17 Boomer Skills That Used To Be Necessary but Are Now Obsolete

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By Jonathan Trent

While the current generations are known for their technological proficiency, the baby boomer generation was a lot more hands-on and practical, developing many skills seen as vital. Here are 17 formerly necessary skills mastered by boomers which are now obsolete.

Driving Manual Cars

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Automatic transmission now comes as standard in most cars sold to American drivers. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, only around 1% of cars sold in the US are manual, which is a huge contrast to Europe where 80% of cars have manual transmission. In 1980, 35% of cars sold in the US were geared.

Handwriting

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There was once a time when people would take great pride in their handwriting, working on it to the point where every letter looked as though it was digitally produced. Nowadays, letters are digitally produced, with most people typing their messages out rather than sending letters.

Map Reading

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The introduction of satellite navigation systems into modern cars has rendered the old-fashioned skill of map reading obsolete. No longer do you need to unfold a map twice the size of your own body or search for a compass in the back of your car’s glove box.

Morse Code

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Advancements in military and nautical technology mean that Morse code, an archaic method of communication, is no longer a skill that people need to master. Morse code was swapped out for the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) in 1999.

Writing Checks

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Checkbooks are not commonplace anymore, as online banking has taken over. Young people will likely look at a blank check and not know what it is, let alone how to fill it in. The number of checks used in the USA has been declining by 7.2% a year since 2015, according to the Federal Bank of Atlanta.

Ability on the Phone

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The baby boomer generation is proficient on the phone and able to hold conversations without stuttering or forgetting what they want to say. However, with phone calls taking a backseat in modern society due to less than a quarter of Americans having landline phones, as reported by The Washington Post, these skills are becoming obsolete.

Writing Letters

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The short form style and informal tone of text messages, as well as the ease of sending messages in a digital format, has all but killed off the skill of letter writing. The days of waiting eagerly for the postal worker to deliver a letter from a loved one are unfortunately over.

Using Fax Machines

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While fax machines were once the pinnacle of technology, allowing people to share documents with one another from completely different locations, they now appear dated and slow. This is because of email attachment capabilities, and in more recent times, instant messaging apps.

Shorthand

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Mainly used by journalists to take notes during interviews, shorthand used to be an important skill. However, it has all but disappeared due to the rise of mobile phone recordings. Online content and the decline of print media have also meant that most interviews are recorded on camera and posted online without the need for a write-up.

Programming VCR

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Back in the 1990s, if you wanted to watch a television show but were not going to be in, you’d have to set up the video cassette recorder (VCR) and record it manually. This form of recording is no longer necessary, with updated forms of TV recording and the fall of linear television.

Rewinding a VHS Tape

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VHS tapes began their decline following the introduction of the DVD toward the end of the 1990s. There was little sentimentality once the VHS tape was eventually phased out, as the process of rewinding them was long, manual, and incredibly boring. 

Adjusting TV Signal

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Televisions used to have to be retuned by carefully adjusting the antennas on top of the box. The nuance and precision that used to be required in order to achieve the perfect signal are no longer required thanks to the rise of digital and satellite TV. 

Sewing

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There is far less emphasis in the modern day on repairing ripped clothes as fast fashion and next-day delivery options mean that people are replacing clothing items without even contemplating repairs. Basic sewing skills are becoming obsolete as a result.

Replacing Tires

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Fast and reliable roadside mechanical coverage has reduced the need for people to know how to replace their car tires in case of a puncture or other damage. A USA Today report suggests that a third of new cars no longer come with a spare tire.

Finding Information in an Encyclopedia

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Before modern times where you could do a quick internet search for any information you may want to get a hold of, people would have had to make the journey to their local library to look it up in an encyclopedia. This made people experts in scanning pages and finding exactly the information they needed. 

Memorizing Phone Numbers

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In the times before you would directly input someone’s phone number into your mobile device, people would have to memorize phone numbers if they didn’t have a pen and paper to hand. Once they returned home, they’d have to jot the number down in a contacts book, hoping that they had remembered everything correctly.

Dialing on a Rotary Phone

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Contrary to Gen Z’s belief, mobile phones haven’t always been the main method of telecommunications, with most baby boomers growing up in the rotary phone era. There was no speed dial, no voice commands, just the manual dialing in of a phone number.