Got this article about “obsolete technologies” from Thomas Myer this morning on Twitter, and after reading, had that “I don’t know where to begin with how that’s wrong” response. Too much to tweet, even, and at his prompting 🙂 am writing up a little point-by-point response.
- Fax machine – I’ll admit, these should DIE. NOW.
- Cigarette lighter car electrical plugs – these suck too, but would have to be phased out gently because there’s a whole ecosystem of stuff that assumes the presence of this type of “plug,” plus all the existing cars out there. (Besides, I bet there’s plenty of people — unfortunately — who still smoke in their cars.)
- WWW – yeah, ok, I get that too. (I ran into this one at Pierce. Still irritates me.)
- Business cards – nope, not at all obsolete, even if they are a far less than ideal solution. This is the first of several of these items that assumes everyone has a high level of technology in their lives, higher than most folks do, I think. He also elides over the experience of going to a big event where you don’t know who you’re going to meet…or who you’re going to care about contacting later. Putting a contact into my phone is a big deal, partially because it’s a PITA, but also because it assumes that I’ll definitely need it. Exchanging business cards has a certain face-saving quality, plus it’s easier to do while maintaining eye contact and staying engaged in conversation.
- Movie rental stores – alas, he’s probably right, although I miss the video store that used to be up the street from us. There’s a gap between what’s available on disc and what’s available online, too, so that in between mailings the choices aren’t always exactly stellar. Here too the assumption of a certain level of technology: the computer that can play movies and the connection that’s fast enough for them.
- Home entertainment remotes – WTF? Like business cards, the current state of things is less than ideal, but his solution doesn’t seem quite right. Again the requirement for a high-end phone — added to the assumption that the people who don’t take the time to program together their existing remotes will take the time to program their phone-as-a-remote…and that each person in the household will do the same with their own phone. Also: how do the kids use a remote? Now the kids have to have their own iPhones?
- Landline phones – now we come to it: if you don’t have a cell phone that you use all the time for everything, you’re obsolete. Yes, we are cell-only in our household, but I don’t think that’s the choice for everyone. Landline phones are handy for contacting a household…as it is, we have to decide whose phone number to give out in situations where either of us is actually the contact. (Again the kid question rears its head, especially in emergency situations.) A landline can still be impressively cheap, too. If three-quarters of the country is still doing it, there must be some pretty good reasons why.
- Music CDs – assumes that good internet connection and fancy phone again, plus I personally don’t trust that “they” won’t try to revoke my music someday. I own those discs…some of them for quite a few years now. I can always turn them into files, as I have before, whenever I want, without asking anyone’s permission. If I were an audio snob, I’d probably have a big box of LPs, too.
- Satellite radio – have never used it, don’t much care, although I’ll note again that he assumes not just a nice phone/etc and mobile broadband (not available in huge swaths of the country), but a fairly new car or at least car stereo. We have a car less than 10 years old that doesn’t even have a CD player. Then again, if you’re upgrading from one high-end luxury to another, I guess it’s not that big a deal.
- Redundant registration – seems strangely nitpicky against all these other things, but I will note that ZIP code doesn’t always correlate with a single city, or vice versa. I think there are three different cities partially inside of our zip code, and the city I live in has several different zip codes. It’s actually a fairly tricky problem.
In general, his list of “obsolete” basically means, “can be replaced with the newest high-end stuff.” It doesn’t much take into account families (6 & 7), people with tight budgets (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), people outside of major metropolitan areas (7 & 9, at least) or people who don’t like cell phones (4, 6, 7). And it puts a surprising amount of trust in the “cloud” one way or another, which doesn’t seem entirely warranted.
So: obsolete? Not so much, at least not in the world I’m living in.
I probably didn’t need to respond to such a thin troll of an article, but it was getting on my nerves. There, now I can let it go. 🙂