Obsolete Skills

Things I still know how to do that young adults today, probably mostly don’t:

  1. Play a record. (You know, round, usually black, plastic disk for reproducing music).
  2. Repair a fouled up 8-track cassette. Or mini-cassette, for that matter.
  3. Dial a phone. (No, I mean – actually dial a phone).
  4. Identify and replace a burned-out tube in an old TV set. (Not the picture tube, but the small ones on the main chassis. This was before transistors; it was tube-type technology).
  5. Adjust the vertical hold on an old TV. (How many of you even know what I’m talking about?)
  6. Properly use a choke, in operation of an automobile or other gasoline engine. Likewise, use a clutch, a column shifter, a floor starter, a floor dimmer switch. Etcetera. Drive a vehicle with NO safety interlocks! Or even seat belts!
  7. Operate a computer with a command line interface. (DOS, CP/M, etcetera). (I remember the secretary typing a document who wanted to format it nicely, so she typed “format” at the command line and hit enter, thereby erasing everything on the disk. “Hit Any Key to Continue” really does mean any key).
  8. Also, run a computer without a mouse or touch-pad.
  9. Type on a mechanical typewriter.
  10. Make popcorn, without a microwave oven.
  11. Make engineering drawings, on paper, without a computer. Use related tools, like adjustable triangles and parallel bars.
  12. Multiply and divide without a calculator. (When’s the last time you tried it? How about doing a square root by hand?)
  13. Use a slide rule. (That’s what we used to use before electronic calculators. They work based on mechanically adding and subtracting logarithms).
  14. “Set the points” on an old car engine. (Points became obsolete with the advent of electronic ignitions and computers – which you can’t fix, yourself.)
  15. Use a pull-start rope on old gasoline lawn mower engines – the kind you had to wind by hand.
  16. Start a Model C Farmall with the hand crank, without breaking your thumb if it backfired.
  17. “Bump start” a car with a standard transmission.
  18. Siphon gasoline out of your car, into a gas can. Without getting any in your mouth.
  19. Write a letter. That you actually mail through the postal service. If you want to experience this, you had better hurry; they may not be doing it much longer.
  20. Buy things by “mail order”. Does anybody do this anymore?
  21. Give hand turn signals when driving. Also, know what they mean when somebody else uses them.
  22. Use a bow blade on a chain saw. (These are becoming hard to get because they are perceived to be dangerous. And they are, if you don’t know what you are doing.)
  23. Use a “key” to open a tin can. (You used to have to unwrap a strip of metal around the circumference of a tin can, to open it. The key was welded to the end of the can. You break the key off, then threading a tab on the strip to be removed through a hole in the key. Then you wind it until you’ve pulled the strip out all the way around the can where the metal is weakened, kind of like a pop-top is today. Oddly enough, Wikipedia’s article on tin cans doesn’t even show this method, but when I was a kid, it was the way you opened coffee cans, for instance.)

Those are a few, just for fun. How about you, do you have any more?


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2 Responses to Obsolete Skills

  1. Texas Grandma says:

    I have one, how about how to actually fold and pin a cloth diaper on a baby?

  2. A few of these I can do . . . I also know how to use lantern slide projectors as well as the old Kodak carousel slide projectors, including changing the bulbs on both models (college job). I still whip my own cream, though I’m sure plenty of people do that (nothing tastes better than real, freshly-whipped cream). I can launder, starch and iron a man’s dress shirt, collar to cuffs (which I may start doing more often if the cost of dry cleaning keeps going up!). I know how to properly set a formal table, from bread plate to dessert spoon, and in what order to use my utensils at dinner, and where to leave those utensils when I’m finished and what to do with my napkin. (It’s sad that table manners are rarely taught anymore.) I can write a proper thank-you note in legible cursive script (which I will soon be doing over and over and over) and put a proper formal address on it.

    I suppose most of that is more obsolete “social skills” than it is technology . . .

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