Look around any basement, attic, garage, or flea market and you’re sure to find a variety of obsolete or nearly obsolete items: 8-track tapes, floppy disks, films, and rotary dial phones. E-mail has endangered the fax machine, and DVDs mean that VHS tapes are rapidly joining their BETA brethren in that great junk drawer in the sky, while the Global Positioning System is pushing paper maps to the back of the glove box. Technological advances, from cell phone applications to MP3s, have clearly changed how we communicate. And lifestyle changes have affected the day-to-day running of the household and put many once-common items on the road to obsolescence. Here is a list of once-ubiquitous items that, while they may still be in use and even available brand new, have seen their glory days come and go. Pull any of these out of the back of the drawer and have the kids guess what they are for. Remember when we couldn’t live without …
Time was when flour came from the local mill and could be lumpy and even have a bug or two in it. It had to be sifted. Then presifted flour became the norm, and while some home bakers still sift, claiming any presifting is undone by settling in the bag, most bypass this stepâ€¹or bypass baking entirely. I personally remember playing with my mom’s sifter in the sandbox, once presifted flour hit the store shelves.
Aluminum Ice Cube Trays
You know, the ones with the removable cube separator and a release handle, that you spent a good deal of time swearing at and banging on the counter in the 1960s. These were eventually replaced by molded plastic ice cube trays that you twisted to get the ice out. In turn, those were abandoned when refrigerators started coming with built-in automatic icemakers. Thinking back on time spent with some of these items makes one wonder what we do with all our free time today.
Removable Storm Windows
Climb the ladder. Take them down in spring. Store them all summer. Take them out in the fall. Wash them. Dry both sides of them. Climb the ladder. Put them back up. Repeat. Ah, those were the days when the changing seasons meant something. Now we can just slide our storm windows up and down on a whim. Or, thanks to doubleglazed energy-efficient windows, many of us don’t have any storm windows at all. It’s a good thing birds still migrate or we’d never know what season it is.
Nowadays, we just highlight, hit the delete key, and try again. But back in the days of typewriters, this mysterious white liquid you could brush over boo-boos and then type over was a godsend. It didn’t make holes and smudges in the paper like erasers did and was barely detectable if you had a gentle touch. It still comes in handy on handwritten homework assignments when kids are first allowed to write in ink, but as homework goes high tech, the delete key steals the show.
Want to continue this walk down memory lane? Read about more gadgets of yesteryear in the 2011 Farmers’ Almanac. And be sure to share your favorite antiquated household gadget below.