Since the future is so depressing, let's spend a day enjoying the whimsical charms of the past.

1. The best thing about the dawning of the Atomic Age was the belief that Science was going to save us and Progress would lead us to a better, brighter future. Now Progress is a nice way of explaining layoffs and the industrial revolution is as likely to end up killing us all as saving us. But let us set that aside for the moment in honor of NPF and enjoy this (click to embiggen):

Not a day goes by that I don't wish I had attended Plastics Industries Technical Institute rather than getting a Ph.D. Not even close to kidding.

2. Hey, now that we're all aboard the Fuck Libraries train – pure socialism, and they're like, what, 90% of the federal budget? – take a look at this interesting time capsule. My, how the times have changed.

Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children's librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of visiting such a library were explained in some form. It's heartening to know that an impressive 97 people did exactly that, and below are just four of those replies, all from authors: Isaac Asimov; Hardie Gramatky; Theodore Geisel; and E. B. White.

Check out Dr. Seuss. And all the others (including authors, elected officials, etc.) on the Troy Public Library Flickr site. Before they close the library.

3. I have a cellphone from the dark ages. OK, not really, but it predates smartphones by several years. Hand me an iPhone or Android and I stare at it like the apes finding the monolith in 2001. Then I randomly stab my finger at the screen until the owner says, "Here, I'll do it." To smartphone users like you this is comical; it's so obvious that the idea of someone being unable to figure it out is silly. With that in mind, please enjoy this 10-minute video, Now You Can Dial, produced by AT&T in 1954 to…explain using a rotary dial telephone.

Its advice seems ludicrous ("Wait for the dial tone!", the difference between the ring tone and busy signal, how to work the dial) but to people who were used to the operator making connections for them it probably needed to be said.

Also, 1950s corporate film. Win.

31 thoughts on “NPF: ONE WORD…PLASTICS”

  • Filthy little smart phones, they hurts us! Sneaky, smallsy, I hates them!

    No, not Android!

    Yes! They will cheat you, take your monies,

    I'm not listening… I'm not listening…

  • The part about the libraries made me really, really sad. Libraries are closing or slashing back hours dramatically and we live in a society that now seems generally to regard one of the greatest innovations of American history–spearheaded by Ben Franklin himself!– as a rank piece of unnecessary socialism, along with anything else that enriches the intellectual and social lives of our population.

    One wonders what letters modern Republican leaders would write to those children at the library…

  • My local library branch in the mall. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing? (Or what it says about my local mall!)

    They closed the branch so that they could expand it – at least a year ago, only a month ago did they put up the construction fencing. If any for profit company closed for the purpose of expanding did not start construction as soon as the place was cleared… Wait a minute, I almost made an argument for market based economics.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Zeb Says,
    "One wonders what letters modern Republican leaders would write to those children at the library

  • c u n d gulag says:

    WTF happened to the rest of my comment?
    Oh well…

    Little Boots Bush's letter:
    Ah luvz buks. Ah hop u doo 2. Speshally de pikchurs. Lern 2 reed n rite n u ken b preznit 2.

    As for cell phones, mine's 6 years old.
    A monkey has a better chance of solving a Rubix Cube than I have of figuring out the latest "I-something" or "WhateverBerry" contraption.

  • The Plastics Industries Technical Institute looks suspiciously like the DeVry Universtity or ITT Technical Institute of its day, more a cash-grab than useful training. (They supply you with, um, handsome colorful rods to buff?) In Mechanix Illustrated you got the PITI, in the Sunday paper, you could draw Tippy the Turtle, in comics, you had your X-ray specs. Marketing seems to have been so guileless back then.

    "stare at it like the apes finding the monolith in 2001."

    Or the smartphone in 2001.

  • My wife actually uses the coming obsolescence of the dial tone in her presentations. The current young whippersnappers with their cell phones will soon have no idea what a dial tone sounds like or even what it is.

    What prompted her story occurred about a year ago when she asked our son, 12, at our house (where we have a land line just for backup) to see if the phone company had finished the line repair. How, he asked? She said pick up the phone and listen for the dial tone. He asked, what's a dial tone?

  • @ Jehrler – I remember my kids at about that age shrieking to "Pull over!" when we drove through Auburn, AL, because they had spotted a pay phone in a BOOTH. Just like in the movies! We had to stop and let them inspect it.

    I notice the "Demonstration Phone" has the Z paired with the zero – wonder when they changed that? I thought there was some reason why the zero had to be letter-free, but obviously not always.

  • anotherbozo says:

    Dial telephones: The helpful film assured us that the "operator will still be there, willing to help" or some such.

    Interesting history there. First she was (always a "she") always live when you dialed O. Then, you got a recording with a menu: what kind of assistance were you after?

    If you punched information, a live voice came up, willing to help.

    A while after that, a robotic voice asked what party, and at what address, and then the number was given to you by another robotic voice. A live voice appeared only if you protested that the information supplied was wrong.

    Now, who the hell knows? Information costs a buck fifty or something. Who can afford it?

  • No politics? Yeah, it's economics, the conglomerates that enslaved, oops, bought the publishing industry hope that without libraries, we cheap bastards might buy more books.

  • Townsend Harris says:

    Teh intertubes reports that Susann Shaw, the actress from AT&T's dial-tone movie, also appeared on scads of 1990s refrigerator magnets, including "I dreamed my whole house was clean!"

  • LOL.

    I have some old journals and magazines that are around 90-100 years old. Old copies of Colliers, The Atlantic Monthly, etc. My dad collected them.

    I just finished reading an article of media criticism in a June 1911 edition of Collier's by noted muckraker William Irwin. It's pretty funny but also very interesting. I haven't figured out how to turn it into a blog post yet, but perhaps I will.

    The ads are very fun to look at from this bygone era. I did scan an ad for Nashville's Belmont College, now Belmont University and most recently in the news for firing a lesbian soccer coach when she revealed she and her partner were expecting a baby. Belmont denied that was the reason for the firing, Nashville government passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation because the city contracts with Belmont, and our right-wing Teanut state legislature passed an ordinance preventing cities from passing anti-discrimination laws stricter than the state's. How's that for small government?

    Anyway, the old ad was funny because it references "20 per cent northern girls" in its enrollment. Also, it says enrollment is limited, it's always filled — which begs the question, why advertise?

  • Republicans don't want public libraries because people can get edumacated there. Same reason they want to kill public schools. A dumb populace is a compliant populace.

    Ha…I don't need to look at ads from the past–I just talk to my 94-year old mother. Now that she is getting a bit more dotty, when she picks up the phone, she speaks first into the mouth speaker and then, a bit later, holds up the whole phone to her head to hear who it is on the other end. I think she is reverting to the old-style phone in her head. When I think about it, the amount of innovations she has seen in her lifetime is pretty amazing: the washing machine, the electric iron, the refrigerator, the television, the car (well, that everyone could have), and on and on. She once told me that in her view, the greatest discoveries/inventions of the 20th century were penicillin and the washing machine.

  • Many public library systems which are now 'socialist' (i.e. taxpayer supported) were originally endowed by wealthy families or inividuals (Mellons, Carnegies, Enoch Pratt,…)

    Don't y'all think technology has rendered hard copy books (just like newspapers) very close to obsolete for most applications?


    I am a Luddite on phone tech. I have a cell phone. It allows me to originate and receive phone calls and receive text mesgs (not send!) It doesn't even have a camera feature. That is all I want, period.

  • My 1969 Encyclopaedia Britannica wasn't what warped me, but most of Volume "S" was for "Space" (to mangle Bradbury's title.) I thought by now we would have daily commuter rockets to the moon, and that chemistry was the future.

    Turns out long range R&D (digging in and hoping it pays off one day) isn't as profitable as making new drugs for people who have seasonal allergies and hate their livers. Though honestly, I thought we'd have cloned replacement parts by now, including blood (reversing the aging process), figured a way to grow algae in Bessemer converters (turning industry into air purification), and synthesized unlimited pseudo-steel from rock (in order to pay for the fleets of spaceships, of course.)

    Fantasies aside, I particularly love watching old educational films (especially the social ones, like HYGIENE MAKES FRIENDS. They're absolutely right) but I feel a huge nostalgia for a time when we still had hope and gumption. I know there were cynics then, too, but morale was still high and hopeful. The future is all behind us now.

  • @ladiesbane, seriously, it's the 21st century. We can e-mail a robot to Jupiter, but we can't put a flying car in every garage and a nutrient-rich bioprotein slop in every pot?

    Also, @BillCinSD vo-tech isn't even a sure bet anymore. I got an AAS in industrial instrumentation which was supposed to be the absolute ticket, but right as I got out of school the economy went so far down the shitter it wouldn't flush. Of course, there were still jobs to be had, but employers got stricter about who they were hiring. There are a lot of jobs out there that are asking for 3-5 years of experience for the most basic positions. And of course, there is no lack of people (with 3-5 years of experience) willing to do these jobs.

    It's pretty discouraging that I graduated top of my class two years ago but I'm still working for $10/hr doing wiring and installation.

  • Having finally completed my B.A. at age 31, I'm surviving at $15/hr using technical skills I learned while in the Coast Guard. I'm trying to decide if I will enter a History MA/PhD program or get an M.S. in a technical management field. A master's degree + 3-5 years of experience is the new Vocational School. Nobody anywhere is hiring recent graduates for anything. I'm just lucky I have my military stuff to fall back on.

  • The intertubes sez that Susann Shaw died two years ago today (June 11) at the age of 91. Somehow that makes me very sad.

  • Whoops, she was 89. She'd be 91 now if she were still living. She went in for embroidering in her later years; there's a recent picture of her in a wheelchair with her embroidering.

  • Regarding plastics . . . I've already dropped a hint to my older son (now fourteen) that he could do worse than go into dentistry. It's an honest trade, and always needed.

    And libraries. I visited my old home neighborhood recently, and they'd actually built a NEW branch library, bigger than the old one. And it was open! Nice to see.

  • ProgressiveATL says:

    85 public school librarians are being laid off in Los Angeles:

    And students who lack critical thinking skills see teachers as biased:

    Make a society of dullards, critical thought an inconvenience, popularity of reality tv suddenly makes sense, as does folks buying all the false narratives floating around. Managed democracy can be quite efficient. Go vouchers! And draining resources from public education! Woo hoo! Inverted totalitarianism is here!

    Next up, dismantle social security, starting with employer contribution, because there's no social fabric that doesn't offend, when you lack critical thinking skills.

  • "on the Troy Public Library Flickr site. Before they close the library."

    Don't know if you were kidding, but it is the case that the Troy Public Library will close permanently on July 1.

    There's an FAQ about the closing. Here are just 3 of the (quite reasonable) questions, and the (fairly goofy) answers:

    "Why couldn't the library be mostly staffed by volunteers (to save money)?"
    Privacy laws prohibit volunteers from having access to borrowers personal information.
    "Why couldn't the library charge a fee for membership?"
    Tax supported libraries are prohibited from charging for their services.
    (Even though taxes are apparently NOT supporting the library all that well.)
    "Will I be able to transfer my library privileges to neighboring towns?"
    Well, that depends. In the (downscale) Clawson library, yes. In the (very upscale) Birmingham library, no way.

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