A List of 8 Items Lost in Time
There are so many items we no longer use. They have been lost to time, forgotten by the new generations
There are so many stories we’ve heard from our parents about how they used to do things- making a call, watching TV, listening to songs and using a typewriter. We do all these things on our phones now and miss these 8 things our parents were privileged enough to do. Here is a list of 8 items lost in time
1. Rotary Dial Phones
The only place most of us have seen rotary dial phones is in the museum or in an Audrey Hepburn movie. Haven’t you ever fantasised about pressing those buttons and hearing that clicking sound?
The Rotary Dial Telephone launched in 1904. At that time it had two cylinders, one was the mouthpiece and the other the loudspeaker. These were the first of their kind, you could make a direct call to the opposite person. Before this a person wishing to make a call had to dial up an operator who would then connect the call.
How do you use these phones? You have to first pick up the mouthpiece, press the first digit of the telephone number and drag it to the metal piece on the right. Leave the dial and it will come back to its original position. You have to repeat this process for each number. Finally the call is made!
Something extra- India had a long waiting list for the telephone which stretched as far as 12 months. Hardly any houses owned a device. Thus the local telephone operators had a huge demand for their ‘trunk calls.’ If you wanted to call your uncle who lived in the village, you first had to reserve a trunk call and wait in a queue!
A mere gramophone can send you back in time. That huge flower like loudspeaker and the big old vinyl disk playing Mozart will for sure make you feel like a posh Victorian. Although my encounters with a gramophone are restricted to the movies, it simply had to be a part of the List of 8 Items Lost in Time.
A Gramophone is technically called a Phonograph. It was Emile Berliner’s invention that has stuck in our heads as probably one of the most antique pieces of furniture you can ever own. Thomas Edison’s phonograph did no good but sound horrible to the ears. Emile Berliner, a German settled in Washington, US patented a sweet sounding phonograph in 1887. Later he founded the Gramophone Company and hence, Phonographs became Gramophones.
3. Watching TV At the Neighbours’
Another lovely memories your parents will often tell you will be about the fun times spent watching tv at the neighbours. Television was a nascent concept 40-50 years ago. The TV would run for a mere 4 hours not the 24 hours we have today. This was the time when families and neighbours would huddle up in front of this box and watch programmes together. Often these programmes would be boring nonetheless it was fun to watch with friends!
Such excitement and euphoria for a tele programme! Guess we missed these small joys.
4. Milk Glass Bottles
Oh milk bottles, where have they gone? The best imitation of a glass milk bottle are those Amul Cool bottles kept on shelves in the supermarket. Did you know that the arrival of the milkman was patented to the clinking of these bottles? Milk Bottles first appeared in the late 1800s and would be reused upto an average of 20 times before being lost or broken. It was an unwritten rule that these milk bottles had to be washed and returned to the milk processing company who would refill these bottles and redeliver filled bottles. The bottles were often owned by the company and would be resold to any random person. All you could do was hope the last person had washed his/her bottle throughly!
We drink milk packaged in Tetra Pak. Did you know its story? Find out here.
Do you have a vague memory of playing with a typewriter’s keys and listening to the letters slamming in place? Typewriters were once the hottest new thing there was. People would attend classes and classify as typists, just someone who could type (seriously!). They simply had to retype letters for their bosses all day long.
Ask your parents, they must have used the typewriter at least once. Most of them will have memories of typing letters for their parents who had first written them on a piece of paper. If you ask, why the waste of time in doing double work? Well, that’s just the way things worked at that time. More often than not, a spelling error would mean that you had to simply retype the entire page, no backspace on typewriters!
6. Shopping List
When was the last time you made an actual physical shopping list? 5 years ago? Since most of our grocery shopping is now done on the phone or online, shopping lists have also become a part of the Notes app. A simple checklist made whilst stuck in the insufferable traffic and the list is ready. You’ll never loose it. Gone are the days when people stuck shopping lists on refrigerators.
How Was the Ball Point Pen innovated? Find out here.
We have all heard of floppy disks yet never used them. Did you know, one point in time Windows sold its new operating system using a series of 13 floppy disks! This was because the floppies initially came in a few KBs of storage data. It was then increased to 4MB. I wonder what would fit into that!
Floppy disks were predecessors to CDs and looked very much alike. They were disk shaped and would flap if shaken (imagine a thick sheet of paper). This gave them the name Floppy.
This disk had round tapes on it in a proper circle starting from the centre up to the edge. These tapes would record the files. Your file 1 would be saved in one circle and the next in another. So if you had to select file 3 you knew where it would be on the Floppy disk. This principle is very much like the one used in bygone cassettes where recordings would be saved on a brown tape only in a more organised manner.
Did you know the story behind the photocopy machine? True Grit and Determination. Read here.
8. Telephone Directories
Do you remember those yellow books in hotel rooms you often opened to read as a child and found endless boring numbers instead? Those were physical Yellow Pages, a Google before Google. Yellow Pages was something your parents referred to when they wanted to call someone and didn’t have their number. Your local businesses like the nearest Idli-Dosa restaurant would be featured in a Yellow Pages and another thousands of totally unknown names and their numbers.
I chanced upon a telephone directory at home and its two huge volumes with a cartload of numbers! There are emergency numbers, Trunk Call codes and numbers of individual people surname-wise in there, isn’t that brilliant for a prank call!
*Down to earth now please. Wipe that smile of your face, you look ridiculous:)*
What do you think about ‘A List of 8 Items Lost in Time’? Would you like to add a few items or share memories? Please comment below and let me know.
Did you know ‘A List of 8 Items Lost in Time’ includes the replies I got for a question I had posted on social media- Help me List Items We No Longer Use.
Thank You to Gayatri Khatavkar, Sushma Dhakappa, Radhika Sathe, Rohan Mulgaonkar, Alka Das and Shilpa Wagh for the amazing suggestions.
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