4 Teenage Activities That Technology is Making Disappear

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Photo by Aurelien Guichard

3. Record stores are dying.

One of the sad casualties of technology is the protracted demise of record stores. Once common in malls and as standalone businesses, fewer and fewer or them are left standing, since consumers have fully embraced downloading music. I won't bash downloading as somehow a lesser form of music shopping. I buy music online often enough these days, but it isn't the same experience as walking into a brick and mortar shop where you know the owner, who might helpfully refer you to a new band that he thinks you'll like. Record stores, especially the quirky independent ones, are more than just stores, and that's what's missing when I download a song as opposed to buying a record or CD from an actual shop. They are gathering places for people searching for interesting music, in some cases as much a social club as anything else.

Going to a store like the Record Exchange or Vinyl Edge was as much a journey of social discovery as it was a shopping trip. I remember meeting people at those places that had similar tastes as mine, and some of those folks are still friends of mine. Try meeting a friend on iTunes.

2. Arcades are mostly a thing of the past.

Most young people today don't really want to hang out in video game arcades anymore. Their heyday is generally agreed to have been from roughly 1978 (release of Space Invaders) to 1984 or so. Teenagers couldn't get enough of the new video games like Pac-Man and Defender, and arcades dedicated to games like those popped up everywhere.

Of course, arcades weren't really anything new at the time. There were gaming amusements going back to at least 1931, when the first coin-operated pinball machines were released. I remember weird analog electronic shooting gallery games at pizza parlors when I was a little kid in the '70s. My point is that arcade style games were popular with kids for generations, and were still popular after the early '80s golden age.

Yes, there are still arcade-style video games being made, but they generally end up in bars or bowling alleys. The days of an actual stand-alone arcade are basically over. There are retro arcades like downtown Houston's Joystix, which are awesome for old codgers like me, but those are few and far between, and they don't cater to a teenage crowd.

So what happened? Arcades were such a staple of teen life, how did they disappear? Technology just improved, and made computer and console gaming better than anything you could stuff a quarter into. For a long time, that wasn't the case. All nostalgia aside, early home gaming systems like the Atari 2600 kind of sucked compared to the arcade machines of the time, at least when playing a home version of one of those superior arcade games.

But home video game consoles got better and better over the years, and eventually a person didn't have to go to some dark arcade somewhere and drop a bunch of quarters into a machine to get his fix. Over the last two decades or so, home systems have evolved to the point that games are now like interactive movies, and are totally immersive adventures that take days or weeks to finish. So people are playing most games at their homes, and no longer have to run down to play Stargate at Westwood Mall. It can be social, since many games are online and cooperative now, but it's a different kind of socialization, and not face to face. Times have changed.

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2 comments
ganglygrimm
ganglygrimm

No love for Westwood Mall? I see how it is.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

I don't get the not driving thing.  I have siblings with driving aged kids who don't want to learn or get a car.

Maybe I'm just old.


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