10 Things Only Us ‘Old Folk’ Will Recognize Anymore

If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you are officially a Baby Boomer, and no one can take that away from you. However, they can take away certain bygone items that were once commonplace but became obsolete thanks to the relentless and unforgiving march of time.

Few of us long for the days when it took an entire minute to dial a ten-digit number full of nines on a rotary phone, but there are certain outdated items that still retain their nostalgic value. Here are our picks for a few of those gone-but-not-forgotten items. 

Slide Projectors

A gray Kodak carousel slide projector sits on a wooden shelf. The projector has a circular tray loaded with slides, and various connectors plugged into the back. Its classic design and slightly worn appearance hint at frequent use.
Adamantios/Wikimedia commons CC: BY-SA

In the second half of the 20th century, a horrible tradition known as “family photo night” existed. In this dark time, it meant your uncle had taken endless photos of his trip to Reno, converted them into slides, and loaded up the projector so you could see every last one. The projector was a round doodad about the size of a Bundt cake. While it could project images onto the wall like nobody’s business, we’re all much happier now that uncles have to send you their photo dumps via Airdrop, which you can ignore at your leisure.

Black and White TV

A woman in a floral dress sits on a sofa looking critically at a bearded man in a suit who is gesturing with his hand. They are in a modestly decorated room with a lamp, a refrigerator, and various items on a table and shelves in the background.
CBS Television Network/ wikimedia commons

For a while there, the color television set was a status symbol. Television shows broadcast in color were a big deal, so much so that a show’s opening credits would proclaim “IN COLOR” at the beginning. The more poverty-stricken had to make do with tiny sets that only broadcast in black and white, thereby robbing “Gilligan’s Island” seasons two and three of their lush color palettes. Today, television sets offer razor-sharp resolution and every color on the spectrum. Also, while old black and white sets were often small and portable, today’s sets can sometimes recall the size of Picasso’s “Guernica.”

Transistor Radios

A collection of vintage transistor radios is displayed on a woven mat, set against a wooden backdrop. The radios vary in design, featuring circular dials, grids, and different brand names such as Zenith and General Electric. The assortment showcases styles from a bygone era.
JAmes Case/ flickrcc: BY

Before the iPod — in fact, before the Walkman — a transistor radio was the only portable way to listen to music or news. During its heyday, it didn’t even come with a pair of headphones, so one had to be satisfied with the extremely shrill and tinny sound coming from a single earpiece. Today, there’s an endless array of portable audio options, and Bluetooth headphones ensure you never have to deal with wires again. But back in the day, this tiny gadget with nonexistent EQ options was the only way to listen to music on the go.

Encyclopedia Sets

A set of eleven Encyclopædia Britannica volumes neatly arranged on a shelf in numerical order from 1 to 11. Each volume has a title in gold letters on the spine, with additional smaller text indicating specific subjects within each volume.
Meritkosy / Wikimedia Commons CC:BY-SA

In 2024, if you need to find out what the capital of Uganda is, a quick look at Google on your phone will reveal it within seconds. Before the age of Google, one had to consult an encyclopedia. Door-to-door salesmen would sometimes show up on one’s front steps to try and sell a complete set of over 20 volumes, and those things were heavy. Since most of us have never had the space in our homes for a private library, scholars doing research projects had to go to the public library to consult a full encyclopedia set to find out that the capital of Uganda is Kampala. Rest assured, very few people miss having to do that.

Slide Rules

A small metal contraption resembling a combination of a clamp and a ruler. The top part appears to have a screw mechanism, while the bottom part has ruler markings. The device is gold-colored and has engraved scales labeled with "A," "C," and "D.
ArnoldReinhold/Wikimedia Commons cc: by-sa

When Baby Boomers were kids in math class, those wishing to do anything beyond addition and subtraction often consulted their handy slide rule. It was a manually operated object that could handle mathematical functions such as multiplication, division, trigonometry and other higher-order math functions. In 2024, most of these functions can now be performed on a smartphone, much to the chagrin of those who learned how to use this thing to figure out when that train leaving Los Angeles at 60 miles an hour will pass by the one leaving Chicago at 75 miles per hour.

Manual Car Windows

A vintage car interior featuring a red leather bench seat, a wooden steering wheel, and a classic dashboard with analog gauges. The manual gear shift is situated on the floor next to a console, surrounded by red carpet and trim.
CZmarlin/Wikimedia Commons CC: By-sa

If you’re part of a young cohort like Generation Z, it’s entirely conceivable that you’ve never been in a car with manual windows. Those cars came equipped with windows that required the cranking of a handle built into the door, and sometimes, it could stick or fall victim to other mechanical problems that required great physical might to contend. Now, all we have to do is push a button to get the window exactly where we want it. Back in the day, you had to work for it.

Wood Paneling

A cozy living room with wood-paneled walls is decorated for Christmas. A lit Christmas tree stands in the corner, surrounded by presents. The room features a vintage TV, a striped couch, various wall plates and decor, and several lamps providing a warm ambiance.
daryl_mitchell/Flickr cc: by-sa

In the 1970s, if your home’s recreation room didn’t have wood paneling, it was unfinished, like a summer’s day without dewy grass or the laughter of children. It was hideously ugly and eventually went out of style, which no one was sorry about, with the exception of dads who had chugged down a few brews and installed all of it with a nail gun in less than 30 minutes.

Gas Station Attendants

A black-and-white image of a vintage gas station. A large sign with "Humble" is prominently displayed on the left. The gas pumps are in the center, with smaller signs and a phone booth next to them, and a sign on the right saying, "We Give Plaid Stamps.
wikimedia Commons

Gas station attendants may seem redundant today, as anyone who drives a car has been pumping their own gas, cleaning their own windshields, and checking their own oil since they got their learner’s permits. Still, it wasn’t so terrible to just sit there while an attendant did all that for you, providing your car with a full mani-pedi. Unsurprisingly, gas station owners stopped paying people to do what consumers could do themselves, but boy, it was glorious to sit by while some less fortunate person did all your grunt work in the hopes of receiving a dollar tip.

Track Tapes

Two red Unitape 8-track recording cartridges are stacked on top of each other. The top cartridge has a sticker indicating "60 min." Both are encased in plastic wrapping. The Unitape logo and text are prominently displayed in yellow.
Erkaha cc: by-sa

Before the compact disc threatened to render all other playback formats obsolete, 8-track tapes were the hot new game-changers intended to make you throw all your vinyl records in a dumpster. The advantage they had over other formats was that they were portable and most cars came with players pre-installed, so you could listen to “All By Myself” while driving to Woolworth’s, every consumer’s greatest fantasy. The drawback was that 8-track tapes had to split up longer songs to fit on them, so if you were playing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album, “Free Bird” was cut in half, making you wait a few moments to go from the ballad part of the song to the crazy guitar solo outro. Unacceptable.

Tupperware Parties

A group of women seated in a circle indoors while one woman stands and demonstrates the use of plastic containers. Various Tupperware items are displayed on a table in front of her. The scene appears to be a Tupperware home party from the mid-20th century.
State Library and Archives of Florida

Before there was multi-level marketing, there were Tupperware parties. Tupperware is an established brand of plastic containers used to store food and keep it fresh, and you may have a couple languishing at the back of your refrigerator at this very moment. The parties worked thusly – a homemaker would buy a bunch of the containers and invite friends over to marvel at their great utility, inspiring them to buy their own sets from the person hosting the party. They would then host their own, where attendees would buy sets, and so on and so on down the pyramid. While this distribution method has been described recently in 2019 as “harmful to female friendships,” there’s no denying that the product itself is reliable, provided the consumer correctly burps the lid.