Technological Obsolescence


During the last thirty years technology has advanced at galloping speed. In the electronic field the technological progress has been outstanding in search of a better word.

I was born in 1946, which means that within my life span, several technologies have gone the way of the dodo bird and the hula hoop as new technological discoveries are made.

When a new technology takes over an old or obsolete technology it’s called “technological obsolescence”.

Technological obsolescence is the result of the evolution of technology as newer technologies appear, older ones cease to be used. For example, new media for storing digital information rapidly replace older media and reading devices for these older media become no longer available.

For example, within a span of only thirty years (1977-2007) technology for storing music evolved from vinyl, cassettes, CDs and iPods. I don’t know what will replace the Apple iPod; however one thing is sure, new technologies are being drafted by a couple of whiz kids in an obscure garage somewhere—even as we speak.

Just like the vinyl records of the seventies and eighties are now history, here are a few things that are either extinct or fading away into the sunset:

  • 8-Track Tapes: They gained notoriety in the 1960s and ’70s. But improvements to the compact cassette tape proved a death blow to the 8-track tape.
  • Compact Audio Cassette: Pre-recorded music cassettes were introduced in Europe in 1965 and the next year in the United States. But it wasn’t until the launch of a cassette tape deck by Advent Corp. in 1971 with Dolby noise reduction and chromium dioxide tape that cassettes really took off, reaching their peak in the 1980s with the creation of the Sony Walkman cassette player.
  • Floppy Disks and Disk Drives: Alan Shugart of IBM invented the disk drive in 1967. Fourteen years later, IBM produced its first personal computer with a 5.25-inch disk, aka floppy disk drive. That disk evolved into a 3.5-inch disk, which had larger capacity and a harder case. These eventually gave way to CD and DVD drives in computers. Today it’s hard to find a new computer with a floppy drive.
  • Polaroid Pictures: Polaroid founder Edwin Land unveiled the first modern instant camera for consumers in 1947. These cameras were used by everyone from doctors and insurance agents to casting agents and private detectives. Recently Polaroid announced it would no longer manufacture instant Polaroid cameras and film. The instant camera gave way to the digital camera.
  • VHS: Video Home System (VHS) format was invented in 1976 by JVC (Japanese Victor Company) and sent Sony’s Betamax format to the showers. But by 2003, DVD format had become more popular than VHS and three years later, most major studios stopped releasing films on VHS. A similar technological war recently took place between Toshiba’s HD DVD and Sony’s Blu-ray formats.
  • Rotary Phone: In 1891, a St. Louis undertaker, Almon Strowger, came up with the forerunner to the modern rotary dial. In the 1970s, with the advent of touch-tone dialing, rotary phones began to fade away.
  • Rooftop Antennas: Thirteen million Americans still rely on analog TV broadcasts, which get their reception from rooftop antennas or rabbit ears. But, come Feb. 17, 2009, those TV screens will go to snow unless the residents purchase a converter box (which will convert digital signals to analog) or subscribe to a cable or satellite package.

Yep, technological obsolescence is here to stay and to make today’s CEOs sleep with one eye close and the other one open to keep a close eye on its nearest technological competitor. That’s the way Apple Steve Jobs and Microsoft Steve Ballmer sleep. 🙂

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