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As technology reaches further into the impossible, many of the things we once used regularly now exist only to serve as punchlines to terrible jokes or confusing movie plot points to our kids. Weirdly, some of those very things are surprisingly still in very common use. For example ...
For those of you old enough to remember, payphones weren’t just something you stopped at the gas station to use when you forgot the grocery list again; they were an extremely important part of everyday life and culture. That’s how you called ... well, everyone, lest people know that you’re sitting around at home and not out being fun and interesting.
Of course, then mobile phones entered the picture, and since pretty much everybody owns one now, you probably see a payphone with about the same frequency as you see mermaids.
Which is to say, almost never.
They didn’t completely go out of use, though, and are still used by a shockingly high number of people around the world. If you’re wondering why, you’re likely forgetting a very basic, obvious fact of life for many people: not everyone can afford a mobile phone. And for people who can’t, payphones have never gone out of use.
Hell, in the U.S. alone, some 1,110 companies still operate over 100,000 payphones, with many of them existing in low income areas. And while that may not seem like a lot in a country of over 300 million people, payphone providers raked in $286 million in 2015 alone.
But it’s not just low income neighborhoods -- payphones still play a crucial role during natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, as wireless communication can be one of the first casualties of such an event.
Before the advent of gigantic, wall-mounted televisions, we had to deal with bulky CRTs and the wooden cabinets that housed them. Now, in the age of LCDs, LEDs and whatever the hell those rollable screens are, you can’t even give away a CRT. Try it: Go put one out by the road -- the elements will get it before someone adopts it for their living room.
Well, unless a retro gamer happens to see it.
You’d think that any screen from current day TVs could handily beat CRTs in every respect, and that people who insist on using one is just doing it for the novelty. That’s not exactly true, though, as nothing renders older games like CRTs because of how those games were specifically designed. In the case of an old game designed to run on CRTs, the scanlines reproduced on screen are exactly how the game tells it to be, something that is impossible to flawlessly achieve on modern, digital television without significant tinkering. There’s also the thing about some motion-based games – like Duck Hunt – being designed exclusively for CRT TVs. Many fighting games with still-active communities - like Street Fighter - also only work on CRTs without any lag; something digital television still can’t do.
Digital television doesn’t look this rad, either.
And if you think it’s only for niche enthusiasts, Shine – one of the biggest tournaments for retro fighting games like Super Smash Bros., with an enormous community – still employs around 100 CRTs for its annual gaming tournament attended by thousands of fans.
Even though vinyl has been making a comeback, CDs have seem to all but vanished. Who needs them? They get scratched and broken and now you can carry around dozens of albums in your pocket anyway.
However, around the world, and even in developed nations, CDs are still all the rage. Take Japan, for example, which boasts the world’s second biggest music market after the U.S.: a full 85% of all music sales there are go to CDs. And if you thought, “OK, but surely they’re just slow to adopt the whole online music thing,” it’s worth noting that digital sales are consistently dropping in favor of the CD – from around $1 billion in 2009 to $400 million in 2013.
They also double as coasters when they become unusable.
Even in the U.S., CDs are an enormous part of the indie music scene, with sales actually growing. It makes sense, too; “CD-quality” is still a term that’s used to describe music that hasn’t seen a reduction in sound quality because the files take up too much space. And for people who take their music seriously, like musicians, that’s pretty important.
We live in a time when digital money hasn’t just been widely adopted over old-world financial instruments like checks, it’s already being challenged by the next generation with things like cryptocurrencies and other digital tokens. Gone are the days when we had to actually visit banks with literal pieces of paper on a Friday if we hoped to have cash for the weekend.
There is one group of people, however, that won’t let go of using checks: business people. You see, even with all the digital payment options, many American businesses still see the check as the most reliable form of payment, and for good reason. Digital payments are set up on centralized channels, open to hacks or other compromising attacks, things the old and mighty check is somewhat immune to.
Though it’s still susceptible to fire.
More than that, though, is that it’s just what U.S. businesses are used to, and change is hard, you guys. Which is why half of all business payments were made by check according to a 2014 report by the Association for Financial Professionals, which is right around 50% more than what we’d expect in the age of PayPal and Apple Pay.
We’re not sure if you knew this, but there was a time when Google didn’t exist. It’s true -- Google it.
That’s when we had to use huge books like the Yellow Pages when we needed to find the nearest professional cat masseuse. It was the go-to source for finding ... well, everything, and local economies were heavily dependent upon them. Kids relied on them, too, because they were pretty much the single biggest repository to find prank-calling victims before things like Caller ID existed.
“‘Is it running?’ I said. Get it? Runni- oh nevermind.”
Of course, now we have the internet, so no one has opened one of those things since ... wait, it’s still a $3 billion per year industry? Who the hell is still consulting these things?
As it turns out, a lot of people. A whopping 40% of American consumers still turn to the print publications to find what they need. Sure, many of those people are from the older generation, but if 130 million people “let their fingers do the walking” at least once per year, it’s not solely the 50+ crowd.
Like this article? Check out “Surprising, Unintended Ways People Are Using Common Technology” and “Insane Sci-Fi Biotech That We Have Right Now”.
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