Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Memory Hole

[posted by Callimachus]

This is the time of year when news wire services love to run articles that begin, "This year's college freshmen have never known ______" and you fill in the blank with something well-known to the average newspaper reader that fell off the table before the class of 2010 was born, circa 1988.

It always works. I get bombshelled by it. On this year's list of "today's college freshmen don't remember" are such staples of my youth as the Soviet Union.

One list notes they've never heard the ring of an old mechanical cash register. Now I know that's not true because I see a lot of them walking around in Pink Floyd T-shirts and if you ever listened to "Money" from "Dark Side of the Moon," you've heard a mechanical cash register.

But then I started wondering: Do I remember hearing an old cash register? Or do I remember the sound from the song? It's not like there ever was a moment when I reminded myself, "remember this sound, because it's the last time you're going to hear it." Like my great-aunt's voice in the hospital. The old metal NCR machine faded so slowly, store by store, so that I didn't notice till now it was gone.

Which started me on a train of wondering what else I ought to remember, but have no more recollection of than a Class of 2010 freshman.

Like, what did large amounts of soda come in in the U.S. before 2-liter plastic bottles? I know it had to be something. But I draw a total blank. And when was that?