quaint: (adj.) having an old fashioned attractiveness or charm; oddly picturesque

It’s the hiccup in every generation – we look at those that came before us and, almost without fail, see certain things as quaint.

Black rotary phones.  Manual typewriters.  Switchboard operators.  Penny candy stores.

It got me to thinking…what will my kids look back on as quaint in my lifetime?


The very concept of a phone that was plugged into my wall is laughable to them.  And the fact that we transitioned to cordless phones with answering machines during my childhood?  Well, I might as well tell them I kept a pet dinosaur in the backyard.

A telephone’s ring.

No, not its ring tone, its ring.  As in that annoying brrrriiinnngg, brrrriiinnngg, brrrriiinnngg sound that echoed through the house until an adult finally shouted, “Would somebody please pick up that phone?!?”

The concept of a busy signal.

So if you and your best friend Heather called your other best friend Kim at the same time but Heather’s finger hit the last digit a millisecond quicker than yours?  Well then she’d be talking to Heather, and you’d be stuck listening to the grating beep…beep…beep noise of a call d-e-n-i-e-d.

Eight track tapes.  

I know, I know – I skipped several other items in this genre, but the kids know about vinyl and cassette tapes.  But an eight track?  That rectangular piece of plastic you shoved into a slot in your stereo?  The one that only let you jump by tracks, not fast forward through songs?  Now that’s old school.

The Electric Slide.

The grandaddy of all group dances.  This one still gets trotted out for (ahem) us old folks at gatherings, and the kids all stand and stare at the group of middle aged dancers on the floor.  Like repeating this particular set of steps over and over is any more peculiar than doing the Wobble, the Cupid Shuffle, or the Dougie.

Listening to the Top 40 Countdown.

I don’t know that it’s the countdown itself so much as the fact that we all tuned in to hear Casey Kasem’s cheesy voice narrating.

Taping songs off the radio.

Where to begin with this one?  The fact that cassette tapes were our mode of capturing music.  The fact that taping it off the radio was the quickest way to get your hands on your favorite song, because the odds of getting your mom to drive you to Tower Records any time soon was slim to none.  The fact that taping a song off the radio meant hovering near the stereo with your finger poised over the record button, waiting on pins and needles so you’d start after the DJ but wouldn’t miss the song’s start.

TV dinners.

Those tin trays of turkey, fried chicken, or salisbury steak that came with a starch, a veggie, and a dessert.  “Fast” dinners that took thirty whole minutes to cook in an oven, and then if you didn’t let it sit (which no one did) you scalded the bejeebies out of the roof of your mouth.

TV sets with rabbit ears.

This was no joke.  There were few things quite as annoying as seeing one tenth of your favorite show in a screen full of static.  The dialogue came through just fine but all you could see was a squiggle here that might be a face or a smudge there that could be a car…ugh.  The person responsible for adjusting rabbit ears needed hands steady as a surgeon and a steel will, since finding precisely the right angle was a twenty minute exercise in trial and error.

TV sets with a dial.

It’s true, kids.  There used to be television sets with no remote controls.  I know, I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath.  They had a dial on the front – one you had to get up and walk to – that changed the station.  I’m fairly convinced this design was one of the main reasons families had a third or fourth child.  “Billy, go change it to channel 2.”