Monday, June 24, 2013

Some dead things, just don’t die

Recently, a frog species thought to be extinct, magically appeared in an Israeli pond. These things seems to happen more often than you might think.

In 2000, the pygmy tarsier, a mouse-sized animal last spotted alive in 1921, was rediscovered. In 1894, a handful of specimens of the Nelson’s small-eared shrew were found in southern Mexico. That was the last time the shrew was seen alive for 109 years; until 2009, when three were found in a forest. 

Similarly, there are many ‘things’ from the world of technology, which you might have thought are either extinct, or are on the verge of disappearing, because you don’t see them around anymore.

One of the oldest technologies we know, simply refuses to go away. Fax machines were invented in 1843. More than 170 years later, in 2012, an astonishing 700,000 new fax machines were sold in the US. Still going, and going, and going……and not looking to be gone anytime soon. Heck, I had to buy two for my office this year. Can’t seem to get some people off it.

Do you miss the clickty-clack of the dot-matrix printers? Do you even remember them? Thought they had gone for good? Wrong again. More than 20,000 were also sold in 2012. I write this at an airport where I can actually hear one in the distance because one of the most technologically advanced industries, which buys planes for hundreds of millions of dollars, also insists on still using dot-matrix printers at airport counters. Go figure.

Thought that vinyl records were extinct? Wrong. In 2012, 4.6 million of them were sold in the US. Someone has turntables and is playing records in the millions. DJs, you say? That many?

In the high definition world of Blue-ray DVDs, some folks are still watching their movies on VHS tapes. Not kidding. An astonishing 13 million blank VHS tapes were sold in the US in 2012. People are still recording on VHS tapes? With what? VHS cameras? The ones which were so big and heavy to lug around on your shoulder, and which then cost me hundreds of dollars in chiropractor fees just to straighten me out? Someone out there still uses that dinosaur?

Oh, and since we are on cameras, 35 million rolls of film were sold in 2012. You read that right, millions! I thought Kodak was out of that business and others were getting out of that business too. Apparently not so fast. I cannot imagine that the film aficionados would be buying rolls of film in such large quantities. So, who is? Time to fess up.

Sony stopped making 3 ½ inch floppies a while ago. Apparently, there was no market for them. Wrong.  Verbatim, still sells millions in Europe and UK. Miss the 5 ¼ inch variety? That one must surely be gone, right? Not a chance. will sell you 50 for $ 40. They are double sided too (whatever that means). If you feel very guilty, you can even buy recycled ones. Now all you have to do is find a computer with a 5 ¼ inch floppy drive and you will be able to access all 1.2 megabytes of data from your floppy! Why would you ever need anything more (wasn’t that a quote from Bill Gates)?

With the wildfire growth of smartphones, one would have thought that some industries would be strongly affected. Remember pagers? Anyone still use pagers? Well, $ 350,000 worth of Pagers were sold in 2012. I still see some old fashioned doctors holding onto the pagers they first used in medical school. But boy, that’s still a lot of pagers.

Made a call at a pay phone lately? There are still 305,000 active pay phones in the US? If you find a pay phone, take a picture. You may need it to show your grandchildren. “Kids, to make a call, we had to hunt for something called a ‘pay phone’. Then, we had to struggle to get coins out of our wallets, because these special devices did not accept bank notes. And you could make a call for a short period of time, before a voice started threatening to cut you off if you didn’t put in more coins…..”  I kicked a payphone for that.

And how about the GPS systems? With almost every smartphone now able to provide GPS navigation, who is buying independent GPS systems? Imagine having to buy one device for phone calls, another for texting, another for navigation, another for the internet and so on. Then, you can hang all these devices in your Home Depot handyman belt and go to work in a suit. People still don’t know you can do all of this, and much more, from a single device?

If you pay attention to the younger generation, there are a couple more vestiges of another older time (all puns intended), which are under assault. Young folk don’t wear watches. They get their time from their smartphones. And just when you thought watches would soon disappear, along comes a game changer: the much rumored iWatch from Apple.  Will all the kids start wearing an iWatch? Will that become the new fad, the same way that oversize ceramic watches are a craze with the ladies now? Recently, I actually saw a young lady on the metro train, check her time on her iPhone, while carrying this large ceramic “clock” on her wrist. Presumably the clock was just for show. Or she didn’t know how to tell analog time. Or both?

Gone you say? Not so fast. Some dead things, just don’t die.

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