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You Can Still Make It a Blockbuster Night

August 24, 2017

These products were once household names, until they slowly faded from public consciousness…except that they still exist.
Encyclopedia
Encyclopedias
For a kid writing a school report, their research options were limited: encyclopedias were the best bet. These attractively bound, multiple-volume sets of world knowledge were a fixture of libraries, schools, and the homes of families who were both wealthy and curious. (That’s because encyclopedias were expensive.) Somehow, the internet, with its vast expanses of human knowledge—and constantly updated user-created searchable databases and online encyclopedias that are free to use—hasn’t quite killed off the print encyclopedia. World Book just released its 100th anniversary edition. Cost of the 22-book set: $1,199.95.
Door-to-door vacuum sales
There are lots of places where you can buy a vacuum cleaner these days: department stores, big-box chains like Walmart or Target, housewares stores, hardware stores, and the internet. Back in the middle of the 20th century, there weren’t as many options, and millions got their handy-dandy carpet cleaner from a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. The leading purveyor of door-to-door vacuum sales was the Kirby company. Amazingly, Kirby still exists…and they still sell vacuums by sending out salesmen to private homes. They have a website, but you can’t buy a vacuum there—you can only get one from a Kirby salesman coming to your house.
Tab
Sugar-free, name-brand sodas are as common, and sell almost as well, as their full-sugar counterparts. For example: Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, and Sprite Zero. The first major and successful diet soda on the market was Tab, introduced by Coca-Cola in 1963. As it was more or less the only option for the calorie-conscious or diabetic throughout the ’60s and ’70s, it dominated the diet drink market. Two factors killed Tab’s sales: In the 1970s, studies linked saccharin, the sugar substitute used in the drink, to an increased risk of bladder cancer. Then, in 1982, Coca-Cola debuted Diet Coke, which tasted more like regular Coke than Tab did, and which was sweetened not with saccharin, but aspartame. That should’ve spelled the end for Tab, but it didn’t—it’s still in production today. About a million cases still annually to longtime Tab loyalists.
Blockbuster Video
The fall of Blockbuster is one of the most spectacular collapses in business history. After dominating the video rental market in the ’80s and ’90s, they all but disappeared in the 2000s after the rise of streaming video services like Netflix, and cheaper physical rental options like Redbox…along with the company’s reluctance to adapt to technology and competition. Dish Network bought what was left of Blockbuster after it filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Ten Blockbuster Videos still exist, owned and operated by franchisees who licensed the name. Those 10 stores are primarily in rural locations where customers can’t get fast-streaming movies, in areas of Alaska, Oregon, and Texas.
 

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