Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Old Technologies Fade But Don't Go Away: Fax Machines, Typewriters And Floppies

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 10, 2013

PDA

By Intel Free Press

With technology ever moving forward, it’s easy to forget about all those once invaluable old technology gadgets you’ve cast aside in favor of the latest and greatest innovations. But we typically don’t get rid of the old tech; some of it sits around the house or the office gathering dust, while other items are used in a more limited fashion. You might have thought these seven technologies were extinct, but they’re still being used. How many of these do you still use?

1. Dial-Up Internet

Roughly 3 percent of Americans still use a telephone modem to get online, according to a recent Pew Internet and American Life Project survey. They are connecting at rip-roaring speeds (at least, if this were 1995) of up to 56.6 kbits per second because they live in areas without broadband access or are unwilling to pay for something faster. But maybe not for long: Only a couple dozen service providers still offer this earliest form of Internet access.

2. PDAs

Once a status symbol that said, “Hey, I’m cool,” the personal digital assistant, such as the PalmPilot, became coveted devices when they arrived in 1996. But it was made obsolete with the emergence of the smartphone in the mid- to late-2000s. Still, Americans bought more than 350,000 PDAs in 2012, according to the CEA.

3. Landline Phones

Despite the growing presence of mobile phones, experts believe there will still be some sort of need for the wired telephone for years to come — mostly because wireless is outgrowing the phone networks’ available bandwidth. In 2012, only about one-third of Americans were all-wireless when it came to phones, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control. Virtually all of the rest had wireless and landlines.

4. Fax Machines

They were huge in the 1970s and 1980s and still vital in the early 1990s, but the Internet, email and instant messaging has downgraded fax machines to slow, bulky, low-quality copy machines. Yet, even with the inclusion of fax capability in today’s computers, Americans still bought 350,000 fax machines in 2012, down 14 percent from 2011, according to data from NPD. In many municipalities, signed contracts sent by fax are considered legal, while scanned, signed documents or PDFs are not, which contributes to continued use of fax machines.

5. Typewriters

Almost no companies in America make typewriters anymore, but people still buy them. Most customers are from government offices, which use the venerable texting tool to complete multipart carbon forms. They’re also considered secure in today’s online digital age, as they can’t be hacked or infected with malware. But while the typewriter still has a limited purpose, the same can’t be said for its original replacement, the word processor, which had its plug pulled once the PC took off in the late-1980s.

6. Floppy Disks

Another staple of the 1980s and 1990s, the floppy disk, is still used at federal and state levels because of outdated programming that only allows data transfer through floppies. There are also tens of thousands of archived files on 8-inch, 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch disks that no one has had time to transfer to a more modern data storage medium.

7. Vintage Gaming Consoles

Old-school gaming systems, such as the original Nintendo gaming console, the Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, Game Cube and the handheld Gameboy still have a heartbeat with consumers because many classic games can’t be played on anything else. You won’t find any new models these days, but somebody’s always selling one on eBay or Amazon.

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