Remember rotary phones?

There’s an old proverb that says, “Change is the only constant.” Just think for a moment about some of the changes that have occurred in our culture over the years. When was the last time you dropped coins into a pay phone? Speaking of telephones and communication, have you ever witnessed the total befuddlement of an individual, maybe yourself, confronted by the prospect of dialing a rotary phone for the first time? When was the last time you checked the Yellow Pages and they were actually pages, not to mention yellow?

Even certain sounds that we’ve taken for granted over the years are disappearing. In classrooms, the familiar tap of chalk (and occasional horror of fingernails) against a slate chalkboard is being replaced by the squeak of dry-erase boards. Ka-ching is a popular slang term for making money – the sound of a cash register ringing up a sale. Cash registers haven’t made that ka-ching sound for years.

Businesses and careers are no different. Remember the booming video rental stores of the ‘80s and ‘90s? They’re becoming extinct as we speak, going the way of the butcher shop. Milkmen have all but vanished from America. For years, large companies employed thousands of professional typists in typing pools, pecking out letters, memos and reports.

It’s fun to look back at the sights and sounds that have evolved in our culture over the years, often without our really noticing. I would invite you to share your own examples in the comments.

My purpose here, however, is not to lament the passing of the “good old days.” Among other things, change is driven by the progress of technology, more efficient and timely delivery systems, and changing markets. As a company, American Family has been around for 84 years because of our ability to evolve with those changes. It’s no secret that in today’s world, in particular, the pace of change is incredibly fast. American Family is expending a great deal of effort, innovation and creativity to stay ahead of that change curve. It’s an exciting time to be a part of our company. Sure, we may be looking for certain technical skills when we fill positions but just as importantly, we’re looking for people who welcome and thrive on change.

Let’s keep this conversation going. How has your world changed over the years and how well have you adapted to those changes?

***Jeff is the East Region HR staffing manager. He has been with American Family for 26 years, spending 15 years of his career in our Information Services Division before joining Human Resources. He is currently involved in an effort to further enhance the capability for change across our organization. You might run into Jeff and his family at Madison’s Farmers Market, Concerts on the Square, or any of the area cultural and recreational opportunities.


  1. Posted May 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    There are far too many reminders of the passing of time, but I will add one that shocked me.
    A co-worker in another office some years ago, was playing a very well-known album…at least well-known to me. I walked in to compliment him on his taste in music only to have him reply…”Yeah. Good music. Who is this?” And I said…”WHO IS THIS? Are you kidding? This is the Beatles’ Abby Road album!” Whereupon, using my walker, I shuffled back to my barcalounger with simulated leather upholstery!

  2. Lori
    Posted May 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Great post Jeff! Not only do I remember rotary phones, but my house was connected to the neighbors on a party line. That made life interesting! I also remember the milkman bringing fresh milk to the little silver box that sat outside our front door. Remember having to look up facts for school papers in the encyclopedia?? Boy, have times changed — they just keep getting better!

  3. Jeff
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Hi John, I can identify! My son just discovered the Beatles and thinks that they’re the greatest new group on the scene. It’s been fun to rediscover them through him. It’s also been fun to take advantage of the changes and advances in technology giving us such easy access to some of the best music ever produced. We’re building our collection as we speak!

  4. Jeff
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lori, I too experienced party lines and milkmen coming to swap out full bottles for the empties. Encyclopedias is another great example! I remember doing homework at my friend’s house because they had the latest edition. If the information was 5 years old it was considered very current. I’m with you that change is good!

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