Last week my Gen Z kids and I were discussing modern conveniences that my grandparents didn’t have. I think most people today would agree that life would still go on if we didn’t have consumer products and services like GPS devices, plastic sandwich bags, and even health insurance — but it would certainly be a lot more inconvenient.
Of course, that got me thinking about other products and services that my grandparents — or Gen Z’s great-grandparents — lived without that most people consider to be truly indispensable today. Here are ten of the biggest:
How important are online communications and business DSL providers today? If the Internet disappeared tomorrow, it would likely result in a tremendous hit to the US economy. One particular study found that the Internet is responsible for at least 3 million jobs, with the value of their wages alone equal to 2% of GDP — and that’s before you consider lost productivity, reduced avenues for commerce and innovation, and the rapid exchange of information.
Passenger Jet Airliners
The introduction of the Boeing 707 in 1958 kicked off the Jet Age and the beginning of affordable commercial intercontinental travel for the masses. Today, more people than ever can travel from one coast to the other in a manner of hours — or travel to the other side of the world in less than a day. It’s just too easy to take this convenience for granted.
Credit and Debit Cards
Although there are people who say grandma and grandpa got along just fine before “plastic money” was invented in 1950, there are too many credit card advantages to ignore. Besides, we live in the electronic age now; it’s tough to buy anything on the Internet without a credit card. Heck, these days it virtually impossible to even buy an in-flight snack on most airlines without a credit card.
Modernized Poultry Farming
Scoff all you want; you know I’m right.
Automated Banking Services
Trust me; people take direct paycheck deposits for granted today — and ATMs too. By the way, here’s a fun ATM machine fact: Before ATMs became ubiquitous there weren’t a lot of options when banks were closed and you needed a little quick cash. If you were lucky, you could go to a local market that was willing to cash your personal check, or borrow money from a friend or neighbor. If not, no soup for you. You’d just have to wait until the banks opened the next day. Well … unless you were at the front end of a three-day bank holiday. (Talk about a long weekend.)
The personal computer is arguably the greatest invention of the last 100 years. The power of the computer is used in so many ways, across so many industries, that it is virtually impossible to imagine living in the world today without them.
Tax Preparation Software
Yes, it’s still possible to do your taxes with a calculator, the requisite IRS tax forms, and a sharp pencil. It’s also still possible to make your own soap from rendered animal fat, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense anymore either.
For most people, their cell phone is an extension of themselves. But people who find themselves away from home without their cell phone now have a bit of a problem if they need to make a call, because the days when you could find a payphone on every corner are long gone. At the turn of the century, there were still more than 2 million payphones in the United States. However, by 2007, there were only 870,000 remaining — and anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers have continued to drop. When was the last time you saw a working pay phone?
Overnight Mail Delivery
Although highly-important and perishable goods have been delivered by air mail since 1918, an air-based mail system capable of delivering letters and other small packages on a large scale virtually anywhere in the country wasn’t established until 1977. Today, either directly or indirectly, almost everyone takes advantage of overnight mail service more than they want to admit.
Permanent Press Fabric
There are too many people out there who get upset whenever they lose Internet service — even if it’s only for a few minutes. But I guarantee you it’d be even worse if the world stopped making permanent press fabric; most people would finally have to learn how to use an iron. Then again, at least my grandma would be proud.
Photo Credit: glenngould