04 January 2011

Things the Internet Has Killed (Part 4)

Well, I suppose it is time to get back to the series I started in December.  Seems like it was last year.

If you didn't see the first three installments, they are here- 
  Part 1
  Part 2
  Part 3

For Part 4 of the series, we'll look at

    11. Polaroids and other Film
    12. Reference Books
    13. Yearbooks
    14. Peep Shows and Adult Bookstores

Polaroids and other Film-  First, I have to say I always thought 'Polaroid' was a terrible name for a product/company.  Didn't they do focus groups back then?  When was back then?  (I just googled it...Polaroid was founded in 1937...I doubt they did many focus groups back then.)  The name has always sounded like a disease instead of a film product.  It reminds me of this dialogue from Vacation:

Rusty Griswold: Hey, ya' got Pac Man?
Cousin Dale: No.
Rusty Griswold: Ya' got Space Invaders?
Cousin Dale: Nope.
Rusty Griswold: Ya' got Asteroids?
Cousin Dale: Naw, but my dad does. Can't even sit on the toilet some days. 

Polaroids, asteroids, they both sound like a pretty bad condition to have.

Anyway, I'm not so sure that the internet is primarily responsible for their downfall; I think it is secondarily responsible, however.  The primary cause is the digital camera.  Anyone who was even a little bit into photography in the past hundred years or so knows the frustration and expense of taking bad photos.  Film wasn't cheap, developing wasn't cheap, and you had no feedback on what you or your camera were doing until you got the pictures back.  That took a couple of weeks back before the one-hour developing shops opened up. With a digital camera, you shoot, you look, and if it isn't a keeper, you hit the delete button.  At worst, you shoot about a dozen more shots than you need, then later at the computer you pick the best one or two and delete the others.  (Side note:  I've learned that some in the older generation don't delete bad photos...they can't stand to do it.  They just haven't made the connection that it didn't cost them (effectively) anything so they aren't wasting anything...they just won't delete bad pictures.  I assume they buy larger hard drives to store all those bad photos, and that does cost them something.  Go figure.)

What the internet has done in a secondary way is it has made sharing the photos easier and no paper-developing is required.  You don't even need instant film if you can email a photo to grandma a thousand miles away.  In fact, the concept of photos on the internet probably deserves its own blog post.  Think about it...how many casual acquaintances in the past showed you every photo they'd ever taken?  Well, if you look on facebook now, there they all are.  You can see photos of other people you may just barely know in situations and places you know nothing about, acting silly or sad or whatever, totally meaningless to anyone but those who were there.  It's kinda weird, if you think about it.

The downside is, there won't be any boxes of old photos discovered in the attic by the next generation.  (Of course, in my family, the last couple generations didn't write anything on the back of those old photos, so even when we found them, we had no idea who they were or when or where they were taken.)

Reference Books-  My kids have very possibly never looked at a Worldbook or Britannica, and I'm pretty sure they've never opened a Miriam-Webster.  I got a new set of Worldbook encyclopedias when I was in the 4th grade.  By the end of 5th grade, I'd read every volume, cover-to-cover (I suppose that's why some of my classmates thought I was strange).  I still have that set, along with yearbooks through the 70s and 80s, in my home office.  We also have a set of Britannicas that belonged to my wife.  But why would my kids pick up those heavy books? Everything is done online now in the reference world.  I used to spend hours at card catalogs looking for library books.  Now, everything is 'googled'.  (We call it that when we do any search, not just a search on Google.)

I have to admit, in many ways, we have it better now than ever before.  Access to information is much quicker, so we don't tend to put off or forget about finding things we want to know.  But this has its downside as well, as others have written so much about.  You can google (ha!) lots of interesting articles about how the internet, Twitter, and Facebook are making us all dumber, less able to concentrate, or whatever.  It may be true.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, lost my train of thought...  (humor)

Yearbooks- I hadn't really noticed this one where I live.  Our kids still take money to school each year for their yearbooks (in these parts, they are called, 'Annuals').  Its a lot more money than I used to take to school, and the books are paperback now.  My yearbooks were hardbound, with sometimes fantastic, sometimes geeky cover art done by the yearbook crew.  The ones the kids get new are all photos...very little or no art.  But they do what they do.  I think the online yearbook fad is something that's a lot bigger in other parts of the country, and will get here soon enough.

I think it's a bad idea.  I have all my old yearbooks in the bookshelf in my office at home.  It's fun to pull them out, see the old pictures, and get laughed at by the kids.  I suppose you could do the same thing by pulling up a web page, but one thing you can't do is write all over your friends' copies.  I still enjoy reading some of the notes written in the front and back covers of my yearbooks by friends (some of whom are now dead).  I hate to see that go by the wayside.  It'll be just like not finding those boxes of old photos in the attic.

Peep Shows and Adult Bookstores- At first glance, when you look at the statistics about the dramatic decrease in the number of brick-and-mortar adult bookstores in the US, it looks like good news.  But if you think about it, there isn't any less use of pornography in our society, there is just a shift in how it is obtained.  When I was very young, porn was nearly impossible to get ahold of...you had to go to a seedy place in a seedy part of town to get it.  Where I grew up, we didn't have these seedy places, nor did we have that seedy part of town (at least, I was never aware of it).  But in the Texas panhandle, in a town of less than 2000 people, that's not surprising.  You still can't find adult bookstores in towns like this today.

When I got to college, porn was more prevalent...there were always guys in the dorm who had magazines, and living in an apartment next to some Air Force pilots made it real easy to find...they had a movie going pretty much 24-7 there.  Fortunately, I wasn't a big hit with those guys, them being top-gun wannabees and me being a junior in college working at the Frito Lay plant every day from 330 to midnight; I didn't get invited to many of their parties.

Now, I rarely ever see an adult bookstore, and the few that are here in Amarillo are still on the seedy side of town, and only stay open because of the truckers who don't have much internet access on the road.  (But that's changing...many of the rigs now use 3G and 4G setups and have full internet access.)  Nobody I know goes there.  They don't need to.  Get on google and try searching for anything that might remotely sound like it is adult-related (try finding an Adult XL tee-shirt with google) and you'll find porn.  And supposedly, where all the porn sights used to require a credit card, now many are free to browse.  No age check (other than the silly front screen asking if you are 17), no ID check, nothing.  It's nuts.

I suppose I'm glad the local losers who peddled porn through adult bookstores for years have suffered due to the internet.  But really, the money has just skipped these middlemen and gone straight to the producers.  It's not a pretty picture (pun intended) when you see what's really happened.


This isn't finished yet, even though I've gone through the entire list.  Next post, I'll add some things that I've thought of that the internet has killed, or is killing, that didn't make the Newsweek list originally.  Feel free to add things in the comments section that you've seen as well.

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