If you ask a fifth grader what a card catalog is, there’s a good chance your question will be met with a blank stare. And while this might make you feel positively ancient, there are definitely some academic traditions and technologies from your parents’ and grandparents’ generations that you’re too young to know about, too. For example, did you ever solve a multiplication problem with a slide rule, or carry your books with a book strap?
Here are eight things that you may or may not remember from your time in school, but today’s students probably won’t.
1. Card Catalogs
Before digital catalogs could deliver a list of books perfectly matched to even the vaguest search term, you had to manually hunt for relevant information in the drawers of a massive cabinet. However unwieldy and inefficient card catalogs may seem compared to current technology, there was a certain tactile satisfaction in thumbing through card after card to find a particular author, title, or subject. The Online Computer Library Center officially declared the death of the card catalog in 2015 after it sent its last shipment of cards to Concordia College’s library in Bronxville, New York. But plenty of old catalogs live on as storing units for sewing supplies, wine bottles, and more.
2. Food Pyramids
The 1992 food pyramid that many Millennials likely remember from their early school days broke food groups into ambiguous serving sizes and advised you to eat the most servings of bread, rice, cereal, or pasta each day. It was replaced in 2005 with the more modern MyPyramid diagram, which identified serving sizes in cups or ounces and corresponded with a website you could visit for more information. In 2011, the USDA effectively killed the food pyramid altogether with the launch of MyPlate, a new plate-shaped diagram that recommends you eat mostly vegetables and grains. This, of course, has an extensive website of its own.
3. Rope Climbs
Though fitness tests in gym class have been stressing students out at least since the early 1960s, some of the tests themselves have changed. According to the parameters set by the Presidential Youth Fitness Program—which schools can use as a guide for evaluating grade school P.E. students—push-ups, pull-ups, and curl-ups have withstood the test of time, but there’s no mention of a rope climb. The new dreaded portion of the exam is the PACER, a series of sprints during which you have progressively less time to complete each one.
4. Slide Rules
The slide rule, which dates back to the 1600s, did the job of a calculator before modern calculators existed in the classroom. It looks like a ruler crammed with extra lines and numbers, but the middle portion slides back and forth to give you the answers to multiplication and division problems, exponents, square roots, and more. It fell out of fashion with Hewlett-Packard’s introduction of the handheld electronic calculator in 1972, though some particularly fastidious math teachers still use them to keep their students from succumbing to the somewhat mindless nature of automatic calculators.
5., 6., 7., and 8. Chalkboards, Chalk, Chalk Erasers, and Chalk Holders
Since just about every chalkboard has been replaced by either its cooler younger sibling, the dry-erase board, or its genius baby cousin, the smart board, it stands to reason that all chalkboard accessories have also gone out the window—no more chalk, chalk holders, or chalkboard erasers. The gradual disappearance of chalkboards also means that children will no longer understand the actual noise made by fingernails on a chalkboard. Much like we use the phrase chalk it up to mean “give credit” without having experienced it in its original context—where store owners would write a customer’s outstanding charges on a chalkboard—future generations might use “fingernails on a chalkboard” as an almost meaningless synonym for “really bad sound.”
9. Book Straps
Before students carted heavy textbooks around in backpacks, tucked them into the crooks of their arms, or simply decided not to bring them to class, there was the book strap: a glorified leather belt which fastened around a pile of books and often included a handle. It didn’t protect your books from bad weather and it didn’t contain compartments for any other school supplies, but it might help keep your pants up if you forgot your actual belt.
Dodgeball may not have completely disappeared from schools yet, but it’s only a matter of time before hearing the name never again evokes that strange mixture of excitement and fear. The soft-balled combat competition, also known as bombardment, killer ball, and murder ball, so obviously pits athletes against their less coordinated classmates and promotes the idea of a human target that it’s ceased to be the cornerstone of gym class. Many schools have outright banned it, while others have quietly replaced it with less polarizing activities. And, if Justin Long’s concussion on the set of 2004’s cult classic DodgeBall is any indication, those foam balls can cause some damage.
11. Dunce caps
The earliest known written mention of a dunce cap was in Charles Dickens’s 1840 novel, The Old Curiosity Shop, in which it’s made of old newspapers and sits on its own shelf in the classroom. The conical symbol of idiocy gained popularity during the Victorian era throughout both the U.S. and Europe, and continued to humiliate schoolchildren well into the 1950s. As if standing alone in the corner wearing flashy headgear didn’t draw enough attention to you, sometimes the dunce cap even featured bells.