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“Facts of Life” email

I recently got an email from my mom that seemed to be a wake-up call of sorts for the older generation about the state of things that used to be normal every day occurrences. It listed out items that are on their way out.

  1. The Post Office
  2. The Check
  3. The Newspaper
  4. The Book
  5. The Landline Telephone
  6. Music
  7. Television
  8. “Things” That You Own (referring to local storage moving to “the cloud”)
  9. Privacy

Here’s what I wrote about them.

The Post Office

The Post Office has been dead for years. Why do you think they keep raising stamp prices every six months? Packages are shipped with UPS/FedEx/DHL and letters are sent electronically. All but one of my bills is set to automatically come out of my checking account each month. The one that doesn’t (water bill) doesn’t because a mailed check is the only way to pay it.

Checks

When Susquehanna Bank bought Community Banks 3 or 4 years ago, they sent us a box of checks. We just got through the first book of 25 checks a few weeks ago. Checks are all but dead in my generation, replaced by the check card for normal purchases and the online payment for bills.

Newspaper

We get the Sunday newspaper solely for the coupons inside. It costs us $1.65 per week but we routinely save $2-$5 with coupons each week. I read the paper too, but most of the articles are simply feeds from the AP or written by journalists at the Washington Post or New York Times. The locally-written articles are usually worthless fluff pieces about a lady’s dog or a meeting of a local organization to decide where to plant trees. Any real news I get from the internet. Even the content of the local newspaper is available for free at lancasteronline.com.

Books

I know lots of readers who like the feel of a book in their hands (myself included). Reading on a screen just isn’t the same. You can’t argue against the convenience of having your whole library in your hands, though. Just as people no longer lug 100s of CDs around in their cars, people won’t be lugging around 15 books to read on vacation either.

Landline Telephone

Cell phones have taken over. I know lots of people who have never had a landline telephone. It is silly to pay for phone service twice. Personally, I find the “always reachable” aspect of cell phones to be repellant, so I’ve opted for a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone instead with Vonage. I pay $15 per month for 250 minutes with free long distance. 250 minutes may sound low, but we used to have a 500 minute plan and never used more than 200 minutes in one month.

Music

Until downloadable music is the same quality as CD music, CDs will stick around. CD stores will die, but CDs themselves will be fine. The big record companies will fail unless they go back to producing musicians rather than just a product to go with a million-dollar single.

Television

Television is dying because the shows aren’t original. We’ve dropped down to basic cable (we would put up an antenna, but then our Internet price would go up to make the bill higher than it is now). Aside from Chuck on NBC, there are no shows we watch regularly. 95% of our TV time is used for watching movies, 75% of which are streamed from Netflix. You no longer need 500 channels to find something you like. You simply go to the show you want to watch and click play. Why miss out on more important things to catch the new episode of “your show” when you can watch it online on your schedule?

The Cloud

Storing things in the “cloud” (aka on the internet) is already happening. Webmail services store your emails, Facebook stores photos, YouTube stores videos, etc. What is around the corner is one service for them all built into the OS. Studies have shown that something like 90% of PCs are used simply to access the internet. It is the logical next step to store data on there too. What most people have a problem with is security. Having files on your PC’s hard disk is pretty secure. Unless someone breaks into your house or hacks into your network, the files are safe. Having them in the cloud means anyone who can break into that server can get at 1000s of peoples’ files. I see these cloud-based services gaining in popularity, but never replacing local storage. And while most cloud-based services today are geared towards businesses, I have a very hard time seeing a business trust its confidential data to an outside source accessible by anyone with an internet connection.

Privacy

The email went on about cameras being everywhere, sales being tracked, advertisements being targeted, and GPS tracking. Honestly, you know these things are happening. You have two options: accept that these devices exist, or take a stand against them. Personally, a public street does not guarantee any privacy, so I’m fine with the cameras. Some people say they don’t deter crime, they just relocate it. Fine, relocate it away from me. Sales tracking can be good. After using our Giant Bonus Card for the last 10 years, things we buy regularly go on sale. We get checkout coupons for things we buy. If you’re concerned about your shopping habits being tracked, then don’t shop at stores that track them, or don’t use the Bonus Card. Finally, GPS tracking. So far, this is a user-enabled feature. If you don’t want your iPhone tracking you, turn off the GPS function. If you don’t trust Apple to really turn it off, then don’t buy an iPhone. Simple.

Google has built their entire business on targeted advertising. Check your cookies for Google.com. They capture every search you make, every link you click on in the results, and they sell that information to every site with Google Ad Words that you visit so you’ll be sure to see ads targeted to you. They don’t make any money from their free applications, that’s for sure.

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