I am not sure whether copper telephone wires will survive, I am sad about Kodachrome and I wonder about the revival of vinyl records. Will newsweeklies make it? Not sure why they should, but they can if they aren’t as boring as Newsweek. And the video store? Well that’s sort of hopeless, but not completely. They just need to have some deep selection, not greatest hits. Internal combustion? Well, not if some in D.C. agencies get their way. Cigarette machine? Well, they will certainly survive somewhere, though they will never be as they were before, though we will imagine many places will require them just for atmosphere. Electric trolleys? They are back too, along with American made muscle cars.
The reality is that while people often pronounce the end of an industry, it usually survives somehow, if in a niche fashion. Hunting safaris hunt until the animal is endangered, and then they become photo hunting safaris. Candlemakers, so discussed in the Ayn Rand book Anthem, can survive; Ireland’s Rathborne’s have been around since the middle ages. They just have to sell to gift shops (or churches) and smell good.
That being said, I do know for certain a few other time un-tested things that will survive:
- Printed Checks: I got an email from some folks who say that while paper checks are declining overall, the majority of payments that an average corporation, municipality, or utility company receives are still made with checks. ACH is currently used by commercial and government sectors and can supplement current payment options, 1.6 billion ACH web transactions in just Q3 of 2009. CheckAlt works for the customer side by ensuring a secure bank-to-bank electronic transfer and for the vendor by providing a low flat-fee service that is based on transaction volume without any set-up, maintenance or subscription charges.
- Copper pipes: The Copper Development Council is promoting how easy it is to build outdoor showers and such with copper. They call it a “durable option that is easy to work with, with an incomparable look and style. When using copper, you’ll need tubing cutters and a propane or other hand-held torch, flux and solder for soldering the joints for the shower.”
- Books: Yes, you can put books on iPad, but it is not restful to read long fiction electronically. Do you bring electronics to the beach, or a cheap paperback that gets BETTER with sand and Coppertone. Some can, and that is great, but the ease of a book, that won’t go away. Further evidence. As a child, I was taught to never write in a book, except your name in the cover. Today, that practice has changed because books, particularly paperbacks, have gotten cheaper. Schools now teach kids to underline and write in margins. The book today becomes something different; a special thing that gives you ideas, hope, advice or inspiration. The future of book-selling? Tiny direct to store wholesaler Choice Books of Bristow, Virginia. They sell smart little inspirational books from publishers like Strang at places like grocery stores. They avoid the nightmare of book wholesalers (tell me again why they still exist?) Sold for cheap prices in handy sizes, books are irresistible.
- Magazines/Newspapers: Lately, I’ve really been enjoying Adam Moss’ New York magazine. It’s tightly written, tightly edited and packed with smart graphics. It’s a package, and it does more than an iPad could ever do. Even better, it functions as a coffee coaster in between readings. Magazines like New York are the future of the industry; they do something that could never be done electronically. Someone said recently that seeing National Geographic on iPad was a revelation. That might be true, but the data-packed readable magazine; cheap, efficient and packed with actionable information, will always have a place. Won’t we all have an iPad instead of newspapers? The central idea of sitting down quietly with a newspaper has great appeal to millions of Americans, and there is evidence that many begin to pick up the habit as they get older. Newspapers have survived Morse code, telephones, radio, television and the Internet. They will certainly survive, but become a niche product.
- Cigarettes: Never bet against Philip Morris. By the way, I have been seeing an increasing number of Millennials smoking pipes. Not alot, mind you. But enough that its got me thinking that Dr. Grabow pipes and Dill’s pipe cleaners still have a market. Just please no Borkum Ruff near me at dinnertime!
- Vinyl Records: They will survive, though few doubt this these days. But the real reason is that they sound different than an MP3, and they are easy to use. They are cheap, amusing, and can easily survive as niche products. The market for music is vast. After all, they still make harpsicords, right? The most fascinating evidence I find of the survival of the vinyl record is the Youtube videos that show an old record being played on an old record player. It’s like the song only survives if the medium survives too.
- Grass Landing Strips: Did you know there was a movement to preserve grass landing strips? The Vintage Aircraft Association encourages it, as it saves on tires. In our poverty stricken era, I wonder if there will be more of this sort of thing as it is eco-friendly and cheap.