2010 is ALREADY retro

Ten reasons why we're stuck in the past at the present
January 18, 2010
2010 is ALREADY retro

Ten reasons why we're stuck in the past at the present

I am something of a sociology nerd, so mass trends really intrigue me. In a way, examining and analyzing the mindset of the culture is sort of like psychological and philosophical examination on the grandest scale, a gargantuan means of truly "figuring out" not only the world around us, but the one that exists inside us, as well.

In that, the notion of what a culture deems "nostalgic" or "retro" is something that serves as a very interesting concept to me. Without getting too heavy with the metaphysics here, the very idea of "retro" says something very unique about the way we assess time, and our individual placement in history. Although it may not appear so, the very "ideal" of nostalgia is an element that combines history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology into a single entity, a sort of "universal" means of gauging our individualistic and collectivist "values" within the time-space continuum. To further explain, let's take a look at the handy-dandy diagram below, shall we?

How Nostalgia "Works"

OK, on the surface, this looks somewhat confusing, but it is actually a pretty easy system to figure out. First off, you have to acknowledge the constant of time, which is represented by the line at the bottom of the diagram. This line represents the continuous movement of time, the never-ending chronology that consists of the past, present and future. Ultimately, it has no "value", as it exists simply as an unchangeable element of existence. In other, words, time simply is, in a physical sense, itself, and the notions of history, value, and ideology all stem from our penchants for assessing the uniform blankness of the universe with individual assertions.

In fifth-grade terminology: "Time" is what we make of it.

The present is represented by the little stick figure standing atop the globe. In our little diagram, the X-variable represents the ideologies of the culture, and the y-variable represents the ideologies of the individual (You). Since the present is a continuous state of being, we never truly have a firm grasp of what either the X OR Y variable, for lack of a better term, "means". Therefore, the perpetual state of "the present" is but an ongoing quest to interpret a.) the culture around us, and b.) how we feel about the culture and how it affects us.

Once again, in fifth-grade terminology: We have no idea how to "gauge" ourselves OR the culture in the present state.

Thus, to determine the "value" of both the collective and individual at the present, we must reference the present as a singular point in the never-ending time line. This means we have to a.) predict how the present affects the future, and b.) how the past has influenced the present. In that, we create two "concrete" chronological states that exist outside the indefinable present in order to find "value" in the present state of being.

Fifth-Grade Version: Since we have no idea what to make of the present, we reference the past and predict the future in order to obtain some semblance of meaning in our day-to-day lives.

In the past state, EVERYTHING is clearly defined: we know what the X-variable represents, and what the Y-variable represents. In the nostalgic state, we find value not only within the culture, but in a concrete state within ourselves. Basically, when musing on the "retro", we are actually basking in the bliss of being able to understand and assess the world around us, as well as pinpoint our placement in that chronological order. In contrast, the future is a totally "value-less" state, a sort of chronological vacancy that allows us to PREDICT how our present state affects the never-ending timeline, thus giving a sort of complacency in knowing that our present state has some sort of value that, at the current, we cannot precisely pinpoint.

For fifth-graders: We use our knowledge of the past to assess our present values, and our values at the present to assess the future, which in turn, allows us to assess our present, which gives both you and the culture you live in "meaning".

So, when you log onto Retro Junk, or have a tingly feeling in your stomach whenever you think about scoring your first open mouth smooch, or look at a vacated furniture store and proclaim "hey, I went in there once!", you are not really obtaining "meaning" from the past as much as you are trying to utilize the past to give "meaning" to the present. In other words, our obsession with "the past" is, fundamentally, a fascination with assessing the present.

All right, I will give you adequate time to allow your mind to recover from JUST BEING BLOWN, man.

Well, it may seem as if I am monkeying around with the rules here, but in a way, who is to say the present itself is not, in a way or ten, "retro" itself? After, all did not some guy named Einstein PROVE that time itself is relative, and the way in which we perceive it is, fundamentally, wrong? Think about this: since we live in a perpetual state, does that not mean that, just one second ago was, technically, "retro"? Hey, remember when you started reading this article? That was in the past, therefore isn't it "retro" as well? And since "right now" consists of but a persistent, single second, does that not mean that past and present are, essentially, of the same essence?

OK, Heidegger is right: Enough metaphysical conjecture. The thing is, whether we are aware of it or not, we are living, breathing history right now; as much as we like to believe that we are a single, continual state, we are nothing but faint blips on the ongoing timeline. Therefore, since we derive so much value from the past, and our eventual present value is derived from the impact we have on the future, could it be that, at this moment, we are engaged in a multitude of acts that are ALREADY anachronistic and outmoded?

As it turns out, 2010 has a lot more in common with 1910 than it does 2110. Hey, I don't need a time-traveling DeLorean to prognosticate the future, for the outdated nature of the present already TELLS us where we are headed. . .and to the astute analyst, the nostalgic nature of our present way of live is ASTOUNDINGLY apparent.

Without further ado, I present to you, fair Retro Junk reader. . .

TEN reasons why we are living in the past AT THE PRESENT!

Compact Discs

What is it?

A form of laser technology that has been the predominant format for listening to music since the late 1980s.

Why is it retro already?

Well, this one is kind of obvious; it is mid 80s technology that has somehow found itself still fiscally viable in the second decade of the 21st century. Really, how many technological advents from circa 1984 are STILL considered the industrial standard today?

Can it avoid extinction?

Well. . .no. Right now, the compact disc in its current form is the equivalent of an eighty year old man swearing up and down that he does not have a terminal illness despite the fact that all his hair and teeth fell out two years prior.

The plight of the compact disc is quite evident at the present; thanks to the proliferation of digital file sharing, the necessity for tangible, stored music is pretty much an anachronism ALREADY. The compact disc is certainly the primary casuality of the I-pod generation; after all, who wants to lug around a bulky, battery-chugging monstrosity that only plays ten songs at a time when you can gad about with an MP3 player that holds THOUSANDS of songs and weighs about as much as two packs of gum?

The decline of the compact disc has actually affected other aspects of the audio industry, as well; since 2001, not only have CD sales plummeted, but so have home AND car stereo system sales. As sort of a Darwinian form of nourishment, the inevitable death of the compact disc may in fact take out the home stereo and after market car audio market with it.

Oh boy, and if you think the stereo manufacturers are pissed, wait until you hear from the record labels: citing "illegal software sharing" as the number one cause for decreased revenue in the early half of the 00s, the CD market posted a nearly 25 percent decrease in sales in 2005. Now, in the era of the I-Phone, CD sales have dropped of nearly HALF of what they were in 2000. Utilizing some rudimentary arithmetic here, that means that if current trends continue, 2015 CD sales are to be about a quarter of what they were fifteen years prior, and by 2020? If the numbers hold weight, the compact disc market will cease to exist AT ALL.

So yeah, the CD is mathematically doomed, and here we are at the present, basking in the last hurrah of a media format that will soon vanish from production. All things considered though, you have to give the CD its props; it is pretty damned hard to maintain stasis as the industry standard for a decade, let alone almost 35 years of unrivaled marketplace supremacy. Of course, it's great uncle the LP had a nearly 75 year reign as industrial champ, but that should hardly be chalked up as a slight to the little laser-based wonder that could.

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

Probably about as much demand as our current culture has for the Sony Walkman. Sure, there exists a pretty hardcore LP collecting contingent out there, but the difference between vinyl and CD recordings are the element of rarity; most times, when a record was produced, that was pretty much the only copy of the audio in existence, as most master tracks were wiped immediately after recording. That means that most vinyl recordings were printed just once, and after that, it was technically impossible to produce reissues.

Compact discs, on the other hand, can be cheaply and efficiently reproduced, and the methods of maintaining master recordings in the CD era have been greatly improved since the heydays of Robert Johnson, Roy Orbison and even The Buzzcocks. Since there are very few rare, unobtainable in other format CDs out there, it is somewhat difficult to imagine a fervent, cult CD collecting base sprouting up in ten years time.

Video Stores

What is it?

A retailer that makes profits by offering multi-day rentals of both film and video games in multiple storage formats.

Why is it retro already?

What, you have not noticed the rapid closings of all of the mom and pop video stores in your hometown? And what about all of those mega chains that have filed for bankruptcy in the last decade? And don't look now, but the eight hundred pound gorilla of the video-rental bracket, Blockbuster Video, has reportedly closed over HALF of its chains across the United States.

Can it avoid extinction?

Not really. You see, the storage format for both videos AND video games have changed since the 1980s; of course, there was the obvious transition from cartridges to disc-based technologies, but today? Oh, we are living in the digital age, the era of the disembodied, intangible media. I mean, why waste precious, precious gasoline to trek across town to pick up a DVD when you can just click a few buttons on your computer and stream a movie for free on You Tube?

And then, there are the NEW providers of video and video game rentals; by now, Net Flix and Game Fly have become ineffaceable annexations to our collective lexicon, and these newfound dealers that cater to the instant download market are sure to be the primary profit turners of the ensuing decade.

The video store, in that, is an obsolete establishment for a number of reasons, chief among them the notion that tangible media is slowly fading from relevancy. That means that if you're business is hawking disc-shaped wares, odds are, you will find yourself in an exciting new career field very shortly.

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

Probably pretty high. Even now, there is a pretty big DVD collector audience, as the shaky nature of copyright laws and of course, the multitude of Special Edition sets, out there have made some DVDs pretty damned hard to find. And if those things are hard to come by (and thusly, valuable) at the present, that means that in ten years time. . .well, you know how numbers work.

Believe it or not, the video rental sector is in bad shape at the current due not to economic downturns, but rather, economic UPTURN. You see, when people have more money, they are more likely to make impulse purchases; it does not take an socioeconomic expert to determine that people are more willing to drop 20 bucks on a DVD that they can maintain FOREVER than they are to drop 8 bucks on a rental they can maintain for just a week. Therefore, if people are buying, they are not renting, and that means lots of consumer loss for the video rental industry.

Ultimately, the rise of digital downloads will make solid-state movies and video games a thing of the past; and of course, where there are wistful recollections of the way things used to be, there is a niche market opportunity.

This, of course, results in the most ironic thing ever: the mega-giant video rental conglomerates that put so many independent retailers out of business will soon become extinct, and the small, after-market independent retailers will soon become the SOLE profiteers of the DVD-Video-Video Game bracket in their wake!

Super Markets

What is it?

Retailers that specialize in selling food items and rudimentary household goods.

Why is it retro already?

One word: Corporatization.

Once upon a time, it was economically possible for a common person off the street to set up a business; considering that most towns were quite small in the seventies and eighties, that means there were plenty of opportunities for the fledgling entrepreneur to muscle his or her way to the top of the bracket in a given sector of retail. For example, there would be one dry cleaner in town, one butcher, so on and so forth.

If nothing else, the eighties were the decade of conglomerated interests, and the expansion of mega-retailers across the nation signaled the ensuing demise of privatized, local industry. I mean, really, how can Billy Bobs House of Hammers compete against Home Depot, or how can Uncle Jimmy Joe Jack Johnsons Spark Plug Emporium survive the onslaught of a new Auto Zone opening up across the street?

Well, no doubt, those small-time shop keepers were screwed, but nowhere NEAR the level local grocers were. Imagine a convenience store-sized establishment as the sole provider of food items in a locale; now, imagine a Kroger or Publix opening up, an establishment that has 12 times the inventory at half the price of the local retailer. Now, imagine the proprietor of that quaint shop tightening a noose over the staircase, and you have a pretty good idea of what happened to rural business in the U.S.

Can it avoid extinction?

Not in its current form. Remember how earlier, we were laughing about how the big-time video stores will become obsolete at the end of the decade, and that the mom and pops will be the only survivors in the now niche market? Well, here comes some more of that delicious, delicious irony.

As it turns out, the mega-super market chains that put Clem and Maude out of business are suffering their own woes at the current, and are slowly finding themselves obsolete due to the expansion of, you guessed it. . . the big box-mart!

That is right, the multi-million dollar, national super market chains are slowly being eaten alive by the multi-BILLION dollar GLOBAL big-box-retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. As the dual titans of modern consumerism continue to expand, and expand, and expand, more and more national super market chains will fold, and declare bankruptcy, and fade away into nothing but nostalgic embers. Sure, a few niche chains may survive (hell, maybe even thrive as secondary markets), but for the most part, the current notion of the Americanized super market is soon to go the way of the dodo.

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

Next to none. Sure, we have probably spent more times in super markets than we have reading, but very few people have had life-changing moments in the hallowed halls of consumerism. Of course, the former bag boys that are not stuck in middle management purgatory may woefully reminisce on their first jobs sacking egg cartons at the A&P, but in the fast-tempo world of 2020, who really wants to reflect on paying exorbitant prices for deodorant and store-brand cola?

Amusement Parks

What is it?

A service provided by a company that is focalized on providing customers with entertainment through a number of electronic and mechanical attractions, such as roller coasters and other motorized forms of merriment.

Why is it retro already?

Because it is only a matter of time until the idea of the amusement park is placed in the same anachronistic categorization once held for VCR repair stores and soda shops.

All one has to do to validate the plight of the industry is to look at the economic misfortunes of the Six Flags ownership group, a company that has been hemorrhaging money since the late 90s. Since 1999, both White Water and American Adventures theme parks (both subsidiaries of Six Flags holdings) have ceased operations, and rumors of future park closings have run rampant over the last ten years. Even the Walt Disney corporation, one of the ten most fiscally secured operations in the United States, has posted quarterly revenue loss from their theme parks for the last FIVE years. Now, if two companies that are backed by literally BILLIONS of dollars are in such deep dookie at the present, how do you think the smaller parks are faring in the current economic downturn?

Can it avoid extinction?

It kind of depends. Obviously, Disney Land is not going away any time soon, and just by sure structural proxy, I find it hard to believe that Six Flags will become a faint memory by decades end. That being said, due to the monumental costs of running such gargantuan operations, I really see it as an unfeasible notion to believe that ANYONE in the amusement park racket will be turning a profit in ten years. . .and if it is impossible to make money in a business, who the hell wants any part of it?

Once again, we go back to that bizarre duality involving the small-time businesses actually OUTLASTING the mega-corporations in the industrial sphere. As much money as Disney and Six Flags have been losing as of late, many smaller theme parks (such as Busch Gardens and Cedar Point) have actually remained financially stable for decades, and who knows? Maybe by the end of the decade, the meek really will inherit the earth (or at least the part of the earth that specializes in roller coasters, anyway)?

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

Very high. My friends and I STILL have prolonged chats about the inherent awesomeness of attractions that closed down in 1995, so if a singular ride can encourage such powerful nostalgia, just imagine the amount of remembrance wide-spread park closings would rouse.

That, and reflecting on the heyday of a theme park is VASTLY different than reflecting on the heyday of a certain video game system, or a certain television series. After all, if you miss a TV show, you can just stream it on the Internet, or download an old video game from a .ROM file. That being said, you really can't run an emulator for Universal Studios, so there truly is no substitution for what the theme parks provided. Sigh, and who would have thought we would ever feel bittersweet over waiting in line for three hours and paying six bucks for a half-heated hot dog?



What is it?

A wire based form of communication that uses grounded cables and manual routing to provide customers the ability to converse with one another for a set monthly service fee.

Why is it retro already?

Yeah, it is not a good decade to be in the wire industry. Consumer trends over the last twenty years have drifted away from rooted, concrete implements and today is the era of mobility; long story short, if you cannot take it with you, it is superfluous in the eyes of a majority of consumers.
Obviously, cellular phones have played a gargantuan role in the global decline of the telephone; that being said, even cellular phones may be headed into the domain of the obsolete, as the rise of all-in-wonder devices like the I-pod and the cavalcade of new droid phones have not only changed the face of telecommunications, but are now expected to engulf it completely.

Can it avoid extinction?

Not a snowballs chance in a microwave. If there is one adjective I would use to describe the modern culture, it is transient; today is all about moving about, and going from one place of importance to another. Long story short, more people are spending time away from their homes then they are in them, and since technology has allotted for better mobile devices, why waste time on that corded plastic brick that sits wedged into the wall way?

That, and look at the aggregate cellular phone circa 2001, and compare it to the newly unveiled Google android device; simply put, it is like comparing an Atari 5200 to the Large Haldron Collider. So, we have a dying form of telecommunication, and highly expedited technologies that serve as a better means of achieving mobile communication: if the telephone was a dying man, I would say that know is the opportune time to deprive it of food and water.

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

It depends. As always, the expeditious nature of technological advancement typically makes people wistfully pine for the days of simpler forms of electronic and mechanical apparatuses, but as far as the telephone goes, it will more or less be remembered as more of a means than it is a conceptualized object. For example, you remember going to your moms delicious lasagna, right? Well, do you have fond recollections of her paying the gas bill in order to prepare said dish?

And in that, we spot the rub with the telephone; of course, we all remember an important phone call or two, but what we are remembering is the CONTENT of the conversation and not the device itself. Yeah, you may have some fond memoires of your old idle chatter, but who among us can remember what their cell phone looked like in 2003, let alone have genuine affection for its being?

Social Networking Sites


What is it?

An internet-based form of social communication that allows for massive networking capabilities.

Why is it retro already?

Because if there is one thing the Internet is, it is fickle. Remember when AOL Instant Messenger was the hippest thing online? Or hey, how many of you remember chat rooms? Those were cool, right? And hey, how spiffy is that yahoo mail?

Now, when was the last time that you used an IM service, or went into a chat room, or checked your old Yahoo account? Exactly; what is the bees knees on the Intraweb on Monday is painfully old hat by Tuesday. . . and if you are a modern day user of Myspace or Facebook, you can almost smell the clock ticking its way towards midnight.

Can it avoid extinction?

Well, that is kind of up in the air. Sure, AOL and Yahoo may be staggeringly outmoded at the present, but give them credit, they are still around. But hey, a lot of people had Napster on their hard drives, too, and how many of them still have the software on their PCs today?

That is the cruelty of the Internet, I suppose; not only do things disappear, they disappear FAST. For example, remember AskJeeves, The Bonzi Buddy or Morpheus? In their heyday, those applications were basically household terms; In regards to their stature now, I am certain that my mention of the monikers is the first time you have heard them in YEARS.

That is the EXACT problem that the social networking sites face at this very moment; sure, there may be millions upon millions of users now, but there were once millions upon millions of Napster and AOL users as well. The fact of the matter is, the aspect of social networking has hit critical mass, and way too much exposure has made the concept incredibly passe. I muse: how cutting edge is something when your grandmother is using it?

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

They will be there, but as one of those things that serves as a chronological trapping, and nothing more. You know, like all of those Angel Fire sites that have not been updated since 1998.

The thing is, as the decade goes on, I see the culture becoming MORE insulated. That means instead of trying to expand our friendship bases, we will actually try to insulate ourselves further, which means culture, as a whole, is soon to become a lot more private in its mannerisms. And since everyone and their brother can catch you on You Tube trying to ghost ride the whip with your shirt off, a majority of modern day users will simply grow tired of interconnectivity and abandon the format altogether. That, and those that wish to REMAIN social while simply drift towards more advanced, fresher networking outlets; you know, the whole digital evolution thing that goes Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, (???). . .

(And before you ask, yeah, (???) will eventually become outdated as well. And so, the circle of Intranet Life continues. . .)



What is it?

An electrical device that utilizes component satellite feeds to produce audio/visuals on a cathode ray tube, and for a set (usually monthly) fee, subscribers to a network provider can access a number of different feeds (called channels).

Why is it retro already?

Because TV as we know it is on the cusp of a digital rebirth. . .literally.

Right off the bat, two elements of television watching are all but obsolete at the present; the analogue television signal, and the cathode ray tube. You see, some of you younger readers may have never experienced the joy of simply antenna based television watching. Believe it or not, at one point in civilization, not only did we not have DVR, we did not even have CABLE. . .and then when we finally DID get it, we only got forty piss ant channels!

Well, in the United States, it is now IMPOSSIBLE to view television via the analogue method, as all TV signals were switched over to a digital format early last year. That, and the cathode ray tube screen is no longer in production, that means that even in terms of liquid display, the format has been totally taken over by digitalization. In other words, if you own a TV manufactured prior to 2005. . .yeah, it is pretty much worthless now.

Can it avoid extinction?

Only in terms of secondary functionalism. Basically, owning a television nowadays is like owning a radio device that does everything EXCEPT pick up radio station signals. Ultimately, the people dropping two and three grand on HD TVs today are not buying them to watch re-runs of The Golden Girls in glorious Hi Definition, but rather to play their fancy new video game consoles and watch Blu Ray screenings of Terminator 2 for the nine gajillionth time.

Despite the INSANE price hikes for cable programming (I know some people that are dishing out 300 a month for a premium package), cable subscriptions have actually gone down across the board. . .despite the fact that higher end television sales are up. This leads to the marketing conundrum of the 21st century; people are buying televisions, but they are just not using them to watch television.

And yes, TV ratings are universally down, as well; of course, the entertainment execs are quick to blame the Internet for all of their woes, but for a majority of the 18-49 demographic, if there is SOMETHING they wish to watch on television, they will just DVR it and watch it at their own discretion. If that does not scream the death of television as an affixed concept, I do not know what does.

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

Well, TV may not be going away anytime soon, but they way we watch it sure as hell will be different than our upbringings. Ultimately, I see the format drifting away from scheduled fare; ask any analyst worth his or her salts, and he or she will tell you that the future of television is on view-on-demand technologies (eventually, a sort of You Tube with unavoidable commercials that you have to pay for).

In that, I guess there is to be some nostalgic connection to our old, worthless, barely functional television units. After all, most people spend more time watching TV than they do exercising or reading combined, so I suppose it would be difficult to gaze at the permanently blackened CRT and NOT think about that sticky button on the remote controller or the time the VCR ate a rental copy of Heavyweights back in 1995. That, and there is always some sort of quaint charm in firing up your old video game units on an anachronistic set, you know. . .

Newspapers and Magazines

What is it?

Periodically published print literature dedicated to certain aspects of cultural, social, or industrial sectors.

Why is it retro already?

Because paper and ink is WAYYY more expensive than simply paying for more bandwidth.

No doubt about it, it has to be TOUGH in the print media right now; after all, who wants to throw down nearly eight bucks for some magazine with instantly dated information when you can flip on your computer and get literally seconds-old information in a few mouse clicks for the bargain price of just free dollars and fifty-free cents?

If there is one thing I cannot stress concretely enough about the purported future, it is the inevitable dissolving of tangible, solid-state media. Digital print is so much easier and cheaper than traditional print media that at times, it is like comparing the T-2000 to one of those old Game and Watch devices. Not only is technology making print media obsolete, it is making everything connected to pen and parchment a laughable anachronism. . .as well as the reason that your local newspaper is now only eight pages when five years ago it was 24.

Can it avoid extinction?

Once again, we return to the dinosaur and shrew analogy.

Let's say that print media is represented by the planet during the late Cretaceous era. Obviously, the massive barons of media, your gigantic big city newspapers and gargantuan magazine publishers, are the slow, lumbering thunder lizards of the printed word racket. Now, the independent publisher is obviously the shrew; a small scavenger that barely makes it through the day without being squashed by the gargantuan trampling of the big-time publishers of the day.

Now, you see that enormous blue ball of fire in the sky? Well, that is the emergence of digital media. After it impacts, all of those gigantic publishers will be dead as a doorknob and the sole ink and paper survivors of the market decimation? What do you know, the small furry scavengers that have now inherited the Earth!

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

That depends on which camp you align yourself with. Obviously, the gargantuan newspapers and magazines (the NY Times, Time, etc.) will be around for as long as the media exists, and more than likely, the uber-small media (The Mudville, Louisiana Post and Kouzin Krazys 2-Kolor Komix) will continue to chug along, business as usual. The real victims of course, are the middle of the road publishers; i.e., the guys that have been successful as niche publishers. Simply put, the dual terror of advertising cutbacks and corporate buyouts have killed a number of consistently-successful publications, and there is good reason to believe that trend shall continue throughout the remainder of the decade.

As far as retro value, there actually is a pretty big base for old magazine back issues for stuff like Fangoria, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and Mad. Through the wonders of PDF scanning, a large number of issues are currently archived on a number of sites, and some publishers that faltered in print media have actually found quite a bit of success in digital formatting, like Cracked and Weekly World News. Hey, who knows: the amalgamation of print and digital media might just be a splendid marriage between the retro and the cutting edge after all!


What is it?

A specialized establishment that prepares and cooks a number of dishes (sometimes called orders) for seated patrons at varying service rates.

Why is it retro already?

Because the fast food-asaurus has taken dominance over the sit-and-eat landscape. That, AND the hectic to-and-fro lifestyle of the aggregate American had made the notion of taking two or more hours to sit and imbibe a meal an incredibly unfeasible scheduling option. And THEN there is the whole economy-being-in-the-dumps thing, and the decrease in interest in specialized food options (for example, ethnic food chains), and the continual conglomeration of the eatery racket, which means everything from the base components of restaurant running (like paying transportation fees to have beef delivered to a venue to the number of allotted napkins per single shipping) have all become bureaucratic, unprofitable nightmares for would-be entrepreneurs. So basically, the independent, non-franchised restaurant has the following chance of making money in this day and age: goose-egg %.

Can it avoid extinction?

Well, that sort of depends on what kind of restaurant we are talking about. Obviously, the ultra-lucrative higher class joints in mega-cities like LA and New York will probably find business no matter how much the rest of the country starves, and more than likely, Mama Mays Macaroni Hut in Dothan, Alabama will still make ends meet while we are on the eight iteration of the XBOX. Now, for everybody else, I predict but one thing: DOOM.

Well, maybe it is not that unavoidable, but still, I do not like the odds of an enterprising start-up, non-franchised business in the modern epoch. In fact, there are a number of massive conglomerated chains that are hurting at the present day, so if the big boys of the racket cannot make scratch from the restaurant game, I doubt that the average fledgling restauranteer has an iota of an inkling of a prayer right now. Now, the restaurant, as a solidified concept, will never truly die in the Americanized landscape; that being said, boy, is it species numbers about to get thinned out over the ensuing years.

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

Do you ever notice those hybrid fast food chains while driving around? You know, the ones that are half Taco Bell and half Long John Silvers, or half KFC and half Pizza Hut? Well, that my friends, will soon become the industry standard. In fact, I expect to see the evolution of the restaurant (or at least the fast-food branch of it , anyway), taking a detour into more expedient territory. That means more and more double (and triple, and maybe by Job quadruple-store), more chains in non-restaurant locales (like high schools and convenience stores), and maybe even in places that we have yet muse: who knows, the local Apple Store might just have its own McDonalds in five or six years time.

As far as independent chains go, I think that we will be somewhat oblivious to all of the transitions the smaller outlets go through; obviously, we will remember when there were more stores of the like, and when those stores were stationed in larger buildings, and when we actually SAT DOWN to eat food instead of driving our way through it. Ultimately, that is the nature of the new decade: we are all about speed, and in that, I cannot help but believe that we will one day look back on the painfully slow service of the current and smile at such a quaint antiquity.



What is it?

A crude-petroleum derived liquid that is utilized as the internal combustion fuel for virtually all forms of modern day transportation.

Why is it retro already?

Not to get overtly scientific on you all, but there is this thing called the Hubbert Curve. You see, the Hubbert Curve predicts the timeline for when we, as a global culture, hit the so-called peak oil period, which is at the time in which the demand for oil and the available supply of oil are in equal proportions. Now, this sounds pretty humdrum; the rub here is, after peak oil, that available supply of crude petroleum is expected to be used up at an exponential rate. . . And year after year, scientific research has that number edging closer and closer to the modern day.

For example, in 1999, the expected year for peak oil was 2094. In 2004, it was cut almost IN HALF to 2056. And now, in 2010, some analysts have predicted the peak oil period as being as soon as 2025. That is just fifteen years, people, and before you start bellyaching about that being far away, keep in mind that fifteen years ago, we were lined up to see Batman Forever and humming Hootie and the Blowfish songs. Yeah, that fifteen year period came and went in a hurry, so what will you be saying circa 2024?

Can it avoid extinction?

No, as in, literally, because we are, at the bare minimum, just a decade and a half from sucking up dinosaur dust instead of Texas Tea. Of course, there has been a lot of theoretical advancement in alternative fuel research. . . But then again, probably not in sufficient enough quantities considering the notion that it may just be a few years down the road before civilization goes all Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome on us.

Our nostalgic recollections in 2020?

Remember how everybody was freaking out during Y2K? Well, expect peak oil to become the new hotness, and in ten years time, there will be MUCH discourse on how we handle the ensuing depletion of the veritable lifeblood of modern existence. Of course, it is going to be kind of hard to do so when people are fist fighting over $19.82 a gallon gas, so the next time you are able to fill up your engine without throwing a left cross or robbing a bank, smile a right, smug smile; assuredly, the people of America 2020 will envy the ever-loving crap out of your blissful ignorance of the already-outdated present.

Final Analysis

The story of our future is, ultimately, the story of our past, and the story of our present is basically the story of our past bridging TO the future. Now, that sounds pretty convoluted (admittedly, yeah, it pretty much is), but it is something worth mentally waxing on: after all, if the past and all of our fine nostalgic recollections have so inspired our modern daydreams, does that not mean that our future will one day be but a joyous remembrance of THIS very moment?

Well, I pointed out some trends that I believe will become the norm throughout the ensuing years; we are becoming an all digitized society, and one that is concerned with pragmatism and access over all other concerns. Our time is at a premium, and technology will expedite what we do with the leisurely run-off. So yes, it is business as usual, I suppose.

Ultimately, I fear not the loss of our pop-cultural recollections, but rather, the analog processes, the physical rituals that are quickly being replaced by instant downloads and synthetic experiences. Yes, it is quite cool that I can play every Sega Genesis game ever made on one computer, but what about the process that encompassed and buffered the rest of the experience? You know, waiting all week to go to the video store, running your hands down the neon red wirings of the video shelving, and the sheer exhilaration of whiffing the new game cartridge as soon as you got home? Those superfluous, tangible moments were what made the actual experience all the more enjoyable, and sadly, I see such undesired elements becoming a thing of the past. That, I guess, is the dividend of a culture that wants things faster rather than better.

All in all, I think there are more things to be excited about at this very moment then you may initially think; as I have so exposed today, we are all living in what we will one day remember as a virtual retro wonderland.

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James Swift is a 23 year old author from the metro Atlanta area. His first book How I Survived Three Years at a Two-Year Community College, is currently available from I-Universe Publishing.

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