Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ten Technologies that Should Be Extinct (But Aren't)

Dan Tynan from PC World has put together a list of ten technologies he feels should be extinct in the modern world but are still chugging along.  A brief note should be made here that Mr. Tynan commonly writes technology humor so, I guess an argument could be made that he meant this list to be another piece of geek humor.  On some things, I agree with Mr. Tynan.  However, there are some things on his list that shouldn't have even been considered, even for sake of humor.

1.  The Telegraph.  As Mr. Tynan points out, the world leader in telegrams, Western Union, stopped providing that service in 2006.  Another company stepped up and took Western Union's place and now offers that service over the web for $25 a message plus 88 cents a word. 
If you're already on the web STOP
wouldn't it be a lot easier and cheaper STOP
to send an e-mail to the individual STOP
you wish to contact? STOP

2.  Typewriters.  This is the first technology where I disagree with Mr. Tynan.  Sure, we've all got computers and we love them.  I love mine and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China.  I also have a typewriter.  Two, actually.  Two old Smith Corona's.  One is electric and the other manual.  While they don't offer the ease of use like a computer (especially where making corrections and moving around blocks of text are concerned) they do have their advantages.  If your power goes out you can still use that manual typewriter.  The computer is down for the count unless it is hooked up to a generator or your laptop battery is fully charged.  Mr. Tynan seems astonished at the fact that Cormac McCarthy's 1950's era Olivetti Lettera 32 portable typewriter sold for $254,500 at auction in 2009.  I seriously doubt if the American collector who purchased that typewriter bought it to type out tomorrows shopping list for the farmer's market.  They paid for the history behind the typewriter, not for the typewriter as a tool.

3.  Fax Machines.  This is another instance where the Internet can come in handy.  There are Internet faxing services that can be used in place of a physical fax machine.  But, there are still a lot of business that prefer to use the actual fax machines for just about everything these days.  I was asked to fax a document just a couple of weeks ago.  I couldn't as I don't have a fax machine and the person I was speaking to actually was angry at that.  I guess she felt I was lagging behind the times or something.  Go figure.

4.  Landline Telephones.  Here is where I seriously disagree with Mr. Tynan.  According to Tynan, "nothing says "I've fallen and I can't get up" quite like a landline".  He seems shocked that well over 100 million American households are still using landlines.  Obviously, Mr. Tynan does not live in a rural area.  Obviously, Mr. Tynan has never had to deal with a power outage of longer than 10 minutes.  Where I live it is impossible to get cell phone service.  The best cell phone money can buy will not pick up service where I live.  Is that my fault for living in a rural area?  No.  Cellular companies don't want to spend the money to put cell towers in areas where they don't feel they have enough customers to warrant the cost of the tower.  And what about those power outages?  In 2009, the area where I live went through a major ice storm.  Power was out for at least a week in the luckier areas of the region to well over a month and a half in the unluckiest.  Even the landline phones were out of service for a brief time.  The cell service was out for several days (much longer than landline service was down).  Without the landlines, there would have been a lot of people who needed emergency assistance unable to access it.  What further strengthens my resolve to keep my landline:  I have a family member who works for one of the largest cellular providers in the business that has told me to never give up my landline under any circumstances.  So, until the quality and availability of cellular service drastically improves, I guess I'm just going to be one of those who has fallen and can't get up because my landline isn't going anywhere.  Can you hear me now, Mr. Tynan?

5.  Turntables.  Sigh.  If turntables go the way of the Dodo there will be many a DJ that just won't know what to do!  Maybe I'm an old fogey but I'm one of those that prefer to listen to some music on the old crackly, easily scratched and broken vinyl records.  The music just sounds better.  Sure, CD's have great sound quality (well, some don't) but any true audiophile enjoys the sound of a vinyl record. 

6.  Cash Registers.  So, cash registers need to go?  What will happen to all that paper money we're using now?  The change?  Cash, along with cash registers, according to Tynan are "analog dinosaurs and it's time for them to check out.  I guess we will all need to start using credit cards or debit cards.  If Mr. Tynan agrees to pay off my credit card bill every month then I'll agree to boycott cash registers and cash.  How does that sound, Dan?

7.  Instant Cameras.  Hey, I love my Polaroid as much as I love my digital camera!  I use my Polaroid for a lot of things that I don't want to use my digital camera for (get your mind out of the gutter!!).  Sure, it's expensive to burn a cartridge of instant exposure film and, yes, if I want those photos on my computer I need to take the time to scan them in and then play around with them a bit once they're on the hard drive.  I even still use a 35mm film camera.  But, you can't really go along with my opinions here, can you?  After all, I've still got a landline and still use a typewriter!  The HORROR!!!

8.  Disc Drives.  Tynan puts all disc drives here.  CD, DVD and even Blu-Ray.  He feels that getting software from digital downloads and entertainment streamed to whatever device happens to be convenient is the way to go.  Really?  A digital download and streaming media is the answer?  Have all the digital download advocates never had to deal with the DRM that is on some of these downloads that punishes even the legal user of the download?  Have they ever lost a digital download because of a hard drive failure or other cause and then tried to go back and get a second copy and find out they couldn't?  Sure, that legal user punishing DRM is on some physical CD's and DVD's too and physical media can be damaged, lost or broken but I'm one of the people who prefers to actually have a physical copy of my latest favorite video game instead of some massive digital download.  And what about that streaming media?  Not everyone has a T connection.  Even with DSL or cable streaming media isn't always smooth and reliable.  When I no longer have the option to buy my CD's and DVD's then I stop gaming, watching movies and listening to music.

9.  Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT).  I've still got an old CRT television that I had in my senior year of high school.  I'm not going to tell you just what year that was but I will say it was a long time ago.  A long time ago.  That television is still going strong and still has excellent color like it did the day it was brought home from the store.  I have a friend who has already gone through two of these new-fangled plasma televisions and is working on her third.  I'll take quality over what's new any day.  Yeah, I might be living in the stone age here but at least I'm going to be able to watch Sam and Dean kick some supernatural butt while my friend misses her favorite shows because she is still sitting there wondering why her television isn't working.

10.  CB Radios.  OK, yes, this isn't something that everyone uses today.  CB radios have their biggest following among over the road truck drivers.  In all honesty, I'd rather have a trucker listening to the chatter on his CB radio than having one hand on the wheel and the other holding onto a cell phone.  Do you really want an 18-wheeler coming at you at 70mph and the driver holding the wheel with one hand??  No, I don't either.  When I was younger, my family used to have CB's in the car.  I remember talking to truckers on them when I was a little girl and we were on family vacations.  It was fun and a great way to pass the time for us just like it is for the truckers driving across the country.  It's a means of information and safety for the truckers, as well.

Breaker, Breaker (request to use the channel), how else to they expect the Big Riggers (truck drivers) to talk about the Bear Traps (stationary police car with a radar), the bear in the air (helicopter or other police aircraft), the brown paper bags (unmarked police car) and the chew and chokes (restaurants)?  They need to let the others know the backdoor is closed (the rear of the convoy is covered for police) or that Antler Alley (a deer crossing) is coming up.  If Big Daddy (the FCC) still lets them copy the mail (listen to traffic on a selected channel) while driving through Derby City (Louisville, KY) then who is some reporter to say they need to cut the coax (turn off the radio)?  I guess the Rig (CB) is as bad as the Double L (telephone), though.  As long as someone is dressed for the ball (got their 'ears (radio) on' listening to road conditions), they'll be catching each other on the flip-flop (talking to each other on their return trips).  Copy (receiving the message)?

This is Wiggs, and I'm clear, good buddy.

To read the full article and Dan's comments about each technology, check out the PC World article.


  1. Cash resisters, turntables, and landlines...That's nuts! I'm surprised he didn't put air travel on the list...

  2. lol I know. I think I was probably most surprised by the suggestion that landlines and cash registers should be extinct. To say landlines need to go is just insanity. That's just a safety hazard pure and simple, in my opinion. And the cash registers? Seems like he's wanting to push everyone towards the credit/debit card thing whether they want to go or not.

    Even if this article was meant in humor, I didn't find either of those suggestions very amusing.