top of page

10 Once-Common Household Items You Don’t See Anymore

Time keeps marching on, and yesterday’s technology is old news today. As in decades past, we still want to communicate, keep our homes clean, and feed ourselves, but we have more convenient ways to do so, leaving now-obsolete — but sometimes nostalgic — items behind.

For example, our phones, which are now tiny pocket computers, replaced a lot of once-common items such as landlines and alarm clocks. Take a walk down memory lane to see some other bygone relics, and try to guess which of today’s everyday objects will become extinct in the next 10 years.

Burn Barrel

In times past, burn barrels were a common means of waste disposal — you’d just take your garbage out back and burn it in a barrel. But the nature of waste has changed so that it’s less safe to burn, and municipal trash pickup is available in most places. Burn barrels have also become illegal or restricted in many areas, and permits to use them are often required.

Slide Projector

These days, if you want to show a friend your vacation photos, you scroll through them on your phone or tablet. But back in the 1950s (and for a few decades after), you gathered everybody in the living room and showed your photos via slide projector. The Kodak Carousel, one of the most popular household models, ceased production in 2004, although slide projectors are still sometimes used in museums.

Typewriters

Typewriters still have a robust vintage market, but with the advent of computers, printers, and paperless documents, they’re now an extremely niche interest, not a household necessity.

Landline Phones

Fifteen years ago, just rotary phones would have been obsolete, but nowadays, mobile devices have nearly completely usurped traditional hardwired telephones. Around a quarter of United States households still have a landline, but only around 3% rely on them. Out of those who still have landlines, more than two-thirds of them work through an internet connection and don’t use traditional copper phone lines.

Even seniors are increasingly relying on their mobile phones; just under half of them have ditched landlines, compared to less than 10% in 2010.

Traditional Alarm Clocks

Anybody with a smartphone can easily set off a rousing noise whenever they need to wake up — so it’s pretty rare to see traditional alarm clocks, especially mechanical models. If you see an alarm clock on someone’s nightstand, chances are it’s a smart alarm clock or one that uses light instead of or in addition to sound.

Paper Takeout and Delivery Menus

Before delivery apps and online menus were readily available, people picked up paper menus from their favorite restaurants — or occasionally a restaurant mailed them or dropped them at people’s doors for advertising. Now, they’re pretty rare, leaving more space in the average junk drawer for charging cables.

Paper Phone Books

In the early 2010s, 804,000 tons of paper phone books were produced in the United States, but only around 30% of people actually used them (or at least the white pages). Over the next several years, municipalities started to try to legislate them out of existence. They’re a little more common in some areas than others — Philadelphia, for example, required them until 2017, so they’re only recently a relic — but middle schoolers in certain areas may have never even seen one.

Telephone Answering Machines

Before the 1970s, most home phones weren’t hooked up to any kind of answering machine. If nobody was home, the phone would just keep ringing. When the average person started using answering machines (physical devices that were set up next to a telephone), they changed the way people used the phone because you could instantly leave a message for anyone. Eventually answering machines gave way to voicemail, which didn’t require a physical device and let people check messages remotely. However, because you could pick up the phone in the middle of an answering machine message, people kept using them to screen calls before caller ID became commonplace. Now, people barely even use voicemail anymore.

Rolodexes

Before your phone’s contact list, you had a few ways of storing phone numbers. You could use an address book, write them down in random places, or maintain an archive of business cards. Alternatively, you could use a Rolodex, a compact rolling file of index cards with phone numbers on them. Notebooks, business cards, and random notes are (mostly) still around — but dedicated devices like Rolodexes, not nearly as much.

Carpet Sweepers

.Need to vacuum but don’t have an outlet? Carpet sweepers used to reach those hard-to-access spots — you just pushed them along and rollers underneath caused rotary brushes, like the kind you see under vacuums, to rotate. They still exist, but with cordless and quieter vacuums available, you rarely see them.

131 views1 comment

1 Comment


My Rolodex has yet to suffer a hard drive failure and wipe out all of my stored numbers. My land line does a better job of providing internet and and fax service (you forgot to mention fax as not being seen anymore) than cell service. Yes, I use cell service for the majority of my communication, but the old stuff still has a use.

Like
bottom of page