10 Obsolete Technologies to Kill in 2010

Some old-and-busted technologies die gracefully of natural causes. Pagers, PDAs, floppy disks -- they're gone, and good riddance.

By Mike Elgan
Thu, December 24, 2009

Computerworld — Some old-and-busted technologies die gracefully of natural causes. Pagers, PDAs, floppy disks -- they're gone, and good riddance.

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But other obsolete tech lingers on, even though better alternatives abound that are easier, cheaper, higher quality and much more efficient.

Here are 10 dumb technologies we should get rid of in 2010:

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1. Fax Machines

The fax machine was obsolete 15 years ago. When someone says "fax it to me," I always feel like I'm being punk'd. A fax machine is nothing more than a printer, scanner and an obsolete analog mode that work together to waste time, money, paper and electricity.

Documents that are faxed usually start out in digital format. So, to send a digital document digitally, it must be converted into a paper format. You insert the document, and the fax machine scans it back into a digital format. It then uses an analog modem from 1993 to convert the digital image into sounds!

The modem plays the noise over the phone line. At the other end, another fax machine also has a modem, which listens to the sounds, and converts them yet again into a digital document, just before it prints it out on paper. Now the data in the document has to be converted somehow into a digital format -- either scanned or typed in by hand.

The document almost always begins and ends in digital format. But during this epic journey, the document is digital four times, paper twice and sound once.

The mass delusion that perpetuates this obscenely inefficient technology is that paper "hard copy" is somehow more legitimate. In fact, gluing a copy of someone's stolen signature to a document, then faxing it, is the easiest way mask a forgery because of the low quality of fax output.

People, let's stop the madness. Just e-mail it.

2. 'Cigar lighter receptacle' plugs in cars

The idea of building cigar/cigarette lighters into car dashboards originated in the 1920s. The technology was perfected in the 1950s. Decades later, the automobile industry is still building these weird sockets into cars, but now usually without the actual lighter.

As electrical outlets, dashboard lighter ports are dangerous, unreliable, underpowered, inconvenient, unsightly and expensive. They require that you purchase a special plug and/or adapters, which add clutter to your car.

All cars should have standard household electrical outlets, with the converter built in. Or USB ports that can charge gadgets. Or both.

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