Transmissions from the alternate universe

Traditional products fight to stay relevant in the gadget age

Posted by oldancestor on April 25, 2011

The future is here. Woops, missed it. Here comes another one... Damn!

By Eric J Baker

NEW YORK – With Smartphones and iPads and other multi-purpose gadgets all the rage in electronics these days, shoppers are showing little love for the everyday, non-digital products that were once symbols of high status. No longer do children care about being the first on their block to own the latest tube of White Out. None of us carry around our corded house phones anymore, the 30-foot-long wire dragging behind us while we waste precious arm space on a big, plastic door stop.

It’s just not cool anymore.

So what are manufacturers of traditional products to do? Give up and let devices that work better, do more things, and cost the same price or less take over? No! They fight back.

In an effort to compete with popular eBook readers like Amazon’s Kindle, bricks and mortar retailer Barnes and Noble is now requiring its hard-copy, paper-bound books to take batteries as well.

“It’s much more energy efficient than the Kindle device,” says Tony And, one/third owner of the company. “You just stick a couple of AA batteries in the cut-out area, and they never wear out. If you don’t have AA, stick in whatever battery fits. It’s that versatile.”

Some shoppers have complained about the chunk taken out of each book to make room for the batteries.

And says no one reads the top right quadrant of a page anyway, according to focus-group testing. “That’s where writers put periods and commas and the boring parts of sentences,” he explains.

Another print medium, the newspaper, has suffered badly from a sales standpoint since the rise of the Internet, a popular online information-sharing service.

“Newspapers are too big when spread out,”says Internet entrepreneur Betty Google, mastermind behind the somewhat popular Web-based search engine, Yahoo. “It’s, like, 35 inches across. Would you buy a 35-inch monitor?”

In response to similar consumer complaints, the New York Daily News has recently been reconfigured to resemble a 20-inch computer monitor, and its articles now only show every tenth word. New ads for the paper boast that it’s “10 times faster than before!” in an effort to lure back former readers who have switched to broadband information sources.

Sadly, some products seem doomed to be wiped out by their digital counterparts. Old-fashioned, gas-powered search engines have seen sales drop precipitously, which is believed to be worse than a lot.

“Every once in a while an old guy who refuses to use the Internet wants one,” laments heavy-equipment seller Pinky Middleton of Little Rock, Arkansas. “But, realistically, these things are just big, greasy engines that pollute the air, make noise, and chug along doing nothing. Hell, I sell the damn things, but I’ve got an Internet at home.”

Recent economic doldrums have even hurt sales of items that normally can’t be replaced by phone apps, like houses and clothing.

One business segment particularly hard hit has been the clothes iron industry, with sales of the devices plunging despite modern science’s inability to genetically engineer unwrinkling polyester.

“It’s the shortage of iron that’s the problem,” says Sir Edmund Bollocks, an Oxford University professor and expert on heat-producing, flat-sided, metal appliances that aren’t used for cooking.

Indeed, since the United Nations banned the use of iron in products, clothes iron manufacturers have experimented with numerous materials to build a new kind of iron, with little success. The early plastic versions melted and the paper ones frequently caught fire, resulting in ruined clothes and hospitalized customers. More recent models made of leftover space shuttle tiles don’t get hot enough.

“Odd,” says Bollocks. “The device is called an ‘iron,’ yet we make them out of every substance but iron. It’s so… I’m sure there’s a word for it, but I just can’t think of it right now.”


27 Responses to “Traditional products fight to stay relevant in the gadget age”

  1. Some points to make on this thoughtful and insightful, informative post: #1 – the new York Daily News, using only one word out of every ten in the print medium will only be improving the status and reliability if thata paper. So, technology – that’s 1 point for you!

    #2 – Instead of getting rid of old fashioned search engines, let’s just make searches illegal, and there would be no need for any of them. Technilogical Troglodytes – that’s 1 point for you!

    #3 – If the future really is for dummies, as you so blatantly imply, then why did they write a book aboiut them? They can’t read it anyway, and no one would want to read it to them. That’s 1 point for publishers able to sell books to dummies.

    #4 – Anybody who is anybody knows that Irons are for dummies. You’d have to be low on the intelligence scale to even THINK about using an iron on anything btu a gold course. Score 1 point for Tiger Woods, who really and truly knows how to iron.

    • Somebody sold me “typing for dummies.” It must have worked. I’m typing typos like a true professional dummy.

      • Are all these points redeemable? I don’t mean on plastic spider rings or stickers, like at Chucky Cheese. The good stuff, like travel alarms and dishtowels. I’m a technotrog myself, so something that doesn’t plug in might be better.

        • They are indeed redeemable – for Purple Stamps (! We will be happy to send you your first sheet of these valuable stamps – including, as a special introductory offer to you,* 10,000 bonus stamps. When you have collected a minimum of 100 books of stamps (1,000,000 stamps in each book), you can redeem them for a multitude (at least 3) of wonderful, useful items – like a plastic bin to store your stamp books in!

          Let me know where you want me to send you your first stamps, and your catalogue of useful items you can save up for.

          As a Technotrog, you should have no problem filling up a book in short order. It would be a good idea to create an account on our web site. After doing so, you are allowed to put certain desired items on a “wish list,” thereby reserving your item of choice. You are allowed to keep items on your wish list for up to 30 days before they are returned to the stockpile for other valued collectors. If the item is still available, and you have been unable to “purchase” it, you are allowed to repost it in your wish list after 30 days.

          Happy shopping at, The place to go for folks we can snow.”

          *For every new shopper you recommend to our site who registers with us, we will reward you with 10 stamps. That means that for every 10 new customers that sign up because of your recommendation, you will receive 100 stamps!

          For your information, items in our catalogue can be purchased outright. Prices per item – with and/or without stamps – are noted in our beautiful 4-color catalogue. We are pleased to announce to you that because of your excellent credit rating, you are allowed to charge up to $50.00 worth of items, (including P&H) at the attractive rate of 125% interest, (compounded daily). We have a billing cycle of 3 days. There will be an additional $50.00 late fee attached to accounts not received by the due date. $100 fee will be charged to each member of your family and circle of friends for returned checks. (We know who you are, we know who you know, and we know where you live!)

          Customers in fiscal arrears for longer than 3 days are subject to arrest.

          (Offer void in all states except unconsciousness.)

  2. nrhatch said

    Stellar post, Eric.
    Tony And . . . inspired touch!


  3. Woman said

    Oh my sweet jeebuses riding on purple hippos. THIS WAS PRICELESS!!!!!!!!!!!! I should really put a note on my computer… do not read this blog while eating or drinking.

  4. Eric your “Grrravatar” intimidates me. What is up with your obsessional lust for achieving a Satan like state of ultimate evil? Is it a defense mechanism? To compensate for all of the shame—low self esteem caused by the fact that you are a resident of the State of New Jersey? The “Stink State?”

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