7 Living Artifacts And Why They Are Done For

“Analog Retirement”  (credit:  busted tees)

As technology moves forward and business and society change consumption patterns, certain mediums and aging solutions become obsolete.  Yet industries seek to hold onto the past tightly, even when their time has come and gone, at a cost to society – time, money, frustration and future progress.

Just for fun, I thought I would take a lighthearted approach to listing a few technologies/services which have served a function but have been made obsolete ages ago by a changing world.  Previous examples (as seen in the image above) include cassette tapes, the floppy disk, VHS and camera film.

1)  The Yellow Pages

image credit:  kumanday

Why they are done for: The printed Yellow Pages have absolutely zero function in a digital society.  It has bothered me since the advent of search engines that these wasteful, disorganized monstrosities of the last century have continued to exist.   It is a waste of energy for these to be printed and delivered, it is annoying to receieve them when you don’t even want them – and once you get them they sit in a cabinet, never to be opened.  The fact that they are shipped with a CD is laughable and goes to show you how clueless the people behind them really are.  Altogether an exercise in futility – the sooner these die off, the better.

What can you do to help speed their demise: Absolutely refuse delivery when someone brings you them.  Good news though from the WSJ – they won’t last too much longer:

“The yellow-pages industry is running out of lifelines.

In recent years, as its customers migrated to the Web — flocking to sites like Google — the telephone-directory business followed, hoping the Internet would be its salvation.

But that strategy hasn’t panned out. Now, the economic downturn is sending the already ailing business into a tailspin.

The audience for online yellow pages remains relatively small, and traffic growth is slowing. So many directory services are vying for the ad dollars of local businesses that no single site has an authoritative roster.”

How they could have survived:  The print version was done for no matter what.  In reality, the yellow pages should have become Google.  This is a clear example of what happens when a business flat out ignore shifts in technology.  YellowPages.com was too little, too late (and too useless).

Possible uses until they go off life-support: doorstop, interlinking the pages for science experiments ala mythbusters, test material for your new tree shredder.

2)  Print newspapers and print magazines

image credit:  geishaboy500

Why they are done for: Again, we live in a digital world.  Apparently a group of people didn’t get the memo we have this wonderful, efficient way of receiving content via cleanly organized text and high resolution images on attractive high quality displays.  There is no possible reason to receieve news in a printed format.  It is wasteful both for print and delivery and also not a timely way to receieve news.  Countless times I’ve seen a story on blogs, Digg, Reddit, Twitter, StumbleUpon or even the newspaper’s own website – then chuckled to see it in print the next day.

Besides, as I wrote in a post on web clips – worth far more than print clips:

  • Print news dies quickly, isn’t even really “news” anymore by the time it prints in a digital age
  • Digital news is searchable
  • Digital news can be easily shared, linked to and archived
  • Print newspapers are cumbersome, have irrelevant ads
  • Online newsrooms have infinite space, archived content can be monetized forever

It is a dated idea to have someone deliver you news in paper form every morning.  It’s another relic of the last century, and in the not too distant future we will think of print newspapers as quaint (many already do).  Print magazines are an exact parallel, what a huge waste of money and energy when RSS is such a thing of beauty.

Quote Seth Godin:

As newspapers melt all around us, faster and faster, the people in the newspaper business persist in believing that the important element of a news-paper is the paper part.

What an opportunity (for someone) to start taking advantage of the huge pool of talent and passion that is moving online, and to work to raise the bar. We don’t need more gossip sites from celebrity magazine editors. We need to identify and reward voices that push hard against the status quo, that report eagerly and accurately and that speak truth to power.

How they could have survived:  news in print form has no future.

What can you do to help speed their demise: Go to your newspaper’s or magazine’s website instead and subscribe to their feeds/bookmark their sites for local news. A majority of you reading this probably don’t get a print newspaper delivered to your door anyway.  The value of newspapers (we have to stop calling them that if we want them to survive in some form) news organizations is to report the news.  Get your news from the web, all of it.  You should be doing this anyway – RSS is far more efficient.  Eventually the news organizations will figure out how to design/monetize properly and the industry will reach equilibrium.  By going media green you’re helping to stop the slow hemorrhaging of a dead medium and pushing them to move into the future faster.  I want the organizations to modernize and the reporters to have jobs — but print will die before a new future can be born.  They will look back on these days and realize they should not have clung to the past as long as they have.

Possible uses until they are extinct: lining for your hamster cage, protecting things while moving, keeping  floors clean during painting.

3)  Your home phone landline

image credit:  splorp

Why it is done for: Do you really still have a landline at home?  It is redundant to own a cell phone and a landline, and most of us own cell phones by now.  For businesses they still serve a function if you don’t have VOIP, but I’m not sure I understand why these exist for home use.  Cell phones are perfectly reliable and the technology easily replaces your home line.  Also, there’s a little service called Skype if you hate using your cell at home.

How it could have survived:  huge campaign by landline phone providers to mothers that college graduates with landlines call home 80% more often.

What can you do to help speed its demise: If you are at a friend’s house and notice they have a landline, kindly point out they are wasting hard earned money on redundant personal technology solutions.

Possible uses until it is extinct: prop in a movie set in the 80’s, blunt object, paper weight.

4)  Fax machines

image credit: jgelens

Why they are done for: All offices have scanning devices and email – faxing is a waste of paper, money (long distance bills) and time.  Also you can receieve/send faxes without fax machines.  Why bother with this though, why not just scan/email if you must, or simply insert an electronic signature into a document that needs to be signed.  Faxing just seems like extra steps for things you can easily do without getting up from your desk.

How they could have survived:  should have played the theme song from duck tales instead of fax transmission noise.

What can you do to help speed their demise: use email instead, a far superior technology.

Possible use until they are extinct: play fax pranks on your friends:

[youtube TGXKCtHooHA]

5)  Audio CDs

image credit:  nguyendai

Why they are done for: When was the last time you bought a music CD?  Exactly.  Besides, when you buy mp3s, you can just burn them to a CD yourself if you really need it in a disc format.  DRM-free mp3s, FLACs or wavs are now the master copy, not the CD – they are an impermanent and easily damaged format.

How they could have survived:  the music industry could have created iTunes.  Instead they clung to a dying dream and let Apple step in and dominate their industry.  CDs were dying either way though – the only way they would have survived is if we didn’t have the combination of audio compression technology and the Internet.

What can you do to help speed their demise: buy more mp3s and vinyl –  you should support artists and not merely leech free downloads.  Records are cool to keep for vintage and there is absolutely nothing like a vinyl collection (I love mine).  CDs just get lost or scratched and become useless.

Possible uses until they are extinct: office frisbee, coaster, retro wall art.

6)  Cable TV (if you don’t watch sports)

Why it is done for: Between Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, DVDs/Blu-ray discs and the plethora of other ways to receieve video content, there is really no use to pay for cable TV if you do not watch sports.  The content quality is not worth paying for, and for the material that may be worth watching, you can get it directly with limited or no commercials and the ability to time shift your viewing.

How it can still survive:  There are plenty of people who spend a rediculous amount of time wasting their lives watching it.  But for smart people it is mostly a dead medium.  There is one thing cable providers should do which would actually be interesting that they altogether refuse:  offer TV channels a la carte.  I would purchase Discovery Channel and The History Channel and be perfectly happy with that.  Why pay for a whole bunch of trash I am never going to use?

What you can do to help speed its demise: Okay, I know cable TV really isn’t going anywhere.  But the move is to get purely what you want using the web and services like iTunes.  Also if you’re a movie person, just get Netflix – it’s far cheaper.  If you watch sports, then cable probably will never die for you.  I am actually forced to have cable right now – it is a freebie with living in my building – but in my previous apartment I never had it and didn’t miss it for a second.

Current uses: keeping Frito-Lay in business, broadcasting played out jokes from the Internet, killing brain cells.

7)  AM/FM Radio

image credit:  cpstorm

Why it is done for: Anyone with more than a fleeting interest in music does not listen to the radio.  The radio is the reason people think “they don’t make music like they used to.”  There are plenty of absolutely amazing artists out there, but you would never know that if you merely listened to the radio.  The people (they certainly are not DJs) that play music on the radio would not know good music if it hit them in the face, or are drowning in payola to play bad music (or both?).  The signal to noise ratio is so horrible you can’t even turn it on without getting a headache.

How it can still survive:  The content is terrible, the sound quality of AM/FM radio is limited, high quality options are available via satellite and you can easily bring your iPod with you in the car.  There is no future for AM/FM broadcast radio in a digital society.

What can you do to help speed its demise: Support independent artists, boycott the RIAA.

Possible uses until it is extinct: none…silence is more enjoyable.


I took an irreverent approach when writing this, but I do want to point out the fact that it should never be a surprise to anyone when new technologies replace a previous generation of less efficient tools.  Yet the business world and our society itself are for some reason afraid of change.

Unfortunately those that blindly cling to the past merely succeed in yielding ground to new competitors.  The old guard then usually tries sue or otherwise  hinder progress of by going to the government for money or buying expensive patents to make it difficult to achieve progress.  We can’t keep operating in this manner.  We should instead encourage innovation to create better, more efficient ways of doing things and work together to achieve the results.

Related posts from The Future Buzz

Old Vs. New

Newspapers Still Have Much To Learn About The Web

The Daily Print Newspaper:  A Dying Breed

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