The Amazing List of Vanishing Shit

Monday, 8:31pm
Reno, NV
“Where’s my flying car?”


This doesn’t exactly qualify as a “deep thought”… but I’m wondering what you can come up with to help fill out this list.

What list?

Why, the amazing “List Of Vanishing Shit”, of course.

It’s a low form of looking ahead. Prognosticating. And, maybe, predicting the future, too.

I started this list back when I was living at the beach near Los Angeles and — I still shudder just thinking about it — occassionally considering writing a screenplay for the moving pictures.

Hell, everyone else I knew was doing it. Even the guy flipping burgers at Scotty’s on the Strand had a dog-eared script in the glove compartment of his car. (“It’s Die Hard meets The Brady Bunch!”)

You think movies are bad today… you’re just in denial.

They sucked even worse 25 years ago. It’s been a long, horrifying slide to the bock-like dredges of mediocrity and beyond.

And this is where “The List” got started.

See, back in the bad old 1980s, Hollywood started producing movies filled with technology. And they didn’t realize how badly ANY mention of high-tech would date the flick, almost within the year. They’d have actors pretend to interact with computers, for example, but the graphics on the monitor were obviously created by some special effect yo-yo who’d never used a PC before. (Producers were just beginning to realize how much money there was in post-run profits… starting with foreign sales and those new-fangled video-rental stores popping up in every neighborhood…)

There was no mention of the Web until the nineties.

And cell phones… well, I just saw a late-night cable action flick where the hero had a mobile phone the size of a shoebox, with a three-foot aerial you had to pull out. This was supposed to be a sign the dude was cutting edge hip, like James Bond.


And the monstrous phone was connected by a cord to a backpack. That was cell-phone technology, circa late 80s.

I know. I bought one of those monsters. They called ’em “car phones” back then, because you needed a power source, like the cigarette lighter on a dashboard. The main unit weighed around six pounds, and came with a strap.

Cost around a grand… and cell coverage, even in metro LA, consisted of maybe ten square miles.

I heard of a group of people recently who compete with each other, while watching old films, to point out when having a real cell phone (like you have today) would change the plot of the movie dramatically. It’s shocking.

I just watched a few minutes of a late-nineties film where people mocked the guy who had a cell phone — it was a faux pas to even possess that Yuppie shit. Like he was being pretentious.

My, how fast things are changing.

Anyway, every time I started to even think vaguely about a plot for a screenplay, I was conscious of how tough it would be to write one that wouldn’t need serious changes when technology changed again.

That problem is easily solved by either writing a period piece from the past, or going WAY into the future and making up new technology (harder than it sounds — “Alien”, from 1979, spent a gazillion bucks dreaming up the most out-there technology… and the computers they presented — outrageous for ’79 — weren’t even close in function to the first clunky PCs that hit the market just a few years later).

In fact, nearly all the sci-fi from pre-2000 seems tame or silly now. No one, back then, could even conceive of how SMALL silicon circuit boards would get.

There’s now more computer power in your cell phone than all of NASA had for the first moon landing. (Most of the tech they used was analog, too, not digital. Those guys used slide rules to figure out life-or-death actions while approaching the lunar surface.)

I never did write a screenplay, and probably won’t. (I decided to write novels, slowly, as a hobby instead… and set my plots safely in the past, where unforseen technology mutations won’t change things.)

Still… that list — of Vanishing Shit — keeps getting longer.

The stuff that makes it onto this list… is anything we’re currently using, that is doomed to be a Smithsonian artifact within two-to-five years.

While the early things to make the list seem obvious now — 5-1/4″ floppies, amber screen monitors, expensive digital watches (my friend Art bought one of the first, for two grand… around six months before the first twenty-buck Casio watch came out, with fifty times the features and a teensy battery that wouldn’t quit), carbeurators, mullets, 5-day deordorant pads, bell bottoms on guys (oops, those seem to be coming back), Air Jordans, tuning forks, photo negatives, pay phones in every aisle on the jet, color separation shops, home popcorn machines, etc — I can tell you from experience that NOTHING was obvious just before the changes happened.

My Pop had the same AT&T dial-up phone on the wall of his house for fifty years. Same phone number, too (though it kept getting longer as stuff like area codes were added). We put on a longer cord at some point (so I could yank the phone barely outside the back door to talk to girls), but that was it.

Hell, we were on a party line for my entire youth. (You don’t even know what that is, do you. You shared the phone line with neighbors… so, when the whack-jobs across the street got drunk and left their phone off the hook, you could sit for hours listening to them fight. You couldn’t make or receive a call until they hung up, though. It sucked.) (And the nosy old lady next door listened in on calls — you could hear the click as she picked up, and as she got more deaf over the years, you could hear her breathing while you chatted, too.)

I grew up with 45rpm singles and 33-1/3 LP records played on a turntable with a diamond needle. In the car we had 8-track stereos (a few losers had 4-tracks), and if you wanted FM you had to buy a separate tuner at Radio Shack and spend all afternoon shorting out your electrical system hooking it up. Cassettes were a revelation. CDs were a conspiracy.

But hey — no moss on this dinosaur. I still have a bulging file of free songs I pulled off the original Napster (when it could take an hour to download “Itchycoo Park” from someone’s computer in Prague)… and my iTunes library will play for a week without repeating.

I’ve copied all my document files to floppies, then to Zip discs, then to CDs, then to backup hard drives, then to thumb drives. (Ever try to find a Zip drive lately?) (Try eBay.)

Okay, you get the idea.

Here’s what I’ve come up with to add to The List lately:

Free email. Virtual “postage” is coming, no matter how much you hate the idea. People will look back on these days of casually sending out batch emails to 50,000 names at no cost with disbelief.

Anything that’s “just” a camera. My new Flip videocam has all the other cameras at Best Buy shaking in terror — the simplicity, the ease of transfering (it’s YouTube ready!), the stunning image quality… all of it is just the tip of iceberg. Do you honestly think we won’t have video cams implanted in our hairline soon… in an out-patient fifteen-second operation done by clerks in stores?

Credit cards. Either fingerprints or retina scans will bury the plastic. ATM cards, too. (Plot points of cutting out someone’s eye and using the bloody pulp to get past retina scans are now plentiful, but I’ll bet the actual technology nullifies that idea.)

Keyboards. They’ve been tough to kill — I now use ergonomic split-and-raked QWERTY keyboards… but it’s a mystery why the superior DVORAK models never took hold. Now, it’s a moot point. Soon, voice recognition will replace most keyboard useage, along with tablets. The keyboard will never go away entirely… but just as email caused a resurgance in “letter writing” ability, so the tablets will (I think) bring back handwriting. Maybe. Okay, maybe that’s a nutty notion…

Glasses? I’ve set up four different appointments for corrective laser surgery, and cancelled each time. (I’ve got dry eyes. And I’ve met a few of those “one percent” folks for whom the surgery went South. Not good. Still, I hear even newer technology is arriving soon that eliminates even the small problems…)

TVs. How long until your TV is just a rolled up sheet of resilient screen that you hang anywhere, and use a tiny universal remote the size of a booger to operate? Or, heck, where’s our 3-D stuff, like in Star Wars? I know several guys whose only reason for living is the prospect of 3-D porn…

Free water. Just wait. Fresh water is fast becoming the new oil. The first modern shoot-out in this country over drinking water is just around the corner.

Money. Cue the conspiracy theorists. The greenback hasn’t been backed by anything other than a vague promise from the Man for a generation. And your bank accounts and IRAs and brokerage accounts are just blips in a computer somewhere. The cashless society is nigh.

Cell phones. The evidence is mounting that we’re frying our brains with the things. Something’s gonna give, once the initial suspicions become double-blind facts. And, just like cigarettes, they’ll have to pry the phones from our cold, dead fingers…

Heck, I’m looking around my office, shocked. I’m cleaning out some nooks and crannies, and in the five years I’ve been here, just the technology for the computer mouse has morphed into weird new directions. (And yet, I had to haul out a corded “regular” phone recently, when my wireless models kept screwing up the audio on some teleconferences.) (CORDS on a phone! How retro chic.)

Static photos in frames, that don’t move. Or have audio. They use up too much power, but I love those new frames that loop long videos of foreign scenes and scenic landscapes in real-time. I can see having dozens of them throughout the house, with personal videos playing, custom video streams, and video feeds from something like a subscription satellite-based company. They fire up whenever a carbon-based lifeform comes near.

Paying for wireless access in hotels. Already going away.


…it’s your turn.

What would you add to The List?

It’s not a waste of time. I know someone who paid big bucks for a new TV last year that had no HD capability. Last year! He bought a non-BluRay DVD player, too. They saw him coming.

More important, just thinking about this stuff will keep you hip to how things are changing. Cuz they ARE. I’m guilty myself (especially on this blog) of sticking with dated designs way too long… but we make up for it by using video, Web 2.0 networking, and other cool innovations even while they’re still cutting-edge.

Sorta like having a covered wagon with a satellite dish and solar panels, but that’s what’s great about the entrepreneurial world: You can be eccentric, and still make it work.

Anyway, what’s your addition to The List?

And no fair saying it doesn’t matter, cuz we’re all gonna go up in a nuclear holocaust soon.

That’s no fun. And I’ve been hearing that bullshit since I was ten years old. (I’m one of the original “duck and cover” Boomers, you know.)

C’mon. Think about it. Golf courses, gone? Bowling alleys? (They’re already vanishing as fast as the buffalo.) Gas guzzlers? The Concorde jet went bye-bye, replaced by Air Busses the size of Vermont.

With rising oceans, are Amsterdam and Venice going the way of Atlantis?

Just consider the implications of water shortages. On sewage removal, for example. Yuck. On lawns in suburbia. Ice in drinks.

Boxing is getting pummeled by mixed martial arts. Hockey could make a comeback with HD (finally, you can SEE the freakin’ puck!)… just as older actors quit in horror at seeing every blemish magnified.

And why are ties still around for men’s suits? Even Jimmy Kimmel wears one. Jimmy Kimmel!


Okay, I’m done for now.

Let’s hear your contribution.

Put it in the comments section below…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. (Is the “P.S.” doomed to the dustbin of history, too?) We’re planning some truly stunning stuff for the near future here at Marketing Rebel.

If all you’ve been doing is reading this free blog, then you’re already missing out. The easiest (and cheapest, you cheap bastard) way to get involved is still to hop over to, and join the Marketing Rebel Radio Rant Coaching Club.

You’re a fool not to at least try it out. You can quit anytime, with zero penalty. We play no games, do no sneaky stuff to trap people. It’s an amazing resource.

Check it out. Stan and I are waaaay out on the cutting edge on a lot of things now cooking online, and we share it all.

Time to get involved.

Just enter your name and primary email address below and we'll send you the new report right away.

"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • Glyn says:

    I believe the DVORAK keyboard was too fast of the old typewriters (another blast from the past) – the keys kept fouling each other. The QWERTY was a little more difficult to use and so gained popularity.

  • Colin says:

    For the future dustbin

    Anonymous web-surfing
    Being offline
    Humans 🙁

  • Kendra says:

    Hey John, if you need a couple Zip drives, let me know. I have two or three in a box out in the garage. Your list is fun…sad…exhilarating all at the same time.

    Hey were you under the desk next to mine…back in the duck and cover day?

    I like to believe that the best is yet to come. Things will be different, that’s all. And that’s the way it’s always been. It’s just the speed of change that has changed.

    The other thing I believe is never underestimate the human mind and spirit. The next innovation to solve a current problem is just around the corner. Even for water.

  • Leo says:

    Here’s a scary one…

    “They” are putting the pieces together to start trading water futures!?!?!

    What’s next: oxygen swaps?

    Say bye-bye to water fountains and shower over 5 minutes…

    The other one that people will be laughing about: corn-based-fuels. It is our 21st century version of sacrificing virgins to the gods…

    My $0.02 (or $0.0196 canadian: don’t get me started…),


    “You might say I’m a dreamer… But I’m not the only one!”

  • Ian says:

    How about human vs human fighting?

    I can see a platoon of soldiers hooked up to Xbox like devices controlling robot soldiers from miles away. (already being done on very small scales)

    But how about an ohama beach landing where 50,000 machine gun firing robots rush out of the ocean? (Maybe fighting for water resources)

    I think I played to many video games.

  • Lisa Manyon says:

    Hey John,

    Sports are on the way out. Live sports anyway. With the advent of Nintendo Wii there’s no reason to leave the house. Sure, you can watch a game on TV or go to kids sporting events but why bother when you can create your own Wii Mii (I have two that compete against each other) and get into the game yourself. Yep, the days of live sports are limited…

    In home Wii competitions/parties are taking over.

    It’s brilliant really. I don’t even like sports (except for golf) and virtually I am getting very good at tennis, boxing, bowling and baseball.

    Wii is also jarring typical gamers into action. I mean, seriously—this is not just thumb exercise, you actually have to move. Xbox is on the way out, too.

    I could go on and on but you’ll just have to experience this one for yourself. You know you want to!


  • Bryan Toder says:


    CB Radios! Remember, good buddy, how those were *so* essential to have in your car? 10-4

  • Dan says:


    Interesting rant. You covered a lot of the vanishing stuff but I,ll go you one better with an appearing prediction. I can see all the old corner phone booths (where did they go anyway…) making a comeback with the addition of some see thru signal blocking film. And for $5, you get 5 minutes of pure, peaceful unconnected bliss….without the guilt associated with turning off your stuff.


  • john-carlton says:

    John Carlton writes:

    Nice additions.

    Re: Phone booths. I believe in Japanese airports they have these little booths that are, essentially, teensy little mini apartments. You pay a fee, and can lock the door and be alone. Not much more than a closet, but hell, I’d pay big bucks to grab something like that during a long layover. I’m surprised no one’s done this yet in American airports. Even the first class lounges are noisy and un-private…

    And re: Robot wars. My 40-something nephew (definitely an Xer) told me, years ago, that he and his friends believed games like Tour of Duty and Grand Theft Auto were just “practice” for training a new generation of remote warriors, who will control armed robots during combat.

    Next stop: Replicants and Terminators.

    Has Sara Connor shown up yet?

  • Ken C says:

    Great writing as usual… points are well made. Biggest change for me was the whole idea of owning a car (Camry) that hasn’t had a single repair the whole 8 years now I’ve owned it.. (compared to being under my ’77 Olds Cutlass with a 9/16″ wrench regularly, fixing stuff).

    Or thin tvs, instead of the ones with tubes that were 2 feet deep like I used to have…. or LPs. Dang I miss the nice Big LP covers and liner notes, I used to have a huge collection. Now it’s all digital blips, backed up on dvds. I miss the crackle of LPs, and using kleenex to wipe the dust off of them, before listening.

    The world seems a lot less analog (with personality), and a lot more digital/efficient, with some loss of humanity that goes along with that. And on the piss-off list is idiots with cell phones talking while they’re in the men’s room at airports (get a life!). I still don’t own a cell phone and never will (other than one in the glovebox of the car for emergencies).

    But hey, 3d sounds promsing. I still remember watching Elvira in “3d” on Channel 9 in Long Beach, getting glasses from the 7-11. (Big Elvira fan here, and Jeri Ryan/7 of 9).

    Being more in touch with more people, is the big plus. We’re all more connected, in our isolation, which is quite the anachronism of the 21st century online. I miss reading Arthur C Clarke and Asimov and Ellison and Heinlein, they were visionaries. It’ll be interesting to see what this brave new world brings, if humanity survives into it intact…


  • This one is easy:

    At the top, and the bottom, of the “vanishing list” is the ANTICIVILIZATION.

    So goodbye: dishonesty, laziness, mysticism, neocheating, religion, nation states, EGO, etc…

    If you wanna “predict the future”, discover Cassandra’s Secret.

  • Cletus says:


    You’ll be able to kiss those incandesent bulbs good-bye before too long. They’re going the way of the CRT.

    Just read that GE is getting out of the appliance biz. That’s like Google getting out of the search biz. God love those bean counters…


  • Kip says:

    What’s vanishing?

    How about the majority of the population (or seemingly so) refushing to take responsibility and/or accept the consequences – without blaming or suing anyone else – of their actions.

  • Loni says:

    DVD’s. You can already download whole movies on iTunes, I don’t think DVD is going to last.

    VHS had a good run, but my kids are destroying my VHS tapes at about the speed of light, and my four year old can already put in her own DVD’s and play them without assistance. Soon she’ll be getting on my laptop and getting into the iTunes store for all her Pixar needs.

    However, you’ll pry my Babylon 5 DVDs out of my cold dead fingers.

  • Craig says:

    Hi John,

    Manually typeset printing presses

    Adding machines

    Clunky cash registers

    Urinals that flush

    Cameras with film (and waiting 2 weeks for the pictures!)

    Interesting to plot these “advances” as to what is merely more convenient, what enhances our living standards and what is really a leap in technology.

    Keep up the great work.


    PS Anyone reading this not in the Radio Rant Coaching Club – get in there now. Priceless stuff.


  • John McCabe says:

    I think that with the advances in genetics and genetic engineering, we’ll see the end of congenital birth defects and genetically-transmitted diseases.

    Improvements in cloning technology could well bring about the kind of rejuvenation Heinlein describes in his Lazarus Long series. Dying of old age may become more of a choice and less of an inevitability.

  • Back in the 80s, I used to joke that there would be an after-dinner custom on the Moon in 2050: After a meal, people would get a little plastic tray holding small slips of black paper. They would tear the black paper into confetti, not realizing that this ancient ritual dated back to the days when diners would tear up the carbon paper from credit card forms. That’s a joke that hasn’t survived electronic transactions.

    More vanishing shit:
    — Black and white surveillance cameras in bodegas. They’re all full color now, and digital.
    — $10 bills in ATMs. The Park Slope machines give out $50s.
    — Fonts. There are just 14 web-safe fonts, and they mainly suck.
    — Duotones and other two-color printing. People are hexacolor crazy these days.
    — Crappy 7×12 monchrome dot matrix character generators on airport monitors. They’re all Arial now.
    — Airline boarding passes, pillows, air-sick bags … and airline peanuts in little metallic bags.
    — Beepers. Diaphragms. IUDs. Carburetors. Ashtrays. Matchbooks with the restaurant’s name.

    Kids today don’t know what there missing.

    –Julie, ready for the Rapture

  • this senior moment just in:

    Allegedly, a self-important college freshman attending a recent football game took it upon himself to explain to a senior citizen sitting next to him why it was impossible for the older generation to understand his generation.

    ‘You grew up in a different world, actually an almost primitive one”, the student said, loud enough for many of those nearby to hear. “The young people of today grew up with;

    Jet planes
    Space travel
    Man walking on the moon
    Our space probes have visited Mars
    We have nuclear energy, ships and electric and hydrogen cars
    Cell phones
    Computers with light-speed processing…and more. ‘

    After a brief silence, the senior citizen responded:
    ‘You’re right, son. We didn’t have those things when we were young …… we invented them. Now, you arrogant little shit, what are you doing for the next generation?

    The applause was deafening…….

  • This was a little ‘chip on the sholder’ish” but you had me laughing. You should look into writing a screenplay. You remind me a little od Woddy Allen -serioulsy

  • >