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Time to say goodbye to these gadgets

From fax machines to dial-up modems – here’s a look at some truly obsolete technology

gadgets Updated: Dec 03, 2011 19:00 IST
Rajiv Makhni

Last week’s column on the death of the CD and all its avatars set off an interesting chain reaction of comments and opinions. Lots of people wrote about the nostalgia they felt about things like developing photo film, the privacy of a pager and how the creative juices flowed better while banging on a typewriter. Many tweeted about how the pace of current technology today makes them feel left behind and how the good old days were better. Which is why this time I’m going with other technology that has become obsolete or redundant and why sometimes cutting edge and new isn’t necessarily better.

Fax machines
I find it amusing that companies and individuals have a dedicated fax machine number on their visiting card. I find it even more amusing when somebody asks for a hard copy to be faxed. In a world of scanning, email attachments and PDFs, faxing is like carving this column out of stone. If you don’t want to sound like your grandfather, get rid of that fax machine and that silly old antiquated visiting card.

Small hard drives
It was a perennial issue. The hard drive in your laptop or even desktop ran out of storage all the time. Compression software was a big deal, new hard drives cost as much as the machine, adding a hard drive to a system was as painful as pulling out teeth and deleting and maintaining a hard drive was a full time profession. Today, flash, USB, extra hard drives and even SSDs are as cheap enough to be impulse buys. The Bangkok floods have changed that (hard drive prices have tripled) – but that’s a small, temporary blip. Download those 20 GB 1080p movies – you can fit in another hundred on that 3 TB drive you just bought.

Dial-up modems

The unbelievable screeching of a modem was a status symbol. It meant that you were that rare individual that could go online and be part of a BBS and chat with a SYsOP. It also meant tearing your hair out at slow speeds, fighting with your family for the phone line and a world of text and C: prompts. The replacement to banshee modems are wired and wireless high speed broadband connections. Unfortunately, we are still tearing our hair out at the service and speed.

VCRs and videotapes
That amazing time when you spent three hours of your life every single day in the hunt for a one good ‘print’ of a movie. From your local video library, friends that had gone abroad, your cousin that has a good collection of movie tapes – it was all one could think of. To get a movie with an original print was the quest of the day. Lasediscs, DVDs and now Blu-Rays have dealt this category a gruelling blow and HD movie streaming has finished off the kill. To those who think they don’t have the bandwidth to stream a 50 GB movie, you just haven’t heard of HD video compression formats.

Photo film
Do you know anybody who owns a photo film camera? When was the last time you saw a photo film reel? Where do you go to get it developed? This is a category that reigned supreme and has died a brutal death due to digital cameras. The last bastion –
professional photography – has also bowed down to the digital format. There are some holdouts – people who say that the look and feel and romance of film cannot be replicated by digital pixels. These people are also known as asylum escapees.

Maps

Folding and unfolding these huge pieces of paper was an art form in itself; knowing how to read them required a rocket science degree. Maps made men feel inadequate and women confused. Mapping technology was so poor that even ‘updated’ maps were hopelessly outdated by the time they were printed. Enter the GPS, digital mapping and satellite navigation. The body blow is so severe that it’s impossible to find an inch of paper that has a map on it.

Next week we’ll go further into the world of the obsolete and whether current technology is better than before. We’ll also explore what technology is about to go obsolete. You do know that your iPad and your smartphone are almost dead, don’t you? Well, if you didn’t, you’re about to find out next week!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni

From HT Brunch, December 4

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