If you compare the inside of a modern home to one from about 25 years ago, you’re going to notice stark differences — not just the phone book on the kitchen counter. Rapid tech advancements over the past two decades have had an impact on everything from the way we communicate to the conveniences of home life.
While you expect some household staples to change from generation to generation, things that were part of an average home for decades are now unnecessary. That’s because just about any common household gadget can be replaced with a smarter device.
The digital world doesn’t come with a user manual. But I’ve got pro tips to help you live a better life with all these new everyday devices. Tap or click to learn how to make a call on the sly, the trick to better battery life and the secret to better Wi-Fi.
Just like outdated tech that has disappeared from homes over the years, tech myths persist — sometimes way too long. Think Macs are immune to viruses? Still rebooting your PC every single day? Tap or click here for 10 digital myths you need to stop believing.
Some changes to the modern home are small, while other new gadgets might make you wonder how you ever lived without them. Here are some of the surprising staples that have all but disappeared from homes in the 21st century.
1. Landlines? What’re those?
What do rotary-dial and cordless phones have in common? You won’t find either in most houses these days. Unless you live in a rural area, wireless and cellular technology, like 3G, 4G LTE and the latest 5G network, have eliminated the need for landline phones.
And since you don’t need a home phone any longer, you don’t need those landline jacks around your house, either. Unless you depend on a dial-up modem that requires an RJ11 connection, remove the jack, spackle the hole in the wall and call it a day.
Robocalls are never-ending, whether you’re on a landline or cell phone. Tap or click to see free solutions to stop the spam from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.
2. Let there be light
It wasn’t long ago when the Clapper, which (as the name suggests) allowed you to turn lights on and off by clapping your hands, was seemingly cutting-edge technology. It also wasn’t widely adopted.
Now when you want to avoid walking all the way over to the light switch, you’ve got options from smart bulbs to smart speakers with voice assistants like Alexa. With smart tech controlling your lamps, ceiling fans and outside fixtures, this menial task is no longer necessary. Just use your voice or an app on your phone.
The convenience can even be taken a step further. You can also set up routines to make turning on lights in a certain area or in your whole house way easier.
But beware; like anything smart, smart bulbs can be hacked. Tap or click to find out how to secure your smart home tech.
Gone is grandma’s big, packed pantry. Today, all you need is your smartphone. With a variety of ways to order a feast, from a nearby restaurant or the grocery store, you can have food delivered in less time than it would take to dig through that vintage food storage room for ingredients. Even robots are making their way into food delivery — tap or click here to see how.
Whether you order through a restaurant’s site or a food delivery service app such as Grubhub, DoorDash or Postmates, mealtime has never been easier. The same goes for grocery delivery from retailers like Amazon and Walmart, where you can often get whatever you want in as little as one hour.
What to do with that extra space? Think an extra closet or wine room.
4. What a mess
Say goodbye to jotting down items you need the next time you go shopping. Take the grocery list off your fridge and ask Alexa to handle it for you.
You can create a list through the Alexa app, a third-party app or with an Alexa device using the voice command, “Alexa create a list.” Tell her what to add to the list to reduce the odds you’ll forget your items, and you can view the list on your smartphone.
You also have the option to skip the store experience altogether with the Alexa Voice Shopping service, which allows Alexa to purchase items from Amazon. Want to get even more out of your Echo? Tap or click for 9 Alexa skills you need to try.
5. Bye-bye family dinners
Speaking of the kitchen, did you once have a comfy alcove from which you would ring family and friends? Now you’re not limited to a sitting area in the kitchen for your phone calls.
This move to wireless devices allows you to step out of the kitchen and talk whenever and wherever you want. Consider turning that alcove into your new favorite spot to read a book on your Kindle.
The one big downside of our reliance on cell phones? Hackers are always finding new ways to steal our info. Tap or click for 5 things you must do to protect your phone from criminals.
6. Where’d it go?
Fighting over who gets the remote is so yesterday. What’s worse is always managing to lose it somewhere in the couch cushions or under the recliner.
With today’s technology, everyone has a personal remote: their smartphone. With the right app for your TV, you can control everything from the volume to recording your favorite shows. Tap or click for the best apps to turn your phone into a remote control.
7. It’s all digital now
Remember all those big red X’s that indicated important dates on your paper calendar? Good times. Now they’ve been replaced with apps like Google Calendar. In addition to setting events like meetings and birthdays, you can add other notes and reminders, like personal goals and to-do lists.
The best part is your calendar is always with you. No more having to walk over to the fridge to see you missed Johnny’s game again. Tap or click here to learn 12 essential Google Calendar tricks, including easier ways to create events and simple settings to make your calendar even more useful.
8. Can you hear me now?
If you were fortunate enough to have a large house back in the day, you most likely had an intercom system. This upgraded dinner bell, although useful, wasn’t much better than people yelling at whoever was up or downstairs.
Want the kids to rise from their video games in the basement? Message them via group text. SMS has made connecting easy, whether it be from a world away or simply down a flight of stairs. Better yet, turn your smart speakers into your new home intercom system.
One downside of texting? Text messages are much easier to screen than calls were back in the day. Tap or click here to learn how to tell if someone read your text.
9. Only the coolest people had these
Now think about your “advanced” stereo system from years ago, complete with a turntable, cassette tape deck, thunderous subwoofer and those slick wooden cases. While this setup was at one time pretty cool, these days, they’re relegated to thrift store shelves.
Whatever your jam is now, all you have to do is grab your mobile device and download your favorite playlists. Play music from Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and other services, all from your wirelessly-connected smart speakers or AV receiver.
Or listen to podcasts like my national radio show. Tap or click here to check it out.
Though cable boxes have reduced in size over the years, the need to fuss with them remained. There were a host of challenges like ensuring your remote was pointed at the box at the right angle, or pressing the reset button when service was on the fritz.
But with smart TVs and streaming devices, cable boxes are a thing of the past. Now you can find all of your favorite shows and movies through options like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, along with newcomers Disney+ and Apple TV+.
You can mix and match content however you desire and can use a number of apps that are compatible with your mobile device. If your TV isn’t so smart, It’s time to upgrade to a streaming box or stick. Tap or click for a comparison of all the popular options from Roku, Apple, Amazon and Google.
No one is going to admit they miss any of these old-fashioned methods and gizmos, and for good reason! Apps and new tech alleviate many of the headaches of accidentally throwing out lists, seeing static on the screen and losing remote controls.
Enjoy the changes coming to tech because today’s gadgets and gizmos are only going to get better.
BONUS TIP FOR EXTRA KNOW-HOW: Tech how-to: Change desktop icon size on your Windows computer
One of the best things about Windows is the endless amount of customization options. While there are some who are satisfied with sticking to the default settings, there are others who enjoy changing the user interface so much that Windows looks completely different once they’re through with it.
Changing the icon size in Windows 10 is one way you can make your Windows interface look better or just easier to work with. The “P” in PC stands for “personal,” meaning it should be suited to your taste and preference.
While increasing or decreasing icon sizes may sound easy, not everyone knows all the steps to do so correctly. Tap or click for a step-by-step guide to customize your PC.