The Fading Glory of the Television and Telephone
by Paul Taylor and Wendy Wang, Pew Research Center August 19, 2010
One day you're the brightest star in the galaxy. Then something new comes along -- and suddenly you're a relic. It's a turn of fate that awaits sports heroes, movie stars, political leaders. And, yes, even household appliances.
After occupying center stage in the American household for much of the 20th century, two of the grand old luminaries of consumer technology -- the television set and the landline telephone -- are suffering from a sharp decline in public perception that they are necessities of life.
Just 42% of Americans say they consider the television set to be a necessity, according to a new nationwide survey from the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project. Last year, this figure was 52%. In 2006, it was 64%.
The drop-off has been less severe for the landline telephone: Some62% of Americans say it's a necessity of life, down from 68% last year.
But there's a related trend that's more perilous for the landline: Fully 47% of the public say that its younger, smarter and more nimble cousin -- the cell phone -- is a necessity of life.
Even more worrisome for both 20th-century household fixtures are the oh-so-very-21st-century attitudes of today's young adults. Fewer than half (46%) of 18- to 29-year-old survey respondents consider the landline phone a necessity of life. Fewer than three-in-ten (29%) say the same about the television set.