Obsolete Skills

A list of obsolete skills- which ones do you still have?

I remember putting pennies on the arm of the record player to make it skip less.

I remember playing around with IRQs to get the sound on Day of the Tentacle to work on my computer.

I remember messing with the tracking controls on my parents’ VCR, though I never understood what that actually did until now.

Maybe I could have set a VCR to tape something. But there was almost never anything on that seemed worth that much bother.

I learned BASIC in high school.

I had to learn to use log tables in Algebra 2 in high school. I did not understand what was going on with those. I only actually understood logs when we used them in chemistry class and we were required to use calculators to find them. (They became really intuitive for me from playing a Nintendo game called Destiny of an Emperor, though)

When I was a science aide in high school, I used a mimeograph machine (that is the one with the weird-smelling purple ink, right? We called it a “ditto machine”, and the copies were called “dittos”.)

I have untwisted phone cords. I even had a little swivelling device for a while that was supposed to keep the phone cord from twisting (it allowed you to twist the handset around, but it twisted freely and kept the twisting from getting to the cord).

I could probably use a rotary phone if I had to, though I’ve never used a pencil to dial one (my nails won’t grow long enough to need that).

I remember using a pencil or my finger to get the tape back into a cassette tape.

I remember card catalogs.

I remember flash bulbs and flash cubes.

I have used dip pens and fountain pens, but only in art class for calligraphy or pen-and-ink drawing- never for writing.

Until we got married in 2003, Mr. Neville lived in an apartment in Oakland with a crappy old fridge that we periodically had to defrost by chiseling out the ice from the freezer. He did some damage to the fridge that way once, I think. I vaguely remember my mom defrosting the fridge in the house we lived in until the mid-80s. It was a turquoise fridge, and could well have come with the house in 1963- we certainly had it as long as I could remember.

I remember using a penny on the turn table arm. Then a nickel. Then a quarter.

Still using a rotary dial phone.

I can set the points on my truck with a matchbook cover.

I could still use a Thrifty’s tube tester. If we still had tube testers. Or Thriftys, for that matter.

I used a slide rule in high school.

I have, for a year, maintained a card catalog. I was no way, shape, or form taught how to do this in library school. I used to have nightmares about taking the rod out and dropping a drawer and having the cards fly everywhere.

I have used a mimeograph machine. I will never forget the mimeograph smell as long as I live.

I have programmed VCRs, duh.

I have traded off with another child the job of holding the TV antenna and putting your arm up to get better reception. You switch off at the commercials.

I know, in the back of my head, BASIC.

I can make little foldy origami things out of the perforated feed strips you used to have to tear off of printouts.

I can develop pictures in a darkroom.

Since when is the Dewey Decimal system an obsolete skill? Taste my wrath, motherfucker. (You’ll find it with the cookbooks in the 641s.) Also the Readers’ Guide and microfilm, use 'em every day.

I can focus a camera.

I have done layout using a photo cropper.

I can make biscuits from scratch with lard but usually do not.

I can do most of the work of sailing a two masted schooner, including navigating by compass and chart, steering visually and by the compass, hauling on ropes, raising sails and anchors, and tying a metric assload of knots.

I have made a fire with bow and drill, but I hope never to do so again.

Interpolating and extrapolating logs comes in very handy when you want to use your handy-dandy slide rule. I learned how to use one my sophomore year of high school. About 6 months later, my father bought me a calculator. Had four functions and cost about a hundred dollars.

That same year, I learned how to use a key punch for computer punch cards, and learned how to use an electronic calculating machine (NOT a calculator). My dad’s company had a guy who worked midnight to 8 AM. His job was to put a new stack of punch cards in the computer whenever it ran out. I’m pretty sure that smoking pot on the job was the only way he stayed sane.

I used to be really good a splicing audio tape. On a reel-to-reel tape deck you could manually rock the tape back and forth over the play head until you found just the right spot, mark it with a grease pencil, pull it out onto the cutting block then splice away.

Oh, also I splice microfilm in my daily work. With splicing tape.

I remember those strips! I made a scroll out of one once on computer-lab day in high school English. Printers are more convenient but less cool now that they don’t have those strips any more.

(I should mention- I graduated high school in 1993, but our school was a bit behind the times when it came to technology.)

Maybe that was my problem- I never got to apply that skill. I never saw a slide rule except in cartoons and movies until I was in college and my mom got hers out and let me look at it. I had no idea what one would do with it (well, I had the theoretical knowledge that it was somehow used for calculating things, but no idea how to do it). I slid it back and forth a bit, then handed it back to her.

Making intricate, complicated tables in QuarkXPress with third party software that no longer exists.

I’m a real whiz at Applesoft BASIC (:rolleyes: ).

I can adjust the tracking on a VCR and the rabbit ears on a TV set.

I remember blowing the dust out of a Nintendo cartridge and telling my dad to button his fly.

I regularly build my own computer from individual components.

I still know calligraphy and can change the ball on a typewriter.

I can also churn butter and program in COBOL.

I had no idea cursive was considered an obsolete skill - don’t they teach that in school anymore?? Also, since when is faxing considered obsolete?

Wow, there are a lot of skills that I have that are considered obsolete. I’m kind of surprised by some that are on the OP’s linked list.

I just remembered another one: I can fix an 8-track tape that’s become unspooled.

I learned BASIC.

I could fix my carburetor with a wooden clothespin.

I could look anything up quickly in a card catalog.

No? We learned it, and I can catalog a book by hand and write the card–I graduated in '99 and it was obsolete but we learned it! I remember learning how to catalog anything, be it an onion or a new baby, but I’d have to look it up now. :stuck_out_tongue: I always meant to do that as a baby announcement, but no one would get it anyhow so it didn’t seem worth the effort.

I can do French hand sewing.

I must have lots of obsolete skills, but I can’t think of any right now! My dad can use a slide rule…

I have used a mimeograph machine.
I remember flash cubes and the odd little film cartridges the 110 film came in.
I have used and have set up a card catalog. And have dropped it, sending the cards everywhere.
I know how to use the Dewey Decimal System.
I have used a dot-matrix printer to print out reports and playing with the little ends that pulled the paper thru the feeder while waiting for the report to finish printing.
I know how to milk a cow.

I can do long division with a pencil and a piece of paper. Look Ma, no calculator!
Also multiplication, as I am many-faceted in my obsolescence.

And I can do Gregg shorthand. Haven’t used it since 1976, but it’s still there, in the memory banks. If aliens ever invade Earth and communicate only in ballpoint pen squiggles, I’m the person the Pentagon needs to call.

I know how to sew a tidy patch on a pair of jeans. Tell me that’s not a totally obsolete skill…

Celestial navigation

Morse code

I can write html in a non-WYSIWYG editor. If that’s not an obsolete skill, it’s rapidly moving in that direction.

I remember doing that, too, and knowing that I shouldn’t do it, but I did it anyway.

What does the ball on a typewriter do? I know what the ribbon does, but I have no idea what the ball is (I assume it’s something ball-shaped) or what it does.

It’s a wiki, and I think some of them are somebody’s attempt at humor…

Me too. Some of them are du jour for the crowd I used to run with (because they are members of the SCA) others make sense to have knowledge of. I can navigate using a compass for instance. It might take me a moment, but I can. Not everyone has GPS, and what if the battery dies or it breaks somehow?

Dealing with a VCR is something I can and still do, since we still have one, though it auto-tracks. I haven’t had to deal with tracking since Grandma got rid of her monstrosity for a VCR (older than me) a couple years ago.

I can count back change, have cooked a meal from scratch, have booted a computer from floppy as lately as 2001, loaded film into a camera (35mm and a pocket instamatic), I know the alphabet by heart, still lick stamps and envelopes, write checks from time to time, play solitaire with a deck of cards (as well as know how to play Rummy, Canasta, Cribbage and Hearts), I have popped corn in a pot with oil because I hate the taste of microwave and don’t have a popper, can read a sundial, map, dictionary and encyclopedia…

Could go on and on really, some things may not be useful anymore but some things could be useful and don’t hurt to know how to do.

Every time I sell at an arts & crafts show, I calculate sales tax AND count back change.

Re: changing the ball on a typewriter…the IBM Selectric typewriter had a type ball, rather than type on individual paddles (or whatever they’re called.) The cool, hi-tech thing was that you change type faces by switching out one type ball for another. WOW! I could type in italics!!!

I had a car with hand-cranked windows until 2004. I also had a job where I had to roll down the window and present a badge to a guard when coming on-site. I hated those hand-cranked windows, and loved my power windows when I got a new car in 2004. I probably wouldn’t mind hand-cranked windows so much now, since I don’t have to present a badge to a guard, I have an auto-tracking device for tolls, and my car has air conditioning, so I almost never wind down the windows anyway.

I took a drafting class in high school where we used pencils and T-squares.

I used to have a cell phone with an extendible antenna. The antenna eventually broke off. Good riddance to that annoyance.

I remember editing autoexec.bat and config.sys, and having to boot in a different mode to have enough memory to play Wizardry 7.

Knowing where someone lives by their phone exchange is still useful. I used it when I got calls from job recruiters to get a rough idea of where the job might be located (and, therefore, whether I might be interested). Of course, now I Google the area code unless it’s one of the few I have memorized…

I vaguely remember using microfiche in college. There was also microfilm, which was somehow different from microfiche.

I remember the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature.

I have used carbon paper. I always ended up getting the carbon all over my hands. Messy.

I remember newsreaders. I remember I much preferred tin to trn.