Skills that are Out of Fashion



Ok, there isn’t much style advice in this post, and I’ve no idea why I’ve been thinking about this recently, but for some reason I keep thinking of skills that I’ve acquired over my life that are now either out of fashion (see got a style word in there) or just no longer useful.

1. Knowing that when you start a record, remember those black vinyl things that we used to have, on a turntable?  If you want it to start from cold at the correct speed, you need to wind it back 20 minutes (if the record was a clock), to allow for the record player turntable to get to the right speed for the start of the song (that was from my days working in a radio station).

2. Being able to complete a Rubiks Cube, now that was something I taught myself as a kid, but have absolutely no need to know these days.  I think I spent the better part of a summer holiday memorizing the text book on how to do it.

3. Will I ever need to change a ribbon on a typewriter again?  I don’t believe so.  Even knowing that the QWERTY keyboard was created with the  letter A to be typed by your weakest finger (little finger on your left hand) so that it would slow down your typing so the keys wouldn’t all stick together is a useless kind of fact.  Fortunately, still being a 10 finger touch typist is a useful skill that I’m glad I’ve acquired (98wpm).

4. I spent time in the dark room at High School and University, I know how to take a roll of 35mm film out of its canister and put it into the developing tank, all done in the dark by touch.  Pretty much anything to do with black and white photography, developing and printing are skills I’m unlikely to ever need to do again.

5. The art of splicing by hand audio tape to edit it let alone cutting and splicing super 8 film.

What obsolete skills do you have?   What skills do we still have today that you think will become obsolete in the next 20 years?  I’m doubting I’ll be needing my typing skills.  What about you?


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  • Wow, we have two of these in common: the DJ and darkroom skills!

    I can still do a cinch knot on a western saddle, even though they all have the buckles nowadays. And I still know how to do a model turn on a catwalk, back from my (very) brief childhood modelling stint.

  • Today I realized that teaching kids cursive writing in the third grade will be obsolete as soon as someone realizes kids need only be able to sign their names on important documents. A dying art, is penmanship.

  • I have all of those skills except #5, and it'd take an evening with the Rubik's Cube to get that one back up to polished. Plus, I can organize a Trapper Keeper and feather hair with the best of them. In case it isn't blindingly obvious at this point, I graduated high school in 1980.

  • Ha! I have 2-5 on your list, but not number 1 as we didn't have records much where I grew up (all cassette tapes). I love being able to touch type properly and I learnt photo and film skills in my first degree … And I recently relearnt the Rubiks cube because my 13-year-old son got into it (sigh)!

  • Donna – haven't computers made many things so much easier.

    Cynthia – unlikely you'll ever need that again!

    Pseu – Dark room skills, I still love the smell of the chemicals.

    Karen – I can barely write a phone message these days (and it be legible!).

    Anon – what is a Trapper Keeper?

    Tiffay – so you're telling me that I may get to use my Rubik's cube skills again?

  • With vinyl records, Imogen, I bet you also know, as I do, how to drop the needle manually onto a spinning record without scratching the vinyl, and also how to handle records (especially the big LP ones) the correct way, without using any fingers or thumbs.
    You certainly inspired me to identify a few other obsolete skills, e.g.
    I can write with a traditional non-fountain nib pen (the type you dip in an inkwell)- which I learnt in primary school.
    I can do quite a few styles of cats' cradle, likewise long-rope skipping and "elastics" -(also learnt in primary school, in the playground)- all long since gone from playground culture, and unknown to Gen X and Gen Y.
    I can set my hair completely in curlers, without help.
    I can (or could) jump safely on and off moving trains and buses with a heavy school bag in one hand – a skill not possible to develop in these days of automatic closing doors – which is just as well.
    And as for skills which will be obsolete in 20 years' time, I would nominate the skill of finding information in a printed phone directory or street directory. Thanks to Google Earth, GPS etc, Gen Y are getting by quite well without mastering these print manuals.

  • This is fun! In addition to some of yours, I can (or could)
    – paste up a layout
    – use a slide rule
    – operate a manual cash register
    – leap on a spinning playground merry-go-round
    – do the Mashed Potato, Frug, Watusi and a bunch of other 60s dances
    Also, the manual shift on a car is nearly impossible to find now, and I can speed-shift.

  • I know how to type a ditto master with a manual typewriter, correct errors with a razor blade, and run a ditto machine. But the machines are extinct now. If there were no electricity or phone service, how could news be shared quickly, even in a neighborhood?

  • I can draft plans, sections, maps etc. to scale using drafting pens and set squares, and do all the lettering with a leroy set. Then AutoCad came along and now it's all computerized.

    Plus I can touch type, bake a cake from scratch and hem pants. The baking in particular seems to cause awe and amazement in the younger generation!

  • I could run one of those archaic fax machines with the rotating drum. It looked like something Q invented!

    But I must say, touch typing is at the top of my list of most useful skills gained in 23 years of schooling. It was with a pang of regret that I sent my daughter off to college this fall as a two-finger typist. But it was not part of the French educational system, and from what I hear, typing (or keyboarding as it's called now) is not emphasized anymore in US schools.

  • It took me ages to get the hang of putting carbon copy paper into a typewriter (with top sheet and copy sheet) so that it would all work OK.
    I haven't used that technique for a while!

  • I enjoyed reading these!

    I definitely mastered splicing an audiotape in high school. I could cut out or add a verse of a song without noticing where.

    [to help out with the Trapper Keeper question, a Trapper Keeper was a 3-ring loose-leaf binder with folders in it and instead of metal rings, they were plastic. They came in all sorts of bright and neon colors. They were big in my elementary school in the 80's/ 90's]

  • I'm puzzled that now, when everyone seems to use a keyboard every day, typing is hardly taught at all. I'll echo the others who've said it's one of the best skills ever – even if I did have to give up a week of summer holidays when I was 15 to learn!

  • I thought about driving a manual car, but they're still around lots here, so that didn't make the cut.

    I'm wondering with the new ipad type screen based keyboards how easy they are to type on if you are a 10 finger typist?

    I really hope that baking a cake from scratch isn't something that disappears completely! I am hoping for a resurgence in the art of cooking from scratch.

    Yes – long division – don't use that or the calculus I learned at school! Never needed much of the maths I learnt!

    So can kill dialing a rotary telephone.

  • Northmoon — I used to do a newsletter and did all my headlines with a Leroy set! I hardly ever run into anyone who even knows what they were.

  • As a newspaper copy editor, I've heard it said, "There's not much for you to do now since they have spell check." That's when I point out that a correctly spelled word can nonetheless be the wrong one! My example is always, "Before she went to work, she checked her hare and lipstick in the mirror."

  • I can use tape to mark my walls for where a TV or radio antenna should point in order to get a certain channel (or as was the case when I was in college, walk around the room holding the TV trying to get David Letterman because that channel would not come in).

    I actually know phone numbers. In my head. Without my phone. Because no one needs to know that anymore. It's amazing how much better I remember the numbers I knew before cell phones.

    I can change font in a typewriter (but only if you have a nice enough typewriter that it comes with font choices/sizes).

    I can make the stupid turtle in Logo draw various shapes.

  • I know some really good card tricks, but I guess that doesn't count, as I still do them sometimes. Hm.. I can milk a cow, and it's gross so I hope it's a skill I will never use again in my life. I can also ride a horse, but don't think it will ever happen again as my grandpa doesn't keep any horses any more. 😀
    Enjoyed reading all the comments!:D

  • sorry, but I just have to leave another comment. Mrs. N, I can make turtle to draw shapes in Logo too!! At least I could in high school! hehe :)))

  • I can write out complete musical scores for piano. Now it’s all digitized, and students don’t think they need to know how to do it.

    I can also type complex mathematical equations and tables on a regular typewriter, and I know the true meaning of “cut and paste.”

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