10 Technologies That Should Be Extinct (But Aren't)
4. Landline Telephones
According to the latest survey from the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 25 percent of Americans have ditched their landlines for a cell phone. Another 22 million or so Americans pay for a VoIP service like Vonage to reach out and touch. Still, that leaves well over 100 million households firmly tethered to one of Ma Bell's bastard offspring. (No doubt many of these lines are also plugged into fax machines.)
Why? Because nothing says "I've fallen and I can't get up" quite like a landline. Only 5 percent of adults age 65 or older live in wireless-only households, per the NCHS--no doubt in part because mobile E911 emergency services still aren't as reliable as calling for help from your trusty wall-mounted phone. As that population gradually moves toward that great early bird special in the sky, landlines will likely follow.
CDs and MP3s were supposed to kill the long-playing album for good. Instead, vinyl LPs have clung to life longer than Abe Vigoda--and along with them, the venerable turntable. Sales of vinyl albums actually increased last year, from 1.9 million to 2.8 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan, though that's still just a drop in the bucket compared to CDs (374 million) and digital tracks (1.2 billion). These days, you can get a digital turntable that plugs into your PC and converts groove-laden tunes into digital files for carrying on your iPod. Either way, this is a good thing; life's just better when listened to at 33 and 1/3.
6. Cash Registers
Ka-ching! Despite the emergence of computerized point-of-sale systems that can automatically track inventory, identify your top-selling products and best customers, and simplify back-end accounting, thousands of retail stores still rely on what's essentially a cigar box that can do third-grade math.
"The basics of the cash register haven't changed since it was invented 127 years ago," notes Tom Greenhaw, founder of CashierLive, a company that offers Web-based point-of-sale software. "While [it] might be powered by electricity now, it still can't tell you what your store has in stock (and it never will). Computers with point-of-sale software are expensive, which is why a majority of small retailers still stick with the dying cash register. But Web technology is finally coming to eliminate the cash register."
Basic cash registers--and really, cash itself--are analog dinosaurs in the digital jungle of financial transactions. It's time for them to check out.
7. Instant Cameras
Like their distant cousins the snooty novelists, many camera buffs eschew digital for the comfort of darkrooms and the aroma of developer fluid. Even the venerable Polaroid Instant Photo is making a comeback.
The original Polaroid company filed for bankruptcy (for the second time) in 2008 and had its assets purchased in April 2009 by a private holding company. Despite that, the newly revived firm has introduced an updated version of the OneStep camera (the Polaroid PIC 300) that, yes, uses instant film. That trip down memory lane will set you back $90 for the camera--plus a steep $1 per shot. Polaroid has even hired pop diva Lady Gaga as "creative director." If Polaroid can survive Lady Gaga, it may be with us for a long, long time.