Smartphones Changed the World

Advancements in technology come in leaps and bounds, so it didn’t take long for smartphones to render a wide variety of everyday things obsolete. Smartphones offer the ability to do many of the same things that older gadgets were capable of, but in smaller and more portable forms.

Take a stroll down memory lane for a look at some of the things rendered obsolete by the rise of the smartphone.

Not-So-Smart Phones – In a world of smartphones, these old fashioned mobile phones basically did nothing but call, send text messages and perhaps, if you were lucky, allow you to play a cheeky game of Snake. They are now thoroughly antiquated and more or less obsolete. The precursor to the modern mobile phone, they were extremely useful in their time and happily ran for days without needing a charge.

Film Cameras – The traditional film camera has basically long since been pushed from the mass market by the modern age of the digital camera. No longer do we need to rely on reels of film or trips to the local shop to get them processed. Digital cameras, SD cards, smartphones and modern computing systems mean we can snap away happily and see the results of our photos instantly with far less hassle and expense. Pro photographers and retro snappers still use film cameras for certain artistic purposes. But few others do.

Pagers and Beepers – Pagers were originally designed and built in the 1950’s but they didn’t really take hold in terms of popularity until the 1980’s. These one-way communication devices were often used by emergency services, doctors and safety personnel who needed to be reachable at all times, even when away from a landline telephone. The rise of smartphones in the early 2000s saw the decline in the use of pagers and beepers but due to the durability, resilience and better coverage they continued to see use for several more years and, as an example, Canada was still paying as much as $18.5 million for its pager service in 2013.

Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) – The forefather of the modern mobile phone, the personal digital assistant offered limited access to a lot of modern capabilities we’ve come to expect, including internet access, word processing, touchscreen functionality and more. They quickly became obsolete when smartphones started to gain favor, but before that time they were a firm favorite with businessmen across the world.

Polaroid Instant Cameras – Polaroid cameras originally came to market in the mid-1960s and at the time presented a marvel of technology that allowed people to see the photos they were taking seconds after they were snapped without having to wait for someone else to develop them. For years, Polaroid instant cameras were a wonderfully expensive marvel of photographic convenience.In recent years, the rise of the digital camera and smartphone photography has meant that Polaroid’s technology essentially became an unnecessary nicety and declining sales forced the company to file for bankruptcy twice. You can still find Polaroid cameras and films on sale, but it’s niche at best.

Public Telephone Booths – The iconic phone booth is essentially a monument to telephone history and now just a tourist attraction or somewhere to shelter from the cold. The public phone booth has been rendered obsolete by the rise of the mobile phone. There’s rarely any need for a coin-operated telephone when you have a phone in your pocket.

Rotary Telephones and Wired Landlines – The wired telephone is another piece of technology that nears obsolescence after being replaced by a computer that we carry around in our pocket. The wired telephone dates back as far as 1844 and it has seen many iterations over the years. One variation was the rotary dial telephone which featured a dial arranged in a circular layout so the user had to turn the dial for each digit off the phone number they were trying to call. Except perhaps as a novelty, rotary phones are long since a thing of the past. Wired landlines are following close behind as modern smartphones have become ubiquitous.

Portable Dictation Devices – Dictation devices, often referred to as “Dictaphones” after the company name that became synonymous with them, came in various formats and used several different data mediums that included both cassette tapes, mini and micro-cassettes. These gadgets were mostly used to record interviews, conversations and lectures for later note taking or write ups. Each became obsolete as time passed by and the storage medium fell out of popularity. Digital dictation devices still exist, but even they are verging on extinction as most mobile phones are capable of offering the same functionality without the need for another standalone device.

GPS Navigation Systems – Many car manufacturers still choose to install them in new vehicles, but as a standalone unit, GPS navigation technology is nearing the end of its lifespan. Current smartphones are more than capable of getting the modern human from point A to point B with the use of navigation apps like Google, Bing and Apple Maps. Once again, advancements in mobile technology have forced other older technology into obsolescence.

Calculators – Although no doubt still used in some schools and offices, the humble calculator is a simple technology that’s surely reaching the end of its lifespan. With calculator apps available on smartphones and tablets, as well as easily accessible calculators on computers and laptops, there’s barely any need left for these independent devices.

Unmarried Folks Are Changing Everything

It wasn’t long ago that being single after a certain age was considered a recipe for lifelong misery. Up until 1970, the average woman married before she was legally old enough to have a drink at her wedding, and the average man married at 23. A woman still single at the ripe old age of 26 was what the Japanese call Christmas Cake – past her pull date and destined to spoil. A man not married by the end of his 20s was considered irresponsible, if not “deviant.”

As late as 1976, 93% of women aged 25 to 29, and 90% of men that age, had already married. By 2014, that was true of only 46% of women and 32% of men in that age group.

The rising age of marriage since the 1980s has worried many. In 1986, Newsweek darkly warned that a woman unmarried at age 35 had only a 5% chance of ever finding “Prince Charming,” while a single woman aged 40 was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to find a husband. According to a chorus of marriage promoters in the 1980s and 1990s, singles were lonely, unhappy unproductive members of society. Only marriage could turn them into useful citizens, reliable employees and happy, healthy individuals. Many believe this today.

So it was a radical idea in the 1980s when the Buckeye Singles Council of Ohio called for a National Singles Week to celebrate the lives and achievements of single Americans. It’s called Unmarried and Single Americans Week now, and takes place in the third week in September.

But as researcher Bella DePaulo notes, things have changed – slowly but radically – for unmarried and single people. New research shows that most never-married individuals, whatever their age, lead happy, healthy and helpful lives. On average, unmarried individuals have a wider network of friends than married couples and visit more frequently with neighbors. They also provide more practical help to parents, other relatives and coworkers than do their married counterparts.

And it is no longer true that marriage delayed is marriage foregone. Marriage has not become obsolete. It just takes up less space in our lives and in society as a whole than it used to. Today unmarried people comprise more than 45% of the adult population in the United States. They head more than 47% of our households and make up fully half of our workforce.

These figures are sometimes taken to mean that Americans are turning their backs on marriage. In 2014, the Pew Research Center predicted that one in four adults might never marry at all. But most Americans still marry, although at older ages. As of 2014, 80% of Americans had married by age 45, the same percentage of that age group as in 1976.

Many marry even later. Sociologist Philip Cohen estimates that 85% of white women and 78% of black women will marry. This is a smaller racial difference than is usually reported, because, although black women have significantly lower marriage rates than white women until their early thirties, they actually marry at slightly higher rates after about age 33.

Cohen calculates that a white woman who reaches age 45 without marrying has a 26% chance of marrying at some later point, while a never-married black woman aged 45 has a 49% chance of doing so.
The fact is, marriage is alive and well, but it has become only one of a series of living arrangements and interpersonal entanglements that most Americans will experience in the course of their lives. Cohen notes that back in the 1950s, Americans could, on average, expect to be married for three-quarters of the prime years of their adult work and family lives, from age 18 to 55. By 2015, marriage occupied “only about half of those 37 years.”

Alternatives to marriage have multiplied in the later years of life as well as the earlier ones. For people in the middle years of life, marriages have actually become more stable over the past three decades. Marriages begun in the 1990s are lasting longer than those that began in the 1970s and 1980s, and those begun in the 2000s seem on track to last even longer.

But the divorce rate of people over age 50 has doubled since 1990, and the rate for people 65 and older has tripled.

Marriage is no longer the only, or even the chief, place where people make most of their major personal, occupational, residential and financial decisions, or where they incur obligations to others. More than a third of women who give birth in any given year are now unmarried. And at the other end of the age spectrum, older adults are the fastest growing group of cohabitors in the country.

This is a game-changer, both for our emotional lives and our social policies. As a society, we can no longer act as though married couples are the only people who need support for their caregiving obligations, from employer-provided healthcare for dependents to legal recognition of their interdependencies.

We need to stop treating every unmarried person as an incomplete half of a married-couple-in-waiting. Certainly there are lonely and depressed singles out there. But often these are divorced or widowed people who depended too much on marriage as their support system and failed to maintain the friendships and reciprocities that singles tend to cultivate more carefully than their married counterparts.

New Bike Extends Commuters’ Reach

Whether considering living in the heart of the city or nearby suburbs, many folks enjoy or depend on bikes for recreation and commuting. New technology can widen the horizon.

A number of companies make e-bikes, with electric motors that typically have a range of 30 miles or so, but says Delfast plans to introduce a new model with a range of 236 miles, potentially offering a week’s worth of commutes on one charge. Curbed describes the bike as “a hybrid between a mountain bike and a motorcycle” that features GPS tracking and a remote starter. It’s expected to launch on Kickstarter for less than $2,500.

New lighting options can keep you safer. The Laserlight attaches to handlebars and projects a bike icon about 20 feet in front of the cyclist to warn pedestrians and drivers of its presence. The Lumos Helmet uses dozens of LEDs to increase a bike rider’s visibility and offer turn signals. And WingLights are small LEDs that attach to the handlebars to provide turn signals as well.

A rider who’s truly committed to the cycling cause might check out cargo bikes. More common in Europe but starting to gain fans here, cargo bikes offer a large, safe basket between the handlebars and front wheel that can handle an infant’s car seat or the groceries for a week for a small family.

Too Little Sleep May Lead To Risky Decisions

A new study, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, suggests that chronically shorting ourselves on sleep may trigger impulsive risk taking, and we may not even realize it’s happening.

The study observed a group of participants, ages 18-28, while they slept only 5 hours a night for a week, as compared to another group getting 8 hours a night. Twice a day they were given a decision-making task with two outcomes: either receiving a set amount of money for certain, or gambling for a higher amount and getting nothing if they lost.

The results became more pronounced as the week went on. At the start, less sleep didn’t influence the participants’ decisions, but as the sleep-deprived nights added up, more and more of them took the bigger risk. Eventually almost all of them did.

The researchers were also interested in how the participants perceived their decisions – if they saw them as more risky than they’d otherwise be, given a few more hours of sleep. Most of the participants said they didn’t see any difference. “We therefore do not notice that we are acting riskier when suffering from a lack of sleep,” said Christian Baumann, study co-author and professor of neurology.

While occasional risk-taking has its benefits, the results from this study are concerning because the participants’ risk-taking seemed to become impulsive, and their awareness about why they were taking more risks was phased out along with their lost hours of sleep.

The study had a few shortcomings worth mentioning. First, it was a small study that serves best as a pilot for future research to replicate. And the participants were all young males, who, some evidence would suggest, are prone to making riskier decisions even under stable conditions. But the way their decision-making changed as the effects of sleeping less took a toll suggests that the results can’t be written off to gender or age.

Sleeping too little is already linked to attention deficits, especially in younger people. Recent research is pointing to a possible reinterpretation of ADHD as a sleep-related disorder. Attention and decision-making are abilities that operate from a shared axis in our brains, so it’s no surprise that something affecting one would also affect the other.

The good news is that for most of us this is a problem with a solution, although we’re up against some tough distractions to reach it. A diet of streaming, social media and video games is eating up more of our evening hours, along with the traditional sleep erasers like stress.

We can choose to put a positive spin on findings like these and use them as incentive to reclaim the nighttime territory we’ve ceded to distractions. The science is clear that the benefits of sleeping a little more are hard to overstate.

Recognizing Our Worst Fears

One of the most terrifying segments in George Orwell’s novel “1984,” published in 1949, centered on Room 101 in the Ministry of Love. The dreaded room was the final destination for anyone opposing the ruling party. It was the place where those rebelling against the party were forced to confront their worst fears.

Room 101 would not be a great place for anyone with a phobia – an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. It is natural for humans to have some sort of fear and no matter what the fear is, it can dramatically impact someone’s daily life.

Be warned, some of the following most common fears may illicit strong emotions.

1. Arachnophobia – fear of spiders. This may be the most common fear for both males and females. While some spiders are considered to be harmless and good for nature, many individuals still see spiders as being creepy and crawly insects that can kill us when they bite. The fear of spiders generally starts when we are young children, it is something that many adults fear and the fear tends to be quite strong.

2. Trypanophobia – fear of needles. For many, going to the doctor can be stressful, especially when we are due for a vaccination. Trypanophobia usually is something that is learned over the years. Many adults who do not like needles tend to express their emotions in such a convincing manner that those around them tend to pick up on this fear, thus leading to more individuals not liking needles.

3. Hemophobia – fear of blood. For some, the intense fear of blood can cause a wide range of problems. Those with intense fears of seeing or touching blood tend to lose consciousness and pass out and even become weak. Blood can harm an individual, but the blood is just fluid that transports oxygen inside our bodies. Without it, we could not live.

4. Nosophobia – fear of having a certain condition or disease. This one actually can lead to many issues. Many medical students at some point may experience these feelings. Closely related to hypochondriasis, some people truly think they have a particular disease so much that they have died. Usually this phobia is first caused from intense study and researching diseases and health and it spreads from there.

5. Mysophobia – fear of germs and general contamination. You may know this common condition as germophobia. Mysophobia can affect individuals in different ways. What starts as a generalized fear of contaminations can lead to extreme anxiety of contact with others and the outside to where the person may avoid everyone at all costs. In addition, those with mysophobia tend to shower and bathe multiple times every day, sanitize the skin often and avoid any type of sharing of any kind.

6. Astraphobia – fear of thunder or lightning. Children have many fears, in part because they are startled quite often due to lack of experience. Astraphobia is one of the most common fears among children. For those who experience strong summer storms, the fear becomes real at a young age. Usually with this phobia come anxiety and the tendency to want to hide under or within things that protect the body for overall comfort. With more exposure, this fear has been known to vanish.

7. Cynophobia – fear of dogs. Phobias tend to develop at very young ages and while many tend to resolve at young ages, some can linger into adulthood. The fear of dogs is a common phobia that starts at a young age and is usually a result from a negative experience with a dog as a kid. This can linger into adulthood and cause the adult to avoid dogs at all costs.

8. Pteromerhanophobia – fear of flying. This common condition affects most adults and children at some point. This fear is usually developed through a movie, news story or some fear that an aircraft will fall and crash from the sky. While many fears tend to be irrational, this is quite possibly the most common fear that adults can have.

9. Nyctophobia – fear of the dark. Most children face this fear at a young age. Sometimes it can follow into adulthood. When kids are young, there is no surprise that the mind can wander and cause this fear. Darkness tends to lead to unknown territory for many kids and it can take years before this phobia resolves itself. This phobia generally is resolved once adulthood sets in, but some adults experience this fear.

10. Claustrophobia – fear of small or enclosed spaces. This very common phobia can last well into adulthood. Some studies have estimated that up to seven percent of the world’s population suffers from claustrophobia.

There are many other phobias that afflict children, adults or both. These include agoraphobia – fear of crowded and open spaces, ophidiophobia – fear of snakes, acrophobia – fear of heights, gerontophobia – fear of getting older, and glossophobia – fear of public speaking.

It’s probably a good idea for anyone with a phobia to avoid the Ministry of Love, and particularly Room 101.