being it does not make sense to spend 1.6 cents to create a coin worth one cent.
Both announcements spurred thousands to spill their memories online, memories of how Encyclopedia Brittanica opened the world to them in a world without widespread Internet; memories of those little brown coins being pure gold to a kid on his way to the corner store on a lazy summer day.
Back in the day, the encyclopedia had few competitors in the home when it came to dispensing facts and figures.
And, the little penny was powerful enough to buy something on its own, without the help of its flashier, silver cousins.
However, in this age of mind-shattering progression and gnat-like attention spans, the light speed of the Internet in retrieving information has forced Brittanica publishers to choose the latter in the old “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” lament.
The penny, meanwhile, has gone from having purchasing power to being relegated to filling charity cans and rounding out the ubiquitous tax at the till.
At the rapid pace at which society races forward, it seems more and more of what we held near and dear is disappearing.
But, are what we read and hear about disappearing into the vat of obsolescence really vanishing? Or, do the various articles and broadcast segments on this topic not have the pulse of what the average person uses?
In 2009, the website businessinsider.com posted a slideshow online titled 21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade, meaning in the 2000-2009 decade (the aughts?).
The list included some items that are (or are near to being) obsolete, including PDAs (personal digital assistant) with stylus pens, such as the Palm Pilot; email accounts that charge for use; dial-up Internet; camera film; and floppy disks.
The list also included some items that, as far as I can tell, remain in widespread use, including landline phones; long-distance charges; fax machines; and phone books/dictionaries.
It’s a world today of dizzying advancement that can leave one flailing about, trying to grasp what is current — but it’s hard.
For example, compact discs remain, in my mind, technology that is new and shiny. But, that comes from one who remembers vividly when CDs emerged to elbow aside cassette tapes. I can also recall when dollar stores were, well, actual dollar stores.
All of us, whether we are in our 30s, 40s or 50s, can sit back and recall with clarity those jolting moments when the familiar became the forgotten and the strange became standard.
-Chris Foulds is the editor of Kamloops This Week