10 Everyday Technologies That Are Now Dying


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It wasn't that long ago that computers took up entire rooms and apparently sliced bread was the big innovation of the day. And now smartphones and the Internet are taking over the world. Smartphones act as all-in-one devices with access to the all-knowing Internet. Is there anything these things can't do? It won't be long before they develop cognitive powers, build themselves into robots and replace the human race. But before that happens, let's all take a moment to look at technology that will likely die before we do.

  1. Watches

    When you ask someone if they know what time it is, you generally expect them to reach into their pocket or purse to pull out their cell phone for your answer. And if they say they don't know, you assume they're just too lazy to find their phone, because your own phone-fetching laziness is probably why you asked in the first place. It's rare, especially in the under-30 generation, for someone to quickly glance at their wrist for the answer. A study last fall found that people under the age of 25 were 50% less likely to wear a wristwatch than the older generation. Other reports suggest that those who do sport wristwatches probably think of it more as a fashion accessory than a time-telling necessity; 60% of young adults who own a watch still look at a handheld device for the time, according to a 2006 survey. As long as smartphones and laptops can do the same thing as a watch, plus much more, it's not likely that wristwatch sales will pick up again. Also being buried in the chronometer graveyard by cell phones: the alarm clock. Sixty-one percent of smartphone users say they're phone has replaced their traditional alarm clock.

  2. Manual transmissions

    Stick shifts have steadily become less popular over the last 20 years, and the number of cars sold with manual transmissions recently may indicate that this technology is on its deathbed. In 1985, almost a quarter of the cars sold were manual, and more than half of male buyers wanted to drive a stick. By 2008, only 7% of new car sales were manual and just 11% of men wanted to purchase one. Some reasons for this drop are the low number of new drivers learning on a stick, married couples who buy an automatic car because one spouse can't drive manual and because, frankly, driving a stick shift is just too much work. To top it off, more motorcycles are now being built with automatic or semi-automatic transmissions, so even the manual transmission's once-loyal leather-clad cronies are starting to make the switch.

  3. DVD players

    DVDs themselves are arguably on the way out as well, but DVD players have been rendered almost completely useless. The DVD player has one obvious purpose: to play DVDs. But computers and video game consoles also have this power, plus many other, cooler capabilities. It's no wonder DVD player sales are steadily declining. The rising popularity in DVR devices has also meant people are using their DVD players less since DVR customers can record movies and shows being played on TV and watch them later, rather than bothering with clumsy DVDs. The final nail in the coffin for DVD players could be the recent change in Netflix prices and packages. Users of the service now have to choose between receiving DVDs in the mail and the extremely popular option of instantly streaming movies and TV shows online, or they can pay full price for both. This move will likely push many to forget the DVDs altogether and put their DVD player in that closet (or landfill) where they keep their VCR.

  4. Landlines

    The imminent death of the landline telephone isn't surprising considering that cell phones and the Internet are displacing many different technologies. There are now more cell phones in the U.S. than landlines, and adults with cell phones talk on them about five times a day, according to the Pew Research Center. Even worse news for landlines, almost 30% of homes in the U.S. don't have landlines and another 15% have landlines but only use their cell phones. At the rate that landline sales are declining, they could almost disappear in the next 15 years. It's almost surprising that the death of landlines isn't faster with text messages, free services like Skype, and other telemarketer-free communications available.

  5. Music players

    That is, music players that don't do anything else. The cycle of musical life continues as the MP3 player follows in the footsteps of the Discman and Walkman before it and becomes outdated technology. Even the king of the MP3 player, the Apple iPod, has seen decreases as high as 17% since last year. And this is after growing declines in the two years before. While Apple may not be crying over the loss since they are still selling plenty of iPhones, which they say are the best "iPods" they've ever made, those of us who are nostalgic for a simpler time, one when you could listen to music without checking Facebook, talking to your mom, and playing Tetris all at the same time, mourn the death of the music player.

  6. Digital cameras

    Another victim of the smartphone and our own impatience to wait for something to upload through a cord rather than the Internet, the digital camera is dying in its point-and-shoot form. The digital camera sales numbers still look good and are predicted to do well until they drop off in 2014, but this is mainly because so many people are now "into photography" and buying the pricey digital SLR models. As camera phones have become more advanced and the improvements in digital cameras have slowed, it has become less important for consumers to buy a new camera or to own one at all. Forty-four percent of people with smartphones say their phone has replaced a digital camera. Producers may try to revive the faltering digital camera market with HD and 3D options, but it's yet to be seen whether these gimmicks can overcome the convenience of a smartphone camera.

  7. Video cameras

    High-tech video cameras will still be used to film movies and low-tech versions will still be showing your every move to mall security guards, but you won't find every nerdy dad walking around with a video camera affixed to his hand like you would in the good old days. Even the well-received Flip camera, which had the potential to bring video cameras into the digital age, was killed off by its parent company last April. The smartphone is stepping in to fill this role in the same way it is replacing digital still cameras. More than a third of smartphone users feel like they no longer need a separate video camera. Factor in the widespread use of webcams and the ability to record video using your computers, and it's obvious why the video camera may not be around much longer.

  8. Fax machines

    It's surprising that fax machines aren't already dead in this paperless world. In a few small circles, documents sent over fax machines are seen as more legitimate than ones with an electronic signature, but the average person doesn't use a fax machine more than, say, once or twice a year. And you'd be hard pressed to find an individual who actually owns one of these dinosaurs. In an age of email and electronic storage, fax machines are double the paper and double the hassle. While they may still have some uses in the work place, it won't be long until scanning a document and sending it through email will become the norm.

  9. USB flash drives and hard drives

    All the technology leaders have joined the cloud movement, which allows users to store their files and data on a remote server network and then access them from anywhere. This means just one thing for external storage devices like flash drives and hard drives: doomsday. Sure, people will still probably back up their most important files on some device or another, but how can a bulky hard drive or an easily lost flash drive compete with the convenience of the cloud? It's simple to use Dropbox, email a file to yourself or keep and share a document on a service like GoogleDocs. The Internet is essentially a virtual hard drive now, and the physical hard drives will become less useful as the cloud technology progresses.

  10. GPS devices

    We were all thankful when personal GPS systems got rid of the need to ever fold a map again. Soon we may be thankful that GPS devices are obsolete so we don't have to deal with it falling off our windshield every time we make a turn. People are just as bad at navigating as ever, but they are increasingly turning to their smartphones for guidance rather than a windshield GPS. More than half of smartphone or tablet users said they now use their phone or tablet instead of a GPS device. Some research firms predict that sales of GPS devices will start to decline this year, due also to the increasing availability of in-dash navigation and communication systems.

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