Sunday, January 6, 2019

8 Aspects of the 20th Century That Were Arguably Better Than What We Have Today

It's a given that many people who grew up in the 20th century will take the opportunity to make comparisons between those years and the first couple decades of the 21st. Nostalgia being what it is, it shouldn't surprise anyone many of those same people have a soft spot for the era during which they were children and teenagers.

That said, there are a few things most can agree have deteriorated in the ensuing interval. There are a lot of things we got right in the 20th century that doesn't quite seem to be living up to the vision here in the future. As with most things, various people may or may not agree, but it is hard to imagine a plurality of opinions coming down on the side that says these particular things have improved since the turn of the century.

Phone Call Sound Quality

Twisted copper is a relic at this point, and pretty much every telecommunications company will agree there are far better alternatives. While that may be true, the fact is the sound quality and more importantly, the reliability of that quality available in the latter half of the 20th century is far and away superior to anything but fiber-optic connections today. The fact there were multi-million-dollar nationwide mobile phone ad campaigns based on one caller asking another if they could hear should be proof enough we're going backward.

Writing in Popular Culture

It can be safely asserted there were some giants of literature who pushed the art form forward in the 20th century. The advent of science fiction and the invention of the storied franchise helped propel hundreds of careers to lofty heights, and the media adaptation frenzy that followed helped Hollywood to cash in. Since then, the overall quality of writing in television and film has cratered and has unfortunately taken video games with it. This is truly odd, considering the thousands of successful authors that have sprung up in the last ten years because of the self-publishing revolution.

Restaurant Value

One need only takes a moment to consider the sad, meager portions peddled by restaurants at the exorbitant prices guests now pay to agree nobody is getting a fair deal dining out. The fact there is likely a grocery store right across the street selling a box of cereal for six dollars should be reason enough to weep for what once was. When you live in a time and place where three items at the store can wipe out a $20 bill, and your next trip to a restaurant for a bacon and eggs breakfast might leave you enough of that same $20 bill to afford a cup of coffee, it should be clear something is terribly wrong.

Children's Entertainment

The 20th century gave us Fred Rogers, Looney Tunes, Nancy Drew, Scooby Doo and Harry Potter. Every person who grew up in the latter half of the last century remembers Saturday morning cartoons and probably also remembers weekday afternoon cartoons. Can you name one animated character created in the last five years with more than 100 fans? This is partially the result of a lack of writing talent in popular culture and partially a result of a lack of vision. Audiences fragmented, and nobody made any effort to put them back together. The nostalgia value of products like those on this page should be inspiring to the children of a few decades ago.


There were journalists twenty and thirty years ago. There are none today. At least there are no journalists that any classically trained professor of journalism would recognize. The idea of reporting on a story is completely lost in our culture two decades into the 21st century. There simply are no professionals at major media outlets who know how to perform the task.

Playing Outdoors

One of the key means by which children used to socialize was through ad hoc games and quasi-organized play outside. Most of the kids who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s will remember well the concept of going home only when it was too dark to continue the game. Some may have even had parents who approved of games proceeding uninterrupted from dusk right through the activation of the streetlights. Kids who sat indoors all day were either sick or grounded. There simply was no such thing as missing out on neighborhood activities.

Attention Span

In the last century, people had the ability to focus on a task for more than a few seconds or a few minutes. There were far fewer distractions and far more opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Both conditions created a mindset where people could devote a full measure of their attention to whatever happened to be at hand. The results speak for themselves. One need only look to what was invented between World War II and the end of the Vietnam War to see what happens when smart people are given the opportunity to be smart.


It should be obvious to even the most casual music fan that the concept of a musical artist has permanently departed from our culture. The 20th century was a mind-boggling series of achievements in music, featuring everything from Sousa to the big band era in the 40s through Elvis and on into the rock anthems of the 80s. There are easily 200 world-class music acts from the 20th-century people could pick their ten favorites from. Since the turn of the century, there have been perhaps a dozen, few of whom will likely be remembered even ten years hence.

It might seem by the scope and breadth of such a list that all is not well in our society, and to a certain extent, that is true. What is also true in our society and culture have such colorful histories that it won't be long before a large majority of people recognize the fact what we once had has been hollowed out in favor of an inferior alternative. We can do better, especially when we look at what happened between the 19th and 20th centuries.
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