10 things made obsolete by technology

10 things made obsolete by technology
By U.S. Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Changes usually happen over time, and it is not until we gain some perspective that we realize some of them have happened.  Anyone who is over the age of 25 has some idea of how the Internet and digital technology have transformed our world.  With pocket-sized devices, we can instantly take or receive photos; we can listen to just about any song; we can watch a TV show or a movie; and we can shop with the world as our marketplace.

Even though some of these abilities have become routine — maybe even passé — by 2014, the number of aspects of our culture that have changed or gone away because of technology is breathtaking. Recently I had a conversation with my 12-year-old son about phone books that illustrated what I am talking about.

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He has never used a phone book, having spent his life looking information up online. Discussing with him the fat telephone directories I remember from my youth – I even sat on the New York City one as a booster seat when I was little – made me feel strange.  I guess I’m not ready for the “When I was your age, Sonny, I walked 10 miles to school uphill and through a snowstorm” kind of conversations.

That talk did get me thinking about some of the many things we don’t use – or rarely use — anymore because of today’s technology.  My list got up to around 50 of them in no time at all. Since I write for ValueWalk, I have limited this list to things we used to use at work:

Here are 10 things made obsolete by technology

1. Landlines: Now your office may still have a landline, but how many calls do you get on it these days? If you are like most of us, you use your cell almost exclusively. You probably have your landline calls forwarded to your cell for convenience, don’t you?

2. Use a Rolodex: Remember those unwieldy rotatiing devices that held all your company’s clients and contact information? Yup, they’re dinosaurs. It is so much easier and more convenient to store frequent contacts in your phone and larger lists of people or companies in a database.

3. Use a watch to tell time: Now this one is interesting.  Notice that I didn’t write “wear” a watch.  Many people – including young people – still enjoy wearing a wristwatch, but my very unscientific survey shows that the majority of them are using their phones to tell time. And even people who do wear watches admit that they are more about fashion than about time these days. Stay tuned, though. as watches continue to evolve into high-tech devices that perform a myriad of duties other than just tell time.

4. Pay by check: Does your workplace have one of those big three-ring checkbook binders of yesteryear? If it does, it’s probably not used very much. Most of us enjoy the convenience of getting our bills online and paying them online.

5. Use the fax machine.  Most companies have foregone the extra phone designated for faxes. Why?  The times you need to send or receive a fax are just too few and far between. Scanning and emailing documents is easy and quick. Faxes are a 1990’s technology that is rapidly biting the dust.

6. Look up words in a print dictionary. Okay, I’m a writer, and I just like the comfortable feel of my old dictionary. Even I admit, however, that when I am in a hurry, I use online dictionaries. Ditto for print encyclopedias. The vast amount of information that is at our fingertips with Internet search engines has long made print encyclopedias obsolete. Encyclopedia Britannica, the oldest continuously published encyclopedia in the English language at 244 years in print, ceased print publication in 2012. Don’t completely despair, book lovers. The classic gold-lettered reference books have become a luxury item with collectors.

7. Strap a pager on your belt. At one time not so very long ago, wearing a pager on your belt was the ultimate sign of coolness. It signaled wealth and prestige. Today, all of us are just so reachable. Many hospitals still use pagers, but the die is certainly cast.

8. Use an atlas or a paper map. When was the last time you used a real map to find out how to get somewhere? Between Google maps, Apple maps, MapQuest and GPS, the need for an actual printed map has waned over the past decade or so.  At least we don’t have to worry about lining up all those folds anymore.

10. Use a Day-Timer. If you used Google to find out what a Day-Timer even is, I rest my case. Once the sign of the busy executive, the Day-Timer (or its many clones) used to be the way to plan and to keep track of your busy work and personal life. Today having a paper planner is so old-school that it may even be cool. Most people use their smartphones.

So what old stuff is not on the way out – at least not yet? A survey by OfficeMax found that the most popular “borrowed” items from office workers’ desks are pens, sticky-notes, paper clips and highlighters.

And what do many office workers want more of? A LinkedIn survey found that 25 percent of respondents said they would like more sunlight. I wonder if there is an app for that.


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