Evolution of digital technology goodbye to everything elseLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Evolution of digital technology and the demise of everything else

Mobile Internet devices, mostly cellphones but also tablets and personal computers, have rendered many existing technologies obsolete, and there are more that are fated for the chopping block as new ones are either on the drawing board or just being implemented.

The most notable of these, and the one that affects most people, is the landline telephone and long distance charges. Cellular phones have achieved an 89 percent population penetration in the U.S. market. Even poor people have cellphones in this country.

Years from now your grandchildren will be asking what is this and how did you put that in your pocket?

Years from now your grandchildren will be asking what is this and how did you put that in your pocket?

You can call anywhere in the country with cellphones, with no charges and time metering by the phone company. You can talk with overseas friends and family for free or by using VOIP, or voice over Internet protocols. So say goodbye to the landline and its accompanying accoutrements, which include wireless handsets, dial up modems, fax machines, and answering machines. Also wave farewell to public phones.

Paperless office, at last

A fond farewell to paper is in order, as used by printers, newspapers and magazines. The latter of these have been subsumed by news sites on the Web and online versions of legacy publications such as newspaper Web sites and online magazines. This online newspaper, the Baltimore and Los Angeles Post-Examiner, is a product of newspaper extinction. It’s provided an opportunity for many writers who found themselves extinct as a newspaper writer and reborn on the Web.

Printers are a special case, and slated for the dustbin. Dot matrix printers are long gone, and ink jet and laser printers can still be found in many homes and businesses. But, with the advent of the cloud, where documents can be stored and accessed by and worked on by coworkers, the documents no longer need to be printed out to be shared with other people. And good riddance, too. Printers are bulky, exceedingly hard to set up, and consume hundreds of dollars in ink. Run out of blue ink on your ink jet cartridge? You have to buy a whole new color cartridge. If you must send your mother printed pictures of your new baby, it’s far less expensive to go to the drug store or office supply store to print out photos of your pride and joy.

Most people can send efaxes on their PCs and laptops. Assuming your recipient has a real fax, or software to read the fax on their devices.

Speaking of paper, folding maps have been replaced with talking GPS guidance systems, found built-in to most new cars and available on most cell phones.

Too much clutter. We now can live in a clutterless life.

Too much clutter. We now can live in a clutterless life.

The sum of human knowledge. digitized

Reference materials such as printed dictionaries and encyclopedias are on the way out, with the former contained in your word processing program or as a standalone application. Wikipedia now has more entries that the Encyclopedia Britannica, though it can be argued that the latter is more authoritative.

Publishers of paper books are hurting as well, with competition from eBooks, which can be read on dedicated devices such as the Kindle, tablets and even phones with their larger screens. eBooks are generally cheaper and, with apps such as Kindle for phones and tablets, and third party reader apps, are a lot easier to carry around and read in those downtime moments while commuting or waiting in line.

You can also bid farewell to electric typewriters.

Typewriters are now relics, and many old, manual Underwoods and the like are used as home decor items.

Data storage media

Data storage is changed substantially as well. No more floppy disks, zip disks or jaz disks. Data is now stored locally on large hard drives or in the cloud. If you must back up to portable storage then high capacity memory sticks are the default medium. Or large capacity, small form factor external hard drives.

The hard drives in our computers are tradionally HDD, basic nonvolatile storage. These are essentially spinning metal platters with a magnetic coating which contain your saved data. A read-write head on an arm accesses the data within the drive’s enclosure.

Data storage. We have the cloud.

Data storage? We have the cloud.

But our portable devices use SSD, or static flash memory, consisting of interconnected flash memory chips. These are comparable to the flash memory in USB thumb drives, but is faster and more reliable. SSDs for computers are used in some netbooks, all tablets and cellphones, but they still can’t match the price or volume of HDD drives. Cost for a one terabyte HDD is about $75, while a one terabyte SSD drive runs $600. That breaks down to eight cents per gigabyte for HDD, but 60 cents per gigabyte for SSDs.

Advantages of SSD over HDD is speed (your PC will boot in seconds, and will access data much faster than its rival). It has no moving parts, granting it greater useful working life and also avoids data fragmentation common to HDD. This causes disk thrashing, as the read-write head must make multiple passes over the disk to assemble the data you are going to use. This disk thrashing sometimes leads to the dreaded head crash, where the laser read-write head on the arm that reads the disk literally crashes into the disk, rendering the drive unusable, though the data can be recovered.

Though HDD will be with us for a while longer, advances are being made rapidly in SSD and the future certainly belongs to the latter.

CDs are being replaced by MP3s while DVDs are fighting to hold on in the face of on-demand digital downloads of movies or streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, and also by DVRs and streaming Web based TV add-ons like Android’s Chromecast or Roku 3.

Of course we’ve all mostly bid adieu to our VCRs, and DVD players are on the way out too.

Say goodbye to that beast in the living room

And the bulky, cathode ray TV is now an anachronism, giving way to mature, large screen flat LCD TVs, some already equipped to connect to the Internet. The old broadcast standard of NTSC has been replaced by high definition, larger bandwidth signal.

Remember PDAs such as the Palm or Windows Pocket PC? They are gone now, driven to the edge of extinction by the first Blackberries then given their final nudge off the scene by the advent of even smarter phones, such as the iPhone or Android phones.

Also gone are analog slides, along with projectors, analog film, film developing, disposablel film cameras, Kodak itself, photo albums and flash cubes.

Palm Pilots - who uses them anymore?

Palm Pilots – who uses them anymore?

Even pocket digital cameras are suffering a loss to the ubiquitous cellphone camera. Rapid advances in cellphone-based cameras are eliminating the market for dedicated digital shooters.

Dedicated MP3 players are being killed off by high capacity cellphone storage for music, or streaming music apps for phones, or music collections stored in the cloud which can be streamed by most portable devices.

The variety of computer ports, such as ones for printers, mice and keyboards, have been replaced by either the Universal Serial Bus (USB) or these devices connect wirelessly via Bluetooth. In fact, connecting cables of all types are disappearing in favor of wireless.

Wristwatches are now fashion accessories, with high priced models thriving as status symbols, while the rest of us have abandoned them altogether, since we check our cellphones an average of 250 times a day, and always know what time it is.

Analog radio transmissions, AM and FM, are being replaced by digital radio such as Sirius Satellite Radio or streaming audio such as Rhapsody, Pandora, Radio and Last.FM. These also contribute to the demise of dedicated MP3 players.

Dedicated keyboards are also becoming obsolete, as our portable devices all have built-in, on screen keyboards.

Traditional design tools — ink, brushes, gouache, rule pens, drafting tables and rub down letters — have vanished thanks to CAD/CAM (computer aided design and computer aided machining).

Also going the way of the dodo are remote controls, beepers/pagers, and walkie-talkies.

One might wax nostalgic about the loss of these obsolete devices and technologies, but in most cases we rarely think about them since not only do modern devices accomplish the same tasks, they are often combined into a single do-everything device. Also, they do it better, faster and more reliably.

In most cases it’s not the functions of these technologies that have vanished, it’s the mostly analog devices we once used to accomplish these tasks that has been subsumed by new digital equipment and services. Though in many cases people are still using the old devices, chances are that when they wear out they will be replaced by the new technology.


About the author

Paul Croke

Paul Croke, former newspaper editor and longtime Washington DC area freelance writer, has loved gadgets and consumer electronics since he saw his first Dick Tracy watch. He writes about consumer technology. Contact the author.
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