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10 20th-Century Staples We Never Thought Would Die


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Paper Road Maps and Other Printed Materials
Paper maps (along with a friendly gas-station attendant) are both going the way of the dinosaur. Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images
Paper maps (along with a friendly gas-station attendant) are both going the way of the dinosaur. Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images

They were frustratingly difficult to fold back up into the same neat packet, but paper road maps were indispensable for decades. These navigation aids were so important, tens of billions were printed during the 20th century and travelers snapped them up whenever they were available: at waysides, in gas stations or even at state fairs, where some state transportation departments gave them away gratis.

But with the advent of GPS technology, paper map usage has declined. In 2013, the Missouri Department of Transportation printed just 2.7 million state highway maps, down from its previous print run of 5 million. And when Washington State stopped printing road maps in 2008, hardly anyone complained [source: Brick].

It's not just paper maps that are disappearing. Printed dictionaries are on the way out, too, some say. In 2012, Macmillan Education stopped printing its dictionaries, focusing efforts on the book's online counterpart. Makes sense, as many, if not most, students do their homework online. In addition, online dictionaries can contain as much information as necessary, and can be updated immediately as new words are added to the English language. But Merriam-Webster executives vow printed dictionaries will survive. Yes, their printed products make up a much smaller portion of their business. And they do publish an online dictionary and smartphone app. But they don't envision their printed version ever going away. At least not now [sources: Cancino, Miller].


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