Feature: Five Obsolete Technologies that Continue to Endure

In our ongoing quest to seek out the latest and greatest that the technology world has to offer us, somehow we end up with some obsolete tech tagging along for the ride. All of these technologies and gadgets have been rendered obsolete by something newer, shinier, or better in some way, yet they still manage to stick around. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem like they’re going anywhere any time soon either.

Here are five obsolete technologies that continue to endure. In no particular order…

1. Single-Use Alkaline Batteries

We use a lot of electricity in our day-to-day lifestyles. Our laptops suck power out of the wall, our cell phones continue to drain as we yak it up, and our digital cameras lose a bit of juice with every shot that we take.

Speaking for myself, the only place that I use disposable alkaline batteries are with my television remote. The low-draw configuration of the remote allows the dollar store AAs to last quite a long time, not really justifying the added cost of plunking in a pair of NiMH rechargeables. For everything else though, like my Xbox controllers and wireless computer mice, rechargeable is definitely the way to go. It’s greener, it’s more efficient, and they tend to last a lot longer.

There aren’t too many situations that still justify the use of disposable batteries. They’re not good when you toss them in the trash and they don’t last nearly as long as a decent set of NiMH or Li-Ion batteries.

2. Wired Headsets for Cell Phones

Yes, they are remarkably cheap and they’re an incredibly affordable way to get around certain driving laws, but why would you still use a wired headset in this day and age? Bluetooth headsets used to be too pricey for the average Joe, but you can pick up a decent refurb for about twenty bucks.

That stupid wire just gets tangled up in everything and it’s so much more trouble than it’s worth. Worse yet, the headset could be rendered useless when you decide to upgrade to a new mobile phone: the tips might not be compatible. With a Bluetooth headset, however, the compatibility is relatively universal.

3. The Regular Old Watch

The traditional wristwatch has always been a very useful invention, letting us whip out our arms to check the time on the fly. While some versions offer added utility, like telling you the date and barometric conditions, most are meant to just tell you the time.

We like convergence, you see, so a watch that only tells the time isn’t all that useful anymore. I know a few people who don’t wear watches anymore, because they check the time on their cell phones instead. They may forget to wear a watch, but they will never leave their homes without their mobile phones.

I am being a little hypocritical here, though, since I still have a tendency to wear a watch too. It’s just as much about fashion as it is about function with these timepieces and, well, it’s just more convenient to look at my wrist than it is to reach into my pocket, look at my phone, and put it back in my pocket.

4. FM Transmitters for iPods and MP3 Players

I’ve reviewed more than a couple of FM transmitters in my day and while the sound quality appears to be improving, it can be hard to justify the cost of buying a quality $100 FM transmitter when you can spend a little more to get a new car stereo that supports the iPod out of the box.

The sound quality offered by most FM transmitters is, well, radio quality at best and that’s just not good enough for a lot of people. When you invest a little more money in a decent head unit and get some proper iPod integration (or if you have a car that has that right off the lot), you get much better controls and much better sound quality.

FM transmitters have their place, I suppose, but they need to start producing some decent quality ones for less money. Heck, if there are relatively cheap cell phones with integrated FM transmitters, how expensive can the technology be?

5. Paying with a Cheque (Check)

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m Canadian. As such, I’m going to spell it as cheque but you may know that precious piece of paper more as a check. In either case, the use of cheques is pretty much obsolete.

No retail store will accept them and there are very few instances where you would want to use them. Government payments are better distributed using direct deposit as this is not only more convenient for the honest citizen, but I’d imagine the process would have fewer kinks in it too.

There are so many great alternatives (like email money transfers, PayPal payments, and so on) to cheques. Why do they still exist aside from payments between companies that require more of a paper trail? Now that I think about it, cash is getting pretty obsolete too. It’s no longer cash or credit; it’s more like credit or debit at the cash register, isn’t it?


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