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I recently heard that CVS will be phasing out its one-hour film processing. Walgreen’s is doing the same, if it hasn’t done so already. Let’s face it, most pictures these days are taken on a smartphone. The few and far between ones that get printed out are done on a home printer, or via a service like Snapfish.

This reminded me of a funny story my colleague Amber had told me.

Her daughter – about nine years old at the time – had come across a joke with a punchline about a dark room. She asked her mom what a dark room was. Amber explained that you needed a dark room (literally) to develop film, since light would ruin the pictures. That explanation didn’t help much, as the next question that Amber’s daughter had was “What’s film?”

Film and dark rooms are just a couple of the things that “the kids” won’t get.

Amber’s daughter spotted another one recently, when she asked her mom why the “Save” button for files looks the way it does. I hadn’t thought of it – it’s just the “Save” icon – but it’s a 3.5” floppy disk. Which really wasn’t so floppy. The “real” floppies were 5.25”. Whatever the size, when was the last time you saw one of those?

Another funny obsolescence story came from a friend whose niece wanted to know how folks used to text on an old rotary dial phone.

If you played a party game and went around naming things that are obsolete over just the last couple of decades, it would probably take a long time to exhaust the list.

But in thinking about obsolescence, it’s interesting that a lot of the underlying processing technology that contributes to so many products becoming obsolete doesn’t in itself become obsolete.


Certainly, the processing gets faster and more powerful, but the fundamentals stay pretty darned consistent.

Just something to mull over on a hot summer’s day.