Technologies we're glad are dead

by Esther Schindler

Okay, so this is blatent self-promotion, but I'm pretty pleased with the way this article turned out. Because I think it's important to remember, in our daily complaining about technology that is still imperfect, just how far we as an industry have come.

It's easy to cry over the products we loved and lost. But let's take time to appreciate the many ways in which technology really has improved, and the many geeky things we no longer need to worry about.

What technologies do you think I left off the list?

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They took a lot of space. The guys from the sales dept. always took the connector with the computer, because they thought it belongs to the pc and then the LAN broke down.

Tobias Mueller, 2007-10-15

My personal most-feared technology: Ethernet 10Base2. So glad it's gone.

Malte Diedrich, 2007-10-15

FAX. If you ever needed to comment or review sketches of electronic or mechanical drawings via FAX with a Korean company, you know what I mean. This is the real meaning of "cut & paste": make a photo-copy of the original FAX, cut out some parts, glue them on a empty sheet, add notes, then copy it again, because it won't go through the FAX machine's scanner. After all, try to send it back via an international phone line....

Heiko Bobzin, 2007-10-15

Congratulation on the good article, I really liked it and have forwarded it to some friends :-) I was really pleased to find quite all of the technologies i have taught in advance before reading the whole story, namely RLL coding of MFM harddrives, punching holes in single sided diskettes, tuning the modem scripts and endless tuning in autoexec.bat config.sys and win.ini to fight over every single byte of low memory :-)

I disagree that dot-matrix printers were actually that bad, or that we are over this technology. Not quite yet. There is no other way to produce some carbon copied prints on forms. (I still support some Oki930FB 24dot matrix printers for the travel agency office of my parents - the electronic flight ticket is still to become mandatory in 2009)

And the technology that was left out: Hollerith's Punch Cards (since then there is a ever lacking supply of notice blocks)
And BTX (german "Bildschirmtext") - a v.23 online service (but it is kinda comparable to Compuserve, but much cheaper)

Gregory Engels, 2007-10-15

I would agree that 10baseT networking was an IT nightmare. The only "correction" to the article would be the modem. My original Osborne (yes, a CPM machine) had a 110baud modem and my college alma mater actually had data center modems that were 110/300 baud !

Glen Salmon, 2007-10-15

I do remember the time, when I had to share a telephone line with friends in the dorm who were quite unhappy with me telling thhem that the download hadn´t finished yet.... US Robotics modems (9600 bps) were a pretty neat idea at that time.... Hey, Volker, remember the "mailbox" days? Of course the download hadn´t finished, and wouldn´t any time soon ;-)

Armin Roth, 2007-10-15

You left out Prodigy as one of those early services that thankfully disappeared. If only AOL hadn't been so successful. :-\ Also, the plethora of peripheral connection options has slowly but steadily been replaced by USB and FireWire. I haven't installed anything on a serial or parallel port in years, and I'm glad for it. I remember the days of having add-in cards to support all the extra ports I needed and then hand tuning IRQ's and base I/O addresses. *shudder*

The 1001 PC options is still an issue, and to me it's worse now that Intel has decided to name its CPU's in code -- and you need multiple codes to decipher the CPU.

Is that Core Duo T2600 a SLK93 or a SL9JN? Is your Core 2 Duo E6600 a SL9S8 or a SL9ZL? Then you get into situations where PC manufacturers rename them, which adds to confusion. The model lines are named so similar it's easy to get then mixed up. You may think you're buying a Core 2 Duo when it's actually a Core Duo. And Core Duo is *not* dual-core. Add the 7 varieties of Vista and I don't envy a home user who is trying to buy a new PC these days.

I'm a little perturbed by the lack of removable media options. For home users it's not much of an issue, but as an IT professional I find creating a bootable CD-ROM is a little painful. It requires some fairly in-depth knowledge and special software. Once that gets built into the OS (read: Windows), I'll be fully on board. Until then I still need a USB floppy drive.

Charles Robinson, 2007-10-15

@Charles Robinson

Core Duo *is* dual-core, it is however not 64-bit

Markus Cador, 2007-10-15

I read that Core Duo was just rebranded Pentium M. Looking around, the information is conflicting. :-\ Thanks for setting me straight.

Charles Robinson, 2007-10-15

And technologies that we really miss?

Bernoulli boxes - that made a wonderful whizzing noise as they wrote all your data onto a fragile, incompatible 'storage medium'!

Ashton-Tate Framework - a truly excellent business system which could handle documents, spreadsheets and data comms on one screen, at one time, and fitting nicely into 640k. I did consultancy for a company that ran its entire systems on Framework, for many years, and when time really did come for moving on they found that everything - not just the documents but even the dBase compatible macro processes - migrated without sweat or frustration.

IBM Quietwriters - heat-transfer printers that did beautiful documents (better than lasers at the time) almost silently - at least until they expensively broke down.

Any others?

Nick Daisley, 2007-10-15

10inch (removable platter) Hard disks - they really *did* suffer from catastrophic head crashes.

Punched Paper tape - Sir, the dog ate my homework again.

Tektronix tube storage graphics terminal - Urgh!

Mice with balls - and I don't mean rodents that give cats a run for their money!

DSTN colour screens - green-brown muddy colours anyone?

UV erasable EPROMS - really dragged out the code, burn, crash cycle in a way that FLASH now doesn't!

Machine code programming - nuff said.

All versions of DOS (I can't remember when it changed) which *didn't* have the command line recall (up arrow) function. Was it DOS 6.1 that brought that in finally?

IRDA - thankfully made redundant by BT. I can remember what a pain in the arse it was to keep my Ericsson SH888 in line of sight to the IR port on my Psion 3a.

The CRT - LCD rules.

Ooh this one is contentious....VINYL - I never got how one of the softest substances known to man was meant to hold its information when 'rubbed' by one of the hardest substances known to man, a diamond stylus.

I could go on and on....

John Ash, 2007-10-16

Parallel port Zip drives. 'nuff said! :-)

Jess Stratton, 2007-10-16

Hey! Schindler's list?


Chris Linfoot, 2007-10-16

These are all good.

I realized one that I left off the list: 8.3 file names!

Esther Schindler, 2007-10-20

Old archive pages

I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


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