Things I Don’t Miss

Apropos of nothing (no, really), here are some things from life which no longer really exist and which I am glad do not.

1. Stupidly expensive long-distance charges. After I left college, I tried to keep in touch with all my friends by phone, and it added up because depending where they were, calling pals could cost up to 40 cents a minute. When my sister briefly lived with me when I was in Fresno, between the two of us we could generate $600 phone bills on a monthly basis, at a time when I was paying $400 a month for an apartment. Yes! I was occasionally paying more for my phone bill than I was for having a place to eat and sleep. Naturally, this was madness.

These days, my long distance phone bill is a flat fee of something like $25; I literally can’t think of the last time I had to think about how long I could afford to talk to someone far away on the phone. The phone companies appear to have shifted their Egregious Profit Center from long distance to text messaging, which, as I am not one of Those Damn Kids and rarely text message (and have a $5 add-on to my cell phone account which covers the first 250 texts a month, which is more than I use), suits me just fine.

The real irony here is that I’m rather more likely to e-mail or IM friends than phone them these days, so likely my phone bill would be lower now than back in ’91 no matter what. But it’s the principle of the thing.

2. Crappy old cars. Which cars qualify as crappy old cars? In my opinion, pretty much all of them. Pre-catalytic converter cars were shoddily-constructed, lead-spewing deathtraps, the first generation of cars running on unleaded were even more shoddily-constructed 70s defeat-mobiles, the 80s were the golden age of Detroit Doesn’t Give a Shit, and so on. You have to get to about 1997 before there’s a car I would willingly get into these days. As opposed to today, when even the cheap boxy cars meant for first-time buyers have decent mileage, will protect you if you’re hit by a semi, and have more gizmos and better living conditions than my first couple of apartments.

Yes, I know. Car lovers scandalized. Well, look. First, watch this:

Which I think makes the point about “death traps” I was mentioning earlier.

Second, every time I go back to LA, you know what always surprises me? The mountains. Because when I was kid growing up in LA, you couldn’t see them. I lived at the foothills of the damned mountains and I still couldn’t see them most of the time. Whereas these days first stage smog alerts in LA are a relative rarity, not even bringing into the discussion second stage alerts (in which you could see the air directly in front of you) and third stage alerts (in which you could chew it). And this was in the 70s and 80s, which were substantially better than the 50s and 60s. No, I don’t miss crappy old cars one bit.

3. Physical media for music. Audiophiles like to wank on about the warmth of vinyl, and you know, maybe if you take your vinyl and put it into special static free sleeves and then store those sleeves in a purpose-built room filled with inert gases, to be retrieved only when you play that vinyl on your $10,000 turntable which could play a record without skipping through a 7.5 earthquake, ported through your vacuum tube amplifier that sucks down more energy than Philadelphia at night, maybe it is warm. Good for you and your warm vinyl.

What I remember about my vinyl was a) it warped, b) it skipped, c) it wore out, d) any sonic benefits of the medium were compromised by my basic turntable and all the dust the damn LPs accumulated. Cassette tapes wore out even more quickly, their sonic reproduction was even worse, and they would get randomly eaten by your Walkman as a sacrifice to the music gods, and it was always your beloved music, not that Poison cassette your great aunt got you because she knows as much about your musical tastes as she knows anything else about you. I would have gladly sacrificed Look What the Cat Dragged In to the music gods, in their mercy. But it didn’t work that way. It never works that way.

Let us not even speak of 8-tracks.

CDs were the best possible physical music medium, for all the crap they get from audiophiles, but even CDs pale against the awesomeness that is the intangible digital music file, stored in a tiny, pretty little handheld computer that also plays video and games and lets me read my e-mail. I have three decades of curated personal music, enough to play straight for week without interruption or repetition, with me wherever I go. And while the encoding rate I used to rip “Don’t Stop Believin'” might not give me the crystal clarity I could get listening to it on vinyl, on a $10k turntable and through a McIntosh amp, I’ll say this: It sounds a hell of a lot better than when I was 12, listening to it on cassette through a mono tape player, or through the transistor radio alarm clock by my bed. Which is to say from a practical point of view it’s just groovy, thanks.

4. Smoking allowed everywhere. You know what? It did suck to have smokers at the table next to you at a restaurant. It did suck to have a movie theater haze up. It did suck to be walking in the mall and have some wildly gesticulating smoker randomly and accidentally jam the lit end of his cancer stick into your face. It did suck to be trapped in a tube hurling through the sky at 32,000 feet, sucking down recycled air for six hours that had cigarette smoke in it. It did suck to have everything everywhere smell vaguely of burnt ash and nicotine addiction.

Now, I’d note that it also sucks to be a smoker today, as they are exiled to the outdoors in every sort of weather, to huddle together for warmth and companionship in their devotion to the demon weed. They have my sympathy. But given the choice between telling them to go outside and having to suck down their smoke whether I want it or not, I’m good with the current state of affairs.

5. Pull tabs on drink cans. One less bit of ubiquitous trash to be annoyed with. To the dude who invented the stay tab: Bless you, sir.

156 Comments on “Things I Don’t Miss”

  1. Huh, I don’t think I knew you grew up in LA… Ah, I see, outside the Valley. (Which is where I grew up, and, yeah, I remember the smog. I remember days when I wasn’t allowed out during recess because of the smog.)

    I have a usenet post saved, from someone named Dave Griffith, from late ’97. It’s essentially about how the “good old days” weren’t so good; this is a good complement to that.

  2. I am thrilled, no, DELIGHTED that I can carry a vast chunk of my music library (and a couple movies and a couple seasons of my favorite TV shows and…) in my pocket to listen to at work. But what really excites me is the sheer damned convenience of finding music on websites and downloading mash ups from DJs around the world and buying just the songs I want and I’ll gladly take the occasional sub-optimal rip and glitch of static.

  3. The car thing makes my brain spazz out due to cognitive dissonance; my engineer-sciency side loves how well engineered, reliable and safe modern automobiles are. My car guy side becomes enraged at such nonsense and jumps up and down screaming, throwing his poo like a howler monkey.

    All told my engineer side wins due to the video shown above; automotive safety has made huge leaps and bounds in the last 50 or so years.

  4. Scalzi
    Pull tabs on drink cans. One less bit of ubiquitous trash to be annoyed with. To the dude who invented the stay tab: Bless you, sir.”

    You display your youth. In the real “good old days” there were no loose pull tabs with which to be annoyed – there were no pull tabs at all. Of course this meant that if you wanted to open a drink can, you needed to carry around a church key . . .

  5. That view from the inside of the ’59 Chevy scared the crap out of me. Jeezopete.

    Of course, I drive a 17 y.o. Mitsubishi. But I don’t drive it far anymore.

  6. So the fact you didn’t bother to take care of your records = vinyl bad? :-)

    While I don’t have a turntable (cat who likes jumping onto any surface she sees and playing with whatever is there precludes that one), chalk me up as a guy who loves his iPod and still buys CDs as a physical medium for music. For one, CDs do sound better than MP3s (sure, I could rip them lossless, but then I could only fit 1/4 as many tracks on my Pod). And they’re a permanent backup. (As far as I can tell, CD rot was only ever a problem for a few pressings in the 80’s. I have 25 year old CDs that are in as good a shape as when I bought them.) Years down the road when everyone’s hard drives have fritzed out and they’re wailing and gnashing their teeth about the great music collection they lost, I’ll still have mine. Plus, I like art and booklets and all the things you can hold in your hand that we’re being told to think are troublesome and inconvenient by our “disposable is better” culture.

    Some folks might say “But you know you can burn your downloads to CD” to which I respond, if I eventually have to burn a CD anyway, I might as well just buy one. It will sound leagues better than a burned CD of MP3s upconverted to WAV, and last longer.

    There’s one advantage I can see for artists with the move to digital, in that it frees them up from a creatively restrictive album format. As David Sylvian points out in a recent interview, a musician can now release songs lasting only seconds to pieces running on for hours or even indefinitely. That’s one valid plus I’ll give downloads.

    But overall, I’m of the position that if a song exists only as a download, then for something so impermanent I should get it for free. I’ll happily pay for a physical item I know will last. But I won’t pay $10 just for MP3s. I expect downloads to be free.

  7. The enviromental improvements alone, being able to see the mountains for instance, is a huge one for me.

    Is anyone else (besides me) old enough to remember when the river in Cleveland and the edge of Lake Erie caught fire? Early 70’s I think.
    I remember my mind being blown to think that WATER could catch fire. Later I learned that it wasn’t really water anymore due to the pollution.

    I think that whole area has been cleaned up and is a park now.

    By the way, I still have a church key since you never know when one of those twist tops are going to get balky…

  8. You grew up in the foothills? Like Sunland-Tujunga-La Crescenta? omg I live there now, it’s like the 70’s never left.

  9. On car safety it isn’t just dinosaurs from the 50s and 60s, one British car show crashed a modern French super-mini into an 80s Volvo (one of the safest cars of it’s day) into each other and the Volvo was the one that was totalled.

    Skip to about 2:30 of this clip to see it.

    What I don’t miss, having to wait stupidly long times for the local village shop (hey I grew up in very rural Scotland in the late 70s and 80s) to order stuff (anything special from books to fashion, and speciality foods you could forget about them) and then charge an arm and a leg for the privilege. Nowadays a few clicks and anything I want will be here in two days or less for sane prices.

  10. I’ll add “frames on websites” to that list. Anyone remember “frames”? Every gawdamn site had to have them for a brief period in the late 90s.

  11. I still remember the day some smoker was bitching and complaining about the new restrictions. He shut up fast when I told him: “To paraphrase Will Rogers, your freedom to pollute your air ends where my nose begins.”

    Smoke-free rocks!

  12. I like vinyl but I don’t yearn for those days. I collect some because of the cover art and interior notes but I’d never want to back to just vinyl.

    How party lines? Anyone have one? We did when I was young. Bizarre.

  13. re: smoking

    As a self-hating smoker, I have to agree with you John. I’ve known a lot of smokers who got really angry with the various bans and especially when they couldn’t smoke at the pubs, bars and restaurants… but we do stink up a place. I really can’t say it’s a bad thing. It’s interesting that the angry smokers see no issue with smoking indoors/around crowds of people.

    They’re thinking about banning smoking in apartment buildings and condo’s by law up here in Toronto and I have to say I agree with it. It’s amazing how much a hallway can smell when just one apartment has a smoker in it. I live in an apartment but I never smoke in it. Eventually it will get to hard to smoke and give me that extra impetus to quit.

  14. Separate issue: It’s not just vinyl. I’ve got more books and stories on the flash drive I carry everywhere than are on my shelves. And I’m continually buying electronic replacements for any book already on my shelves. From my standpoint, carrying the “live” (currently being read) part of my library in my Palm beats carrying around the same thing as several pounds of paper.

    *And* it’s easier to curate, as well.

  15. While I a) appreciate the convenience of my digital music library, and b) think most self-described audiophiles have so many screws loose it’s a wonder they can hear the music at all over the rattling inside their heads, I still own a hundred or so albums on vinyl and listen to them occasionally. Not for the so-called warmth (which you can get from a CD or even MP3 with a $50 10-band equalizer), but for the … accessibility … immediacy … of an essentially mechanical analog recording medium.

    I like the little crackles and pops and hiss and occasional skip because they remind me that someone turned little vibrations in the air into little wiggly grooves in plastic, and now I’m turning them back into little vibrations in the air, without them ever having been turned into numbers at any point in the process. That has it’s own appeal for me.


  16. I wonder how true it is that air quality on planes is worse (because it’s recycled more) now than when smoking was permitted? As one who (largely coincidentally) finally ceased about the time it became near-impossible to smoke indoors anywhere, I suppose I’m more-or-less in favour. I’m still inclined to go outside and huddle with the pariahs though, partly to keep them company and partly because I like to reminisce.

    I think my ears (just over a century old, considered consecutively) have now lost enough sensitivity to higher frequencies to be entirely satisfied by MP3s, played from my dinky little Cowon thingy. Earphones make a difference, though – my mid-price Sennheisers are hugely better than the feeble efforts shipped with the typical player. Although to be fair, the Cowon ones weren’t too awful. I took my player out of “shuffle” mode months ago and set off on a voyage of alphabetical discovery. I hit the “Thes” this week. B-52s, Beatles and Clash so far. Yummy.

    Oh, and I have all my MP3s backed up to a second, external hard disc. I’ll make another copy in the cloud sometime, probably the day after all the other copies are lost in some million-to-one contemporaneous series of madcap mishaps…

  17. Computing power in general is great. I love being able to get a movie, book, or piece of music virtually instantly and use it at 3 a.m., should I so wish (and the neighbors don’t mind). My cell phone has almost as much computing power as the Apollo era Mission Control, and I don’t have a high end phone.

  18. Frames were a way of keeping navigation elements (and branding) clearly visible on pitifully small 640×480 resolution monitors. They were horribly abused and typically mismanaged as website designers didn’t keep track of all the frame names and how one navigated around the site.

    If kept simple, they worked fine. It was when graphic designers insisted on using more than three to achieve their vision that things began to fall apart. Sorry, residual grudge from my internet advertising agency days.

    I’m glad the per hour internet connectivity charges from the dial up days are gone. I don’t miss those $250 AOL bills each month. Broadband saved the internet! ;)

  19. You know what I don’t miss? Test patterns.

    You know what I also don’t miss?

    Falling asleep on the couch and getting jarred out of bed with “HI, FOLKS, BILLY MAYS HERE FOR KABOOM!”

    I loved the old lug, but not at 3 AM.

  20. I am so thankful for the lack of smoking in most public places. Music on solid-state electronics is a great boon as well. Cars still annoy me as moving 1.7 tons of crap around to transport a 200 lb person is a huge waste of energy.

    I am pleased with the ease of communication nowadays. It is a good thing.

  21. I read an sf story where people from the future need to find lots of old stuff to put civilization back together after the big nasty data war blew the heck out of all the pretty computers and other data management tools. So things like actual paper books, cds and even vinyl turn out to be very important. That said, I now miss out on being able to go to the local record hang-out and look at big albums–which is the only way to appreciate the art. No more vinyl, no more cover art that’s easy to look at. Let’s hope books don’t change much more.

  22. I was just down in L.A. driving around and told my youngest son about growing up there and never being to see the mountains or go and play outside because of the 2nd/3rd stage smog alerts. I’ll have to agree and say that it is so much better today than it was back then.

  23. There’s some bizarre part of me that does miss disentangling the tape from inside the cassette-player and the delicate, painful art of inserting one’s little finger into one of the holes in the cassette and slooowly winding the tape back in and then the drum-rolling tension of the moment when you put it back in the deck to see if it still worked. I feel like it was character-building or something.

    Mind you, my character is probably built now, so maybe it’s more that I just want people younger than me to suffer what I did.

  24. The crash test dummy in that Malibu certainly isn’t loving life and may have some neck strain for the next few weeks but boy howdy, at least he isn’t the poor sap in the other car. That guy is lucky he’s made of industrial grade plastic or else there would be… meat everywhere.

  25. Flash drives!!! We send music and movies to our daughter in the Army (Iraq). She plugs them into her netbook. You can put about 14 movies or about 400 hours of music on an 8GB flash. Amazing!

  26. Got to warn Thomas Wagner: DO NOT rely on your CDs to stay readable. Even if you do store them somewhere cool, dry and dark. CDs are not a reliable medium. Rip early, rip often, and rip lossless, to a hard drive.

  27. Wait, what? “Pull tabs on drink cans?” It used to come all the way off? Crazy talk. And what on Earth is a “church key?”

    (Hey, I’m turning 30 this year, I need to play up my youth while I still can.)

  28. I’m like 5 or 6 years older than you and grew up in Monrovia, northern Monrovia, and I can remember days when I couldn’t see Mt. Wilson and even the Big M was a little hazy. When I went off to college in San Diego, I used to laugh my head off at the locals bitching about the smog (traffic, too; they’d whine about traffic conditions where an Angeleno would be amazed there was nobody on the road).

    But I can barely remember pull tabs. I do remember that some SCA people would use them to make chain mail. And now I’m stuck with Margaritavile. Thanks.

  29. Sophia – little finger ow. That was the beauty of the $0.15 Bic Pens and their hexagonal body – just the perfect size to fit in the cassette tape and grab all the pins. Better for doing the final deaccordioning stretch, too.

    As a (re-)dedicated fountain pen user, I have to say it almost made up for having to write with the damn things.

  30. Man I don’t miss any of those things either. I am the owner of a huge music collection. I can’t imagine what it would have looked like in 10 more years. I would have had to buy another house.

  31. I miss the old Pepsi cans; the ones where you needed to push the buttons (I guess they’d be called buttons) down and in, and one was much smaller than the other. I don’t know what the type of can was called though.

  32. Like Sean Eric Fagan, I didn’t know you grew up in L.A. Where abouts?

    I spent my formative years in Culver City, and my early 20’s in the San Fernando Valley. I remember the smog alerts, the searing pain in my lungs, and special days when we weren’t allowed to play outside.

    But you try and tell that to kids nowadays…

  33. Mike Wodehouse, the air on planes isn’t recycled any more now that smoking is prohibited (or filtered less, for that matter) than it was back when smoking was allowed. Aside from technology progress that gives the planes access to better filters, it’s getting exactly the same type of recycling as it was before.

    I’m not really sure why people think that when smoking was banned planes went “Wow, now we can give people poor quality air in a different manner!” My vague guess is that people started noticing the “recycled air” aspect more once there wasn’t a lot of cigarette smoke and smells covering it up.

  34. Pull-tabs were one of the most destructive waste product ever invented. Fishermen would throw them in the water. The fish would think “Ooh, shiny!”, eat them, die, rot, and the tab would come out unscathed to repeat the cycle. Bad!

  35. …I should clarify that it was theoretical airlines discussing filtering issues. Not the airplanes themselves. So far as I know, airplanes do not, in fact, express opinions on or control the manner in which air is filtered inside them.

  36. I think the photo of the ‘Annie’ LP is a sign of our gracious host’s unnatural love of musicals.

  37. It’s sad, but the automobile industry really hasn’t advanced that much. Sure, cars are marginally safer and more efficient these days but it took 30 years to get them there! In return, we’ve completely given up any and all ability to fix our own cars and agreed to own a car which essentially has a built in life span of less than 10 years. Instead of getting better, we’ve gotten some improvements at the cost of much higher complexity.

    Completely agreed on the rest though and let me just add my own little “I don’t miss this”. I don’t miss the days when travel was a thing to be planned for months and saved up for over years. I like being able to wake up in the morning and decide to fly to a different country. I can’t even imagine my grandparent’s lives when travel from their home country to the neighboring country took days if not weeks.

  38. I agree with the list, as well as the posters who named the cleaner skies as a plus.

    On quibble, while I enjoy not being exposed to smokers, I miss the fact that people used to be able to smoke anywhere they liked if not forbidden by management.

  39. I am anxiously awaiting the workplace smoking ban here in Michigan. There are a few restaurants we’ve stopped going to because even their “non-smoking” section ends up so miserable my asthmatic 15 year old can’t finish her meal.

    I have absolutely no sympathy for smokers when I watch how miserable my kid gets sitting across the -room- from someone smoking. I can’t even imagine how miserable she’d be living in the world I grew up in, where the few family members who didn’t allow smoking in their house were considered evil and unfriendly. Now even most of my relatives who smoke do not smoke in their own home.

  40. My Grandfather worked for the Chicago Can Company from the mid-late 40’s to the 80’s and tells the story that when they first evaluated the idea for the modern stay tab (he claims it came before the pulltab) they believed that no one would want to use it as it would have part of the can in the drink and would be as such unsanitary. Pure hearsay, and Wikipedia doesn’t back him up on the dates, but I always thought it was interesting.

  41. As a former smoker, allow me to let it be known that what I’m looking forward to the day we can say, “Know what I don’t miss? Smokers.”

    (Yes smokers, I mock and laugh at you when you’re outside suffering.)

  42. How about Caller ID?

    Back when we were young, if you wanted to know who was calling you then you had to pick up the phone and talk to them. Holy Crap, I couldn’t imagine that now. How are you supposed to duck your boss, break-up with someone by ignoring them, avoid telemarketers? Let alone call back people when you miss their calls? Egads!

  43. –I still remember the day some smoker was bitching and complaining about the new restrictions. He shut up fast when I told him: “To paraphrase Will Rogers, your freedom to pollute your air ends where my nose begins.”

    You know something? In a lot of states, we’re not allowed to smoke in bars, restaurants, airports, office buildings, government buildings, or anyplace near where anybody works. In a nutshell, anyplace INSIDE.

    Which is fine; I don’t know too many smokers who begrudge it too much except in the dead of winter… and even then: I bought the ticket, that’s the ride I’m taking. If I don’t like it, I can quit. That’s fine.

    Point is: You are the VICTOR in this situation. You WON. We CONCEDE.

    Why do you have be such a bad winner about it?

    We might smoke, but that doesn’t mean we don’t vote. And thanks to the Internet, we know who voted to kick us outside to be derided by people in the fashion you seem to be so proud of. And we might just decide that we’re tired of it. Democracy’s nifty that way.

    I’ll paraphrase an even better cowboy, Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: “This thing’s going your way. Don’t make it go another.”

  44. Matthew in Austin:

    Actually, Caller ID rendered pointless my one psychic power, which was picking up the phone and saying hello to the person on the other end by name. My accuracy rate on this was pretty damn spooky. And now, of course, everyone just thinks I’m looking at the Caller ID. Sigh.

  45. I don’t miss Disco, but I do miss good looking women in mini skirts!! Those were the days :)

  46. Dial phones. Especially when you were trying to get through to a number that was tied up all the time. The touch-tone phone sped things up a bit; the Demon Dialer more (but you had buy one, and you didn’t carry it about with you). The redial button finally fixed all that, and for free. Dial phones? Great to look at in old movies .

  47. Yup to not missing smoking everywhere. My dad used to reek of smoke every day even though he didn’t smoke b/c his work building had such poor air circulation.
    It didn’t help his uniform was mostly polyester (he used to call them his plastic pajamas) and you just can’t get that smell out.

  48. I agree with all your points, but especially the smoking one. When I moved from San Diego to DC, it was shocking to me that Virginia still allowed smoking in restaurants. It meant I always thought twice about going out to eat, because who wants to deal with that? Even if they have a non-smoking section, it’s not really non-smoking. Magically, they outlawed smoking in restaurants as of July 1, I believe, so I only had a few months of that crap. I still have to run the gauntlet when I get to work though. :(

    And even though San Diego’s smog wasn’t nearly as bad as LA’s, we still had some smog days. I clearly recall my HS soccer coach canceling practice one day because of a red flag alert, sometime around 1990.

  49. So, John can predict the future with a statistical significance. How is that possible? Is this just luck? Meaning he beats the odds enough times and uses that to predict more sucess in the future? Because scientifically derived results are more compelling.

    He’s a witch!

  50. I agree with all that, especially the part about smokers. I’d like to live in a world where if you tell a classroom full of teenagers that people used to smoke right in restaurants while other people were eating, a loud “EWWWW!” will go up. It’s coming; give it another ten or fifteen years.

    I also don’t miss pay phones. There are still some around, but I don’t miss needing them at all. Ah, the joys of being outside Stu Shiffman’s old place, ready to go up for Fanoclasts, but needing to call him because his buzzer was broken, and having to walk blocks and blocks because the drug dealer on the corner wouldn’t get off the phone. Good times.

    In fact, I generally don’t miss not being able to talk with people unless you and they were both next to a land line. I don’t miss having no alternative way to contact them, because letters could take weeks and email hadn’t been invented. I don’t miss only having friends in my own timezone.

    I don’t miss having to get to the bank by 5 on a Friday, or have no cash for the whole weekend. I don’t miss having to pay for nearly everything IN cash, either.

    I do miss guys wearing skin-tight pants though. The fabrics were horrible, but damn!

  51. Years down the road when everyone’s hard drives have fritzed out and they’re wailing and gnashing their teeth about the great music collection they lost, I’ll still have mine.

    Dude, years down the road, my music will be on a shiny new storage device. It’s called “backing up” and “copying.”

  52. @scalzi: You’re still doing better than the guy I used to know whose psychic power was being able to fast-forward/rewind a VHS tape to exactly the point in the movie he wanted.

  53. What about party line phones where several apartments shared the same line(early 60s). You had to pick up the phone and listen to make sure no one was on before making your call. Its amazing that we’ve gone from that to being able to make a call to just about anyone, anywhere whenever we want.

  54. Scalzi @57 – Did you really guess who the person on the phone was? Or did you always just say “Hi Kristine!” to whoever answered the phone, hoping to get points where they really mattered? :)

  55. I’m with you on the long distance charges. My fiancee and I talk on the phone every night (she’s in Canada, I’m in the US) and if not for our “all you can talk for $25” plans our phone bills would run $850 a month. (That was the balance on her first phone bill after she switched to the unlimited plan. They conveniently forgot and added up all her minutes.)

    One thing I really miss is $400 apartments.

  56. One of the things I like best about digital music is the ability to grab only what I want which cuts down on situations where one or two good songs are held hostage, wrapped in an album of (often) hastily produced filler.

    I remember those stupid pull tabs, too. Parking lots and sidewalks would be littered with them, right alongside cigarette butts. I don’t miss those either. Oh wait, those are still there!

  57. John 57: I used to know a guy who always answered his phone “Yes, Paul.” I’m sure this really impressed Paul, but it left the rest of us somewhat nonplussed until we got used to it.

    Another thing I don’t miss: being in the closet out of fear for my life. Later, out of fear for my job.

  58. Typewriters. Don’t miss them at all. I remember retyping pages many times because of a forgotten or added word. Spell check also made a huge improvement in my grades in college.

    My mother’s typewriter had a broken “q” key and I learned to type an “o” instead and go back and draw in the leg. Took me a long time to break that habit.

    I’ll add modems to the list also. When I was young my dad had a modem that squealed in your ear if you picked up the extension (and dad would start yelling to hang up).

  59. Air quality is so vastly improved in LA that I don’t think people these days actually believe how bad it was. I’ve been to China a couple of times and was forcibly reminded that, yes, it is possible for air to be so polluted that you can see it and taste it.

    #49, I’m not sure what you mean about cars having a built-in lifespan of 10 years. Both of my current cars are more than 10 years old and if a car now doesn’t make it to 100,000 miles without major problems it’s just a defective heap of crap. Was that really the case back in the bad old days?

  60. The bar I’ve worked in for the last five years was non-smoking even before it was cool. I remember when I first started working there being just amazed at how much more pleasant the atmosphere was. And I was a smoker at the time (been quit now a couple years). It amazes me, in retrospect, how ubiquitous it used to be. Hell, it amazes me that I ever smoked in my living space. Or that I’d voluntarily spend time in crowded, windowless bars whose air was not unlike the Los Angeles of old y’all also don’t miss.

    Good times and all, but man, what a stupendously bad idea. Guess it just goes to show you can get used to anything.

  61. All good points, though I’m not much of a digital or portable music person. However, the advent of the stay-tab on soda cans has rendered archaic some of the finest lyrics in music history:

    I blew out my flip-flop
    Stepped on a pop-top
    Cut my heel had to cruise on back home

    Tragedy for poor Jimmy Buffett! No more pop-tops to step on and send him home to his beloved blender!

  62. I lived in L.A. in the mid-70’s; I remember days when you honestly could not see across the street for the brown “air”. I’d find myself holding my breath (extremely short-term solution…moving away worked better).

    Why aren’t there smoking rooms? Sounds more civilized to me than turning folks out into the cold.

  63. Thomas M. Wagner @ 13:

    I always wonder if people who smoke in crowded public places realize what arrogant d-bags they are.

    The arrogant d-bags are the ones who know the effect they’re having and either don’t care or revel in it. But I’m sure a lot of people simply don’t get it, because they’re used to it. It just doesn’t register as an irritant to them. Even if they’re theoretically sympathetic, on some level there may still be the impression that some people are exaggerating their sensitivity.

    And I suspect health statistics really don’t have the same impact on people who don’t have at least a basic understanding of statistics. I remember while growing up hearing about some of the earlier studies linking smoking with cancer, and sort of accepting it on some level. But it was only after I had a solid grasp of statistics that I really got it, especially after I happened to have the chance to do some basic analysis on raw data. The correlation was just so amazingly strong, I was stunned. I’m very thankful that I never got addicted.

    skipjim @ 61: Heh. I remember being impressed at how fast flashing text went out of favor, like there was a mile-high cliff on the other side of the shark it jumped.

    On related matters, I don’t miss gopher (and I wish I was in the position to not miss FTP). Has it really been nearly 17 years since the first version of Mosaic?

  64. Sean@77: funny, I always interpreted that pop-top as the top of a beer bottle. Seemed to fit the Margaritaville theme more.

  65. M.A.@ 78:

    Why aren’t there smoking rooms? Sounds more civilized to me than turning folks out into the cold.

    Money. A proper smoking room would need to have an independent ventilation system to keep other rooms from becoming smoking rooms. Plus the furnishings would probably have to be replaced more often, there are fire-detection and -suppression systems involved, etc. How many companies these days have even one employee lounge? How many would put in a second, more-expensive lounge for the benefit of people who are to some extent social pariahs?

  66. I’m a bit of an audiophile, but from an odd, lost generation of CD loving audiophiles. SMQ up at 22 has one the two real reasons for liking vinyl–the other is DJing and scratching. That requires having a real turntable. The $10k tables are for schmucks on the more-money-than-sense plan. Honestly, it’s an analog technology, what makes it sound “better” is signal degradation and the noise properties of the gear. Really.

    I was born in the early 80s, so CDs have always existed, and when I was starting to get into music, they were the expensive, high-quality format (in the early/mid 90s). I still buy CDs partly because of that and partly because of reasons stated earlier (lossless ripping for backup). My current system is to rip to FLAC for backup and listening on my desktop and encode to high quality ogg for my Cowon player. I love that thing, it has changed my life.

    As far as compressed audio goes, 128kbit MP3 is good enough for 90% of music out there. For the last 10%, you cannot tell the difference between CD and 192kbit. My favorite artist is a prog metal guy known for his “Wall-of-Sound” mixes. His songs sound muddy and indistinct at 128kbit, but at 192, it’s just fine–and this is music that I’ve listened to on good headphones everyday for months in a quiet environment on FLAC–so I know what the original sounds like. In excruciating detail. 192 is good enough.

    That said, I’m still hoping unencumbered FLACs become a more common option for download only. That would get me off of CDs (since the CD is essentially uncompressed FLACs for me…). But that’s mostly for the backup and flexible encoding options, not the audiophile bit.

    Also, I’d like to second Xopher@73. I may be straight, but I like that my gay friends can be out–they can be themselves and whole people.

  67. Rob @ 56

    I’m sorry if I sound like an ungracious winner, but I put up with YEARS of _pakhtash_ whining and bitching about their “right to smoke” while puffing in front of me and leaving me to try not to hack up lung tissue from the effects of the smoke. And don’t get me started on what enduring that was like with a cold or springtime pollen allergies.

    Add on a three-pack-a-day parent who ended up dead of throat cancer, and all I can say is smoke-free is a blessing.

  68. I’ll be happy when all optical media has gone to solid state devices/drives.

    Blu Ray. Pfft. Rip it to MKV and you’ve got the same thing, minus the worry of scratches.

    And as a somewhat heavy smoker I have to say, I agree. Even as a smoker I have always hated indoor smoking. I like first-hand smoke only.

    Just wish my work place had some kind of covered area to get out of the rain.

  69. I too do not miss the expensive long distance nor my landline, although I’ve had to explain to folks that I do not carry my cell phone for THEIR convenience.

    I think I blew part of my college fund on trying to call my boyfriend who was two states away. Sadly, that was also the year there were SIX–count ’em–SIX whole email test accounts for students up for grabs by lottery. My roommate won, lucky girl, but I did not. If only I had. I would be about 1500 dollars richer today.

    Smoking – when I lived in NC, it was still legal to smoke indoors at club venues. As of a few months ago, it is not. That’s right–one of the BIG tobacco states finally caved. Woot.

  70. Omri @ #35: Isn’t this a little alarmist? As I said, I have 25 year old CDs that play no less well than they did the day I bought them (though with most of my old CDs, I’ve replaced them with later remasters as that technology improved). I have never in my life experienced CD rot. A friend of mine with a collection of over 6000 CDs has experienced rot on fewer than 10 of them. While I have ripped my collection for iPod purposes, I see no evidence that I need to keep re-ripping out of some panic that “ZOMG they’re about to be unreadable!” Even the latest generation of Blu-ray players play CDs just fine, and as far as I know, your average hard drive lasts 4-7 years if you’re lucky. I think you’ve somewhat uncritically swallowed some claims from the “downloads uber alles” crowd. Unless there is hard evidence supporting those claims, which I’d be happy to see.

    Jeff @ #82: As far as compressed audio goes, 128kbit MP3 is good enough for 90% of music out there. For the last 10%, you cannot tell the difference between CD and 192kbit.

    On earbuds, maybe. Play it all back on speakers attached to an actual amplifier, and believe me, you can tell.

  71. I think maybe you’re not giving foreign car manufacturers quite enough credit with your date of 1997. My mother survived unscathed a serious accident in her 1993 Toyota Camry. Granted, a passenger might not have been as lucky, since only the driver’s seat had an air bag.

    I kind of miss pop-tops, but your points are well-taken.

    In addition to the general lack of smoke, I think the overall social pressure against smoking has been a societal boon. I’m curious to see how the USA’s cancer- and cardiovascular-disease rates will shift as the non-smoking generations get older. Forget second-hand smoke–there’s a lot less primary smoke in people’s lungs these days.

  72. And I can’t stand stay tabs because they bump uncomfortably against my nose when I drink. So I always remove them, just as though they were a pull tab. It has the side benefit of always letting you know which can is yours when you set it down.

    Except that, the first time I stayed over at my wife’s house, I picked up the can without a tab, and it wasn’t mine. I asked her if she removed her can tabs, and she said “Always. I can’t stand the way they bump my nose.”

    So we had to get married.

  73. John @57: You, too? I scared my family witless with that one as a kid. “Linda’s calling!” *ringringring* *guest unused to my talent looks at me like I’ve turned green* I’m now mostly down to doing IFOF sensing, in which “foe” is defined as “telemarketer or collections agent” and it’s better than random chance on a coin toss. I’ve been known to stare at the phone, cock my head, and say, “They have no idea who we are, but answer it anyway.” Sure enough, survey-taker.

  74. Oh, and while we’re at it. British food from the 1970s – that I really really really really really don’t miss.

    It wasn’t as bad as American’s say it was, it was actually far far far worse.

    Ok, that’s probably true for British food prior to the mid-80s. Now I live outside the UK I can be comfortable knowing that the UK has finally caught up in most classes of food (burgers are an exception) and surpassed other nations in some (curry) and chocolate.

    Now, if you excuse me I have to run out and find someone to sell me a Crunchie.

  75. Thomas @86: Damn right you can tell. I DJ in Second Life and use a 196kbps Shoutcast stream to broadcast. The fact the majority of my library is 196 or higher has been positively commented on. I never broadcast a sound file of lower fidelity than 128 and try not to have to.

  76. Hmmm… looks like my rant about not missing VCRs vanished :(

    Summary of things I don’t miss: not recording anything/the right channel/the right show/the right timeslot; having a schedule slip make you miss the end; running out of tape; recording over something by mistake; finding that watching the show through a foggy window, through a snow storm whilst wearing scratched glasses would be an improvement…

    DVRs have made episodic TV with an arc practical again.

    I just found that while I thought I’d watched SG1, I’d actually seen less than half of Seasons 1 through 4 purely because of the combination of Sky 1 scheduling and my VCR meant I missed them.

  77. Nobody uses a landline anymore.

    Nobody likes crappy old cars.

    Vinyls are awesome.

    You know what else sucks about being a smoker today? Knowing it kills you, and still doing it…

    The one “antique” reference I had to look up…too bad Ronald McDonald created the trend to break these off (although great for the kids it helps…I collect these)

  78. So true about smoking. Second-hand smoke triggers migraines for me, and I remember every time I went to a restaurant, I’d have to scope out the smoking section, find the part the restaurant farthest away from it, and request a table there. If the only available tables were near the smoking section, I’d have to wait until something else opened up. No restaurant meal is worth a migraine.

  79. Original CDs aren’t a backup strategy. I’ve got a stack of original CDs that no longer play reliably. (For some reason a set congruent with the set of CDs my seven year old liked.)

    The best backup strategy is not one thing that won’t fail. It is multiplying the storage so you don’t have one single point of failure. Always keep around multiple copies on multiple storage systems in multiple places.

  80. Two others I don’t miss:

    1) Rotary phones: Ever mis-dial the seventh number? Christ what a pain to hold down the little springy things in the phone cradle, wait five seconds, and then have to re-dial the whole freakin’ phone number! (And of course it would be one of those 787-9998 numbers that take forever.) And if you didn’t wait long enough you had to re-re-dial ’cause of course you never waited to hear the dial tone. Thank you, iPhone (and others), for making a misdialed digit a quick one-button correction.

    2) Library card catalogs: I used to maintain them in my high school days, and lemme tell ya, few things in the world hurt more than a “paper” cut from a card catalog card. Kidney stones? Labor pains? Meh! Try living life with a two-thirds-inch-long-quarter-inch-deep gouge on your left ring finger. Ragnarok would have been a welcome diversion.

    Plus, you always had to go down to the library to see if they had a book on the shelves. Now, I log on to the library’s web site, find out if it’s available for checkout, and if it’s not at my branch I can have it sent there, all in less time than it would take me to dial the library’s number on a rotary phone.

  81. Harrumph.

    Smoking. I’m trying to reform, I am, but good golly it’s hard. However, I have to realise that whilst I would never smoke in an elevator, or flap fag-ash into the wind, or generally Be Thoughtlessly Obnoxious (when I’m obnoxious, I like for it to be well thought-out so I can enjoy being so)…. I’m in the tiny minority. Most smokers are, frankly, bastards. So, fine. Exiled out into the wind and rain when I’m already in a state of respiratory distress? Well. A few bad apples.

    But pop top cans? Sir, you have obviously never torn a moustache or bear hair out in one of these infernal devices. For your refreshing, delicious swig to be punctuated with a metallic “POINK!” as hair, follicle and equilibrium depart as one from top lip to aluminium pain-crotch is to be betrayed by the very beverage that should have comforted. The silent tears stream, the jaw works, trying to articulate not just the agony but the unfairness of the moment.

    And still… we swig.

    Damn them.
    Damn them to Hades.

  82. I use a land line for my phone. I don’t have a cell and don’t need one.

    I don’t have an mp3 player of any type, either; none of my computers have music files on them, although I bought my wife an iPod Classic so she could watch TED Talks and such.

    I don’t miss having smokers everywhere around me–I sympathize with people burdened with addictions, but kee-rist, the stink of it!

    I don’t miss percolator coffee makers, typewriters, TV remotes that operate by sudden loud noise, dial-up internet connections, canvas athletic shoes, and rotary push mowers.

  83. I have about 100 vinyl records and I have a reasonably decent turntable to play them on. I also date someone who has two young children. We had gone to see a movie where some of the background music was Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t worry, be happy”; this is one of the records I have on vinyl.

    During dinner, one of the kids was humming “Don’t worry, be happy” and I offered to play the album.

    They had never seen vinyl played before. They thought it was the coolest thing to hear music coming out of a big black piece of plastic.


  84. Jeff 82: I may be straight, but I like that my gay friends can be out–they can be themselves and whole people.

    I don’t miss the time (long ago, but within my memory) when no one would ever say that. In fact, I don’t miss the time a few minutes ago before I read you saying that! Thanks.

  85. I don’t miss:

    1. Carbon paper, Ko-rec-tape, White-out. Typing up a term paper (especially if you were getting close to deadline) was a nightmare.

    2. Sunday blue laws.

    3. Only three TV stations. Watching TV on the networks’ schedule. Watching “The Wizard of Oz” in black and white.

    4. Being completely dependent on the one tiny bookstore in town (with a miniscule SF/F section).

  86. Phoebe@88: I rotate my stay tabs about 45 degrees to the right to keep from scratching my nose on them. I get all the benefits of removing them, plus I don’t have a pull-tab wannabe to deal with. (My wife caught me doing that with a can of chicken broth out of habit. “You’re not going to drink that, are you?”)

    CD longevity may be variable, depending on the manufacturer – and even the production line. A gentleman I worked with claimed he’d visited a plant that pressed CDs for a number of clients. Discs for well-known labels had much better quality control practices; those destined for record-of-the-month clubs (remember them?) had almost none.

  87. I am really glad about the smoking not being allowed everywhere. I can remember as a kid going to the hospital to visit my dad’s friend. And he was sitting in the tv lounge room with an IV hooked into him smoking a cigarette.

    Tell me that didn’t defeat the purpose. Or what about the days when you could smoke in the food court at the mall and all the single mom’s would smoke their brains out with their kid in the stroller inhaling.

    I guess some things change for the better. I do miss my VHS movies though. :)

  88. My family continues to pay for landlines–the real kind, not the kind you get from your cable company–in addition to cell phones.

    Why? Because during 9/11 and then the blackout of ’03, we had dependable phone contact. Sure, I had to swap out the cordless for the backup curly-wire phone, but it worked without a hitch.

  89. debraji @ 103:

    3. Only three TV stations. Watching TV on the networks’ schedule. Watching “The Wizard of Oz” in black and white.

    Ohmygodsyes! “The Wizard of Oz” in b&w is like watching “Rocky Horror” by yourself. It’s just a much less colorful experience. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

    I don’t miss CRT monitors. We still have a CRT TV (so far), but at least my eyes aren’t quite so close to the particle accelerator.

  90. Tracey @ 105:

    I can remember as a kid going to the hospital to visit my dad’s friend. And he was sitting in the tv lounge room with an IV hooked into him smoking a cigarette.

    Worse: smoking while using supplemental oxygen.

    Yes, every once in a while they lose a patient that way. Sometimes they also lose a hospital room.

    To spin off from the medical theme, I don’t miss smallpox. Someday, I hope to not miss HIV/AIDS. Or cancer.

  91. I don’t miss dittos! That awful purple ink, that clammy paper, that headache-inducing smell! *shudder*

    I do miss fanzines mimeod on twill-tone paper though. That was nice.

  92. Also, I don’t miss:

    5. Wrapping your lunch sandwich in waxed paper–and when plastic bags became widely available, having to seal them with a twist-tie or the ol’Gladbag flip. Looks like Ziploc won that war.

    6. Metal garbage cans. Damned noisy at 6AM, and no wheels. The raccoons liked to tip them over. We had some big damned raccoons.

    7. Stopping to pay tolls.

    8. Spending Friday lunch in line at the bank with everyone else who got paid on Friday in order to deposit my check and get some money for the week. No such thing as an ATM.

    8. Classified jobs columns headed “Help Wanted – Male” and “Help Wanted – Female”.

  93. Vinyl weighs a ton, too. Speaking as someone who once helped move a public library’s entire collection in preparation for new carpet and after it was installed, back in the early 80s.

  94. 1. I hate phones. I prefer to write. So I’ve never had much of a long-distance habit.

    2. Agreed. But bring the date of the end of suckitude down to 1990 or so. At least for the Japanese. The first half of that decade was a golden era for autos from under the rising sun. Before the ice weasels SUVs came.

    3. I have spent the last sixteen years of my life attempting to recreate the long out-of print, cassette-only Minutemen compilation My First Bells (literally every recording they released on any label up to Double Nickels On The Dime) that was devoured by a car stereo. Oh how I agree with this one. Oh yes.

    4. Agreed. I’ll still agree even if they legalize something I smoke.

    5. Sure. Why not?

  95. John, you’ll be gratified to know that Spider Robinson agrees with you about digital music. He’s touched on the issue several times in his stories and columns.

    I cannot tell you how sick I, too, am of hearing about 100 kilodollar vacuum tube amps, ridiculously precise turntables, and the resurgence of vinyl records. And I cannot put enough quotation marks around the word “warmth,” so I’m not even going to try. I have more music stored on my iPhone than I could ever feasibly carry in a suitcase of cassette tapes in my car, I never have to hear the “snap, crackle and pop” of records, nor the hum of the needle in the groove, etc. ad nauseum. The more-money-than-sense audiophiles need to shut the hell up.

  96. Other stuff I don’t miss:

    + line tape and bluesheet layouts and other old skool graphic design things – I was probably from the last generation of graphic design and art students to use these. We were a weird hybrid bunch, since we’d use ink jet printers and word perfect to get our columns printed out….then we’d cut them up and lay them out with double stick tape. We’d use line tape to carefully layout headers. Then when the whole thing was laid out, we took it over IN A CAR to the printing house where they would photograph it and then eventually print it. QuarkExpress was a revelation. Emailing files? OMG!

    + Menstrual pad belts – This should be something I am too young to recall, but my mother gave me one, and I tried it approximately three times before abandoning it for sticky pads. For the folks scratching their heads in puzzlement, the Belt was a device which you wore around your waist that had two hooks onto which you threaded your cloth pad. (They had disposable ones, but originally the pads were washable.) This THING was horrible…the pad always tried to escape and make a run for its life. (Well, wouldn’t you?) The belt itself would try to scooch around or slip or bite into your flesh if you tightened it so it wouldn’t slip…and the pads would scrunch and bunch and it was the age of stretch pants and the terrors endured can not be all recounted with one telling.

    + I don’t miss music and media that I have to rewind and can’t skip around. Also, no devices that EAT your media by munching your tapes.

    + I don’t miss dialup.

  97. I don’t miss spreadsheets—yes, children, there used to be actual paper things called spreadsheets. I don’t miss having to foot and cross-foot them with an adding machine.

    I don’t miss adding machines, either.

  98. I too use a land line and don’t have one of those cell phone thingies. No cable where I live, so I’m stuck with slow DSL. I even have a non-portable phone somewhere I can plug in and my phone works when the power is out.

    I don’t have an MP3 player either, I still listen to CDs. When I recorded an album last year it was an honest to god album on pressed CD. You want MP3s, burn them yourself.

    Cars: Hey I miss my 65 mustang, but lets face it, noone misses the maintenance old cars required. Newer cars (since the mid 90’s) have their first tune up at 100,000 miles. You need new brake pads before you need new spark plugs these days. And other than maybe Chrysler, no one actually makes a BAD car anymore. Ford, who gave us the Pinto and the Escort, actually makes the top rated small cars these days. How’d that happen?

    rcinla wins with the Card Catalog though. Imagine, looking up books on little 2 x 4″ pieces of paper. Then writing the numbers on another piece of paper to go search the stacks? Barbaric.

    Don’t miss: loading a separate program to run a spell check. On 5 1/4″ floppy. And having a 1:5 chance that it eats the term paper you just spent hours working on.

  99. I, too, grew up in Southern California, and I remember the air in L.A. in the 1960s. Eewww. About the only time you could see the mountains except very early in the morning and directly after a rainstorm was when the east wind blew all of the crap in the air out to sea.

  100. Growing up in Kentucky, I so do not miss the smoke. Watching my mom die of lung cancer, then going right outside the building after she passed away and there’s all these people in the cold and the rain smoking. I really wanted to take them up to see my mom right about then. This is why living in California is great. Most people do not tolerate smoking here. In Kentucky, they are now starting to ban it in restaurants and office buildings. Good for them.

    OMG, pull tabs. Remember when they used to be everywhere! We still have lots of vinyl, although I think our record player doesn’t play them right anymore. Lots of CDs too, but we don’t usually buy them now. We still have long distance on our phone at home because we live right against the San Gabriel Mountains and cell coverage sucks here. God forbid you had AT&T or T-Mobile. Verizon is the only one that will work, sort of.

  101. I’m surprised that no one has so far warned you that when Athena reaches the age that you don’t want her to leave the house without her cell phone, you’ll be buying the unlimited text message plan.

  102. I don’t miss writing checks.

    Those pull tabs – I used to put it on one of my fingers like a ring until I finished the drink, then stuff it back into the can before tossing it in the trash. Littering is bad, you see.

    As a ‘California-trained’ smoker, when I lived in Hong Kong in the late 80’s (when/where everyone smoked everywhere), I always disposed of my cigarette before entering a building, even though I knew full well that I could (and likely would) smoke inside as well.

  103. Pixelfish@115: OMG!! Eeuuuwwww! my mom, oh so proudly gave me one when “my special friend” first arrived. In front of every female relative in her family. The. Most. Embarrassing. Moment. Ever. Especially when I’d already talked with friends whose mother’s had gotten them sticky pads. But then, my mom thought scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees was going to give me character.

    Also, I don’t miss anyone referring to a period as “your special friend” or any other dumbass knicknames.

  104. Random not-from-LA question, it seems like LA has a much worse rep for smog than other big cities. Why is the smog so much worse there? Does LA have relatively worse public transport? Or is it something relating to the environment there? (Like, I dunno, less breeze or something.)
    Just curious, if anyone knows.

  105. On the smoking front: maybe it was just a regional thing, but at the grocery store we used to shop at – United Super, by no means a tiny mom & pop – at the end of every aisle were those big black ash tray things, not quite two feet tall by not quite a foot across. For maybe fifteen aisles, that’s thirty big ash trays, not mention the cashiers who smoked(!) while working.

    That’s how ubiquitous smoking was.

    These days? If I am to believe my daughter, her friends, the tough kids hanging outside the high school, not only is smoking not cool, it’s gross. You might as well have an ‘L’ stenciled on your forehead. That’s just tobaccy of course. Drinking and smoking pot is still cool, and doing it in the parking lot at school is one way of showing what a bad boy/girl you are.

    This was a long, long time ago, of course. One of my most vivid memories from those days is of my dad scaring the whole family, driving up and down the strip in the old Nash for what seemed like hours, swearing by God that he’d never pay $0.35/gal for gas.

  106. A Different Jess: L.A. has what is called an “inversion layer,” which means that localized air pressure tends to cap the smog and keep it in place except when certain wind patterns blow. This is in contrast to San Francisco, for example, which has a near-continuous breeze blowing their smog inland. (And Sacramento thanks you so very, very much for that.) (Incidentally, I did not know that much of the horrible brown air that you often get in the Central Valley is not necessarily smog; “haze”— extremely fine water vapor and dirt— is completely natural. IOW, we get rid of all the pollutants and the CV still gets brown air days.)

    London occasionally gets inversion layers too. That phenomenon led to “killing fogs” back when they were still burning coal for heat. You know, up until the mid twentieth century.

    They have vaccines for the chicken pox now. I’ll be glad to not miss that for my kids.

  107. I wonder how many people who whine about smokers polluting their air drive cars that pollute, use electricity generated by polluting power stations, and do other things that pollute my environment.

    I’m not saying smoking is better than these things, just trying to give the non-smokers some food for thought.

  108. My parents were both smokers, I grew up with it. My best friend smokes.

    Every time I see an old movie or a movie set in the 80’s or earlier, with people casually smoking, I blink. It’s odd to see now. Especially if it’s at the dinner table or in bed or while picking their kid up from school.

    How things change.

  109. DemetriosX@38: “When I went off to college in San Diego, I used to laugh my head off at the locals bitching about the smog…”

    Speaking as one of those San Diegans who bitched about the smog, we only bitched because it was LA’s smog, not our own. ;)

  110. 8. Spending Friday lunch in line at the bank with everyone else who got paid on Friday in order to deposit my check and get some money for the week. No such thing as an ATM.

    ATM? What’s that? I’ve had direct deposit since high school :p

  111. To Sarcastro @ 113:

    If you are still looking for that Minutemen compilation, I suggest a quick search on Captain Crawl. I was able to find a working link in seconds.


  112. Hear hear for number four!

    I recently saw on the news a segment about enraged smokers in Finland who have been exiled outside… if only they knew that here, where I live in Canada, smoking has been exiled outside for years, and smokers are now not allowed to congregate within 5 metres of any doorway or balcony.

    It’s a hard life.

  113. Yeah, I don’t miss dialup. If I was online and my annoying little brother wanted to harass me, he’d pick up the phone and blow into it, severing my connection. Of course, I did the same to him, now that I think about it…

  114. I don’t miss having to go to the Illinois Bell store in the mall in order to get a phone. You couldn’t just pick up a phone anywhere; you had to get an Illinois Bell phone. (As an aside, that was my dad’s favorite store in the universe. And yet, did he get me the R2D2 phone I craved? NOPE. Raah harrumph humbug…)

    I *do* miss record album covers and liner notes; I was just remarking about buying the Talking Heads Album “Little Creatures” just for the art on the sleeve, which was the first example I had ever seen of outsider art. And then, of course, the music really hit home, which was a bonus.

    I don’t miss having to stay up until 1 a.m. on the hopes that MTV will play a video by your favorite band.

  115. In May of this year, Michigan becomes the 38th state to ban smoking in most public places (Detroit casinos and cigar bars among the exceptions). No more “smoking or non?” when I go out to dinner, no more coming home from a night out smelling like an ashtray because of the smokers next to me at the bar. It will be lovely indeed. But I’m most relieved for the people who will no longer be subjected to smoke just because of the place they work.

  116. Re old cars, I first saw that video making the rounds of plaintiffs’ lawyers’ email lists (what did you think got automakers to start building safer cars? The Conscience Fairy?), and my first reaction was to start shrieking in a high-pitched girly voice because they took a beautiful pristine 1959 Chevy Bel Air and they totalled it out. Those BASTARDS.

    (Why, yes, I am from Detroit. Please get your cute little plastic deathbox out from under my bumper.)

    Still and all, the safety improvements are immeasurable over yesteryear, but they’re still not where they should be – and it really sucks that automakers deliberately set up cars that you can’t fix yourself, and your mechanic can’t fix unless they have thousands of dollars with of proprietary equipment.

    Smoking – when you realize how deliberately and ruthlessly the tobacco industry spends money learning exactly how to market their product, how to make it addictive and how to escape any kind of responsibility for what they do, it’s hard to be terribly mad at smokers. The only wonder is that more people don’t smoke.

  117. Regarding long term storage of music, I’d just like to add that the medium is not generally the issue. As librarians will tell you, the issue is the longevity of the devices that read it. Any type of disk or tape requires a drive with moving parts, which means all those drives will eventually fail. Once parts stop being made for those drives, a whole lot of perfectly readable media is now useless. Just ask an old-school gamer trying to read their collection of 8″ and 5.25″ floppies.

    The reason (IMHO) that digital is better is because its then easy to keep moving that data around as needed to stay ahead of physical obsolescence. Hard drive dying? Move it the to cloud. Google going bankrupt? Move it to somewhere else. Constant duck-and-move is what’s needed to keep data readable, and that’s much easier virtually than physically.

  118. I recently saw on the news a segment about enraged smokers in Finland who have been exiled outside… if only they knew that here, where I live in Canada, smoking has been exiled outside for years…

    Meh. That rage pops up whenever there’s an instance of “I used to be allowed to do X wherever I wanted to. X is entirely legal.”, regardless of X’s limitations elsewhere.

    Cellphone and blinky Borg bluetooth headset users would get all frothy-mouthed too, if they suddenly had to do their one-sided blathering outside.

    … and smokers are now not allowed to congregate within 5 metres of any doorway or balcony.

    That’s all well and good for buildings with big entrance areas; not so good for ones that are right on the sidewalk. Trying to navigate through a solid three-people-deep human barrier, that totally blocks foot traffic on the sidewalk, isn’t fun for anyone.

  119. Droggnon@ 129

    So I suppose that in order to alleviate the pollution caused by your smoking, you don’t drive, or use electricity, or do anything else which pollutes? Live in a cabin in the mountains (no fires, of course) and take your pack-mule down for supplies once a month, do you? Give me a break.

    Smokers pollute my immediate environment (as opposed to the general one) with the sort of smoke which exacerbates my asthma. Yet for years I was made to feel socially maladroit when I asked them to please stop in non-smoking areas, and on more than one occasion, I had smoke blown in my face for my trouble. I’m very glad that these days, smokers have a little more consideration, and I’m sorry it has taken the law to make it so.

  120. Another reason there aren’t smoking rooms (or to at least be glad there aren’t): imagine how people coming out of them would smell. For the rest of the day. It’s bad enough the way moderate/heavy smokers smell from 5-10 feet away – not just their clothes and hair, but their very skin and what comes out of their pores – even when they’re forced to smoke in the open air. And they don’t care because they can’t smell themselves – one of the worst things smoking does is deaden the smell/taste senses.

    One of these stinkpots sat so close on the bus today I had to change seats so my ire might be up a little more than usual on the subject.

  121. I just want to say that the car video is the coolest thing I have seen today. Hooray internet! For showing me exactly how the steering column of a classic car would have shattered my sternum.

  122. There have been a couple of mentions en passant about being unable to fix cars these days without thousands of dollars of proprietary equipment. If you’re talking about diagnostic equipment, that’s no longer the case — since around 1996, actually.

    These days, you can get a handheld diagnostic computer (automotive code reader) that plugs into the standardized diagnostic port of your car. It costs between 50 and 200 dollars, and will work with any car sold in the United States. The systems will read and interpret the error code that set off your ‘check engine’ light, and will let you clear the error(s) as well. The amount of useful diagnostic information you can get is really impressive.

  123. Why is (was) LA’s smog so bad?

    LA is a warm climate where a near-coast series of tall mountain ranges (mostly uplifted by our friend the San Andreas Fault and its associates) trap the warm, moist, foggy marine layer when low-level onshore flow pushes it inland – which it frequently does, due to the Catalina Eddy, a persistent vortex caused by the bend in the coastline.

    That cool, moist marine layer tames the summer heat, producing the mild summer climate for which LA is famed – and moderates the winter cold, producing the pleasant, frost-free winters, likewise.

    But as B. Durbin notes above, that moist marine air produces a thermal inversion that caps the basin formed by the coastal mountains, trapping pollutants beneath it, especially in the summer.

    LA’s worst smogs, at the peak of the mid-50s post-war building boom, were produced both by the proliferation of automobiles, and by the fact that the city had no municipal trash collection, so everyone burned their trash in backyard incinerators.

    The banning of backyard incinerators in 1957 was the first step on the long road of air quality regulation that has made such a difference.

    When I moved to LA in the late ’70s, about one out of every three days was a Stage I or Stage II smog alert. More than a hundred of the former, and twenty-some of the latter in one year.

    These days, we haven’t had any Stage II alerts in many years, and Stage I alerts are rare – some years have a couple, while others have none, depending on the weather.

    (LA itself has never had an official Stage III alert, because the three-stage system was implemented after the worst of the ’50s smog attacks – which would have qualified. The last Stage III alert in the US was in 1974, in the Upland area of the Inland Empire near San Bernardino.)

    These days, the worst smog in Southern California isn’t in LA – it’s in the Santa Clarita and San Bernardino Valleys.

    Both those areas have a long history of blaming their smog on LA. Now that LA has cleaned up its act, it’s become apparent that most of their smog is home-grown, not “blown in from LA”, and they’re starting to take it more seriously.

    But they still have quite a way to go to catch up with the progress LA has made.

    (And of course their smog gets reported as “LA-area smog” by the national media, so our present-day reputation exceeds our actual reality.)

  124. Sinister Duck@131:

    Speaking as one of those San Diegans who bitched about the smog, we only bitched because it was LA’s smog, not our own. ;)

    Hah. I didn’t realize anyone as far away as San Diego used that excuse. :-)

    That’s funny.

    I once heard someone claim that LA’s smog extended all the way up to Big Sur, where he’d once seen a thick brown bank of haze hugging the ocean surface off the coast.

    Turned out that what he had seen was actually the smoke plume from a large inland wildfire nowhere near LA, as it cooled and settled over the ocean.

  125. I wish we could also prevent smokers from breathing indoors for a certain amount of time after smoking. The other day I was in an elevator than I could determine a smoker had been in recently, as the smell lingered in the air from their breath alone.

  126. It’s not just LA. Up here in tree hugger land (Seattle) the entire region between Seattle and Tacoma reeked with the stench of paper mills. No longer.

    As to vinyl vs. CDs: you need pimp gear to hear the difference. I lost my wife while shoping at Magnolia HiFi (when it was called that and not owned by those asshats at Best Buy) only to find her drooling in the high end audio room listening to Abbey Road on vinyl through speakers that cost as much as our house at the time. It was awesome.

    Thankfully technology moves forward and the remastered discs sound just as good, on gear that I didn’t have to sell a liver to afford.

    So, lossless rips and media servers FTMFW.

  127. Droggnon @ 129

    I wonder how many people who whine about smokers polluting their air drive cars that pollute, use electricity generated by polluting power stations, and do other things that pollute my environment.

    That’s a reasonable point, and as soon as we replace the energy infrastructure and the transit infrastructure I’ll happily take part in ostracizing anybody still running coal power plants or driving internal combustion vehicles.

    Given the current political-economic structure, I’ll expect those things to happen only about 50 years after it would have been smart to do so.

  128. mythago@146: My friend has a 2002 Durango, and he uses a hand-held diagnostic reader on it when lights go on (not too often, but still). He can find out the codes, and then get the parts online, and fix it himself, so I’m thinking that VictorS is ‘more right’ than your info is.

  129. I’m picking up what you’re putting down.

    And waiting 6 weeks plus for your beloved music to arrive from the record and tape club…I still like checking the mail daily, but now you usually get stuff in the same week.

    I’m waiting with baited breath for WI to go smoke free. And I know it will diminish business in most of the places I go. It’s a major improvement to me, but not without a price.

  130. @ Glen,

    Since about 1996 and ODB II cars emit remarkably little pollution. In Fact, for the past decade the number one source of smog and pollution in Los Angeles has actually been the Port of LA.

    LA has attempted to ban the burning of “bunker oil” by ships coming into port, and is currently requiring docked ships to run of grid power rather than on board generators.

  131. Mark @ 154:

    Yep. And once again, they’ve been running into the usual “but if we make ships coming into our ports use cleaner fuel and fit themselves for the (free!) dockside power we provide, they’ll go somewhere else” arguments.

    To which there are two useful responses:

    First, what LA adopts this year, everyone else will adopt in the near future (especially once they figure out that, because of LA’s regs, many ships are already fitted with dual-fuel systems and dockside power plugs).

    And, second, if they insist on polluting the air and giving our citizens cancer, then fuck ’em, let ’em take their toxic evil don’t-give-a-shit business somewhere else.

    We have a long history of chasing people who don’t care about being good corporate citizens out of our city, and replacing them with people who do.

    We don’t have enough room, enough road capacity, enough berths, enough housing, and so on for all the people who would like to be based in LA, and we’re perfectly happy to arrange things so the less conscientious businesses go elsewhere.

    It’s actually a fairly useful sorting device.

  132. I do not forget and totally hate the pull-of pop tabs. When I lived in southern Florida a loose one hiding in beach sand punched a 1/4″ hole out of the sole of my foot that took forever to heal . It DID teach me to have some kind of foot covering on almost all the time, though.

    The rest of it, too true. The saddest thing about someone stealing my Mac during the last summer was that I’d sold my CD player/radio/etc. machine because my music usage has changed so much.

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