Skip to content

A World Without Toilet Paper?

Common items — from business cards to gasoline — could become obsolete in the next half-century

In the next half-century many fixtures of everyday life will go the way of the gramophone, labeled "quaint" and relegated to museums — if not the trash. In 50 years, what do futurists predict will make Americans wax nostalgic?

See also: Old-time foods evoke nostalgia — who wants chicken a la king and fried rice?

50 things that will disappear in the next decade



Hawaii, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio have officially dropped handwriting as an educational requirement, with many states currently considering doing the same. One day extra instruction may be required for students who wish to read historical documents in their original drafts.


Already, some tech companies have desktop-free offices. Employees work on laptops, saving to a "cloud" — a virtual server for data storage accessed through the Internet. Soon, all the computing power we need will fit onto our phones.


Google's robotic car has a near-perfect record on thousands of miles of California highways; Nevada will be the first state to issue permits for self-driving autos. The best part? Robots don't drink, text or fall asleep at the wheel.

Glove box road maps

No need for these when map apps offer directions, traffic info, drive-time estimates and an arrow to the nearest Starbucks.

Home phones

As these 20th-century icons gather dust, people will drop their land-line plans and opt for cell-only. Eventually, we'll be talking on minicomputers the size of cellphones, and basic telephones will go the way of the dodo.

Language barriers

Portable translation software will let us shoot the breeze with anyone, with both parties speaking their native languages.


Instead of your having to remember (and regularly update) a combination of letters and numbers, your device will remember you. Facial biometric software will enable you to simply look at your cellphone or tablet — and unlock it.

Physical media

Goodbye CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, thumb drives, video game discs — and their players. Electronic entertainment will be bought and played directly from the Internet.

Next: Postage stamps are not forever. »

Piggy banks

By 2020, only 10 percent of all monetary transactions will be in cash. Governments will likely support this trend; some 25 percent of the world's circulating cash is used for illegal activities. Electronic payment systems will replace our beloved coins and greenbacks.

Shown are classic United States postage stamps

Photo by Ocean/Corbis

All types of stamps will become collectors items in the future.

Snail mail

Neither rain nor snow can keep letter carriers away today, but revenue will dry up for the U.S. Postal Service as we continue to trend toward electronic correspondence. To survive, the agency will have to scale back mail service, sending its fleet of trucks and carriers to join the Pony Express in mail-delivery legend.

Toilet paper

Toilet-seat bidets will wash and dry at the touch of a button, eliminating paper waste, greatly improving sanitation and adding a splash to one's daily routine.

Analog clocks

Our cellphones, synched perfectly to satellites, never forget to spring forward. The traditional dial clock and its mini-me, the wristwatch, will, alas, become retro novelties.

Business cards

Biz-card confetti still decorates professional conferences, but when today's batches run out, many folks won't reorder. Electronic "cards" will be sent phone-to-phone, at least for the next few years.

Gasoline pumps

When your car drives itself to a service station, it will be to plug in for a battery recharge or to fill up with hydrogen. Can't say we'll miss the pumps — or the fumes, the splashing, the pollution, the price ...

You may also like: Boomer generation shapes future of technology.