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Recently, Kodak announced it will stop making digital cameras. This news came out around the same time as their bankruptcy notice and marked the end of an era for the company. Kodak isn’t the only company to revolutionize an industry only to bow out once the new kids came to play, as C-Net pointed out in this post. In Kodak’s case, they are the dinosaur while high competition and the smart phone camera is the meteor destroying everything in its way. Take a trip down memory lane and check out a few other gadgets we’ve since loved and lost.
I can still remember my first music pirating experience. I would sit on the floor in my bedroom, tune in to my favorite radio station, and hold up my portable cassette player to the booming speakers. At the time, it seemed like the sky was the limit as to how many songs I could “steal” from the radio and listen to on the long bus ride home from school. Then Apple came out with the iPod and you could hear the collective groans coming from Walkman manufacturers and mix tape aficionados. Sony tried their hands at portable CD, Minidisc, and MP3 players in an attempt to stay relevant, but it was too little too late.
The bane of every math teacher’s existence, the pocket calculator was a godsend for the mathematically challenged – myself included. Calculators are now built in to everything we use, from watches to smart phones, but it’s the original desktop calculator that is now taking up residency in landfills across the country.
When saving work in a word document, many people simply click the square-looking shape next to Microsoft’s “W” logo, however few students today know what that shape is supposed to be. The floppy disc was the coolest thing since sliced bread when first introduced, but has since been put out to pasture. New laptops don’t have a drive for these for good reason – CD’s, external hard drives, and other USB-enabled devices are better. To put into perspective, the amount of info saved on just one CD would take about 486 Floppy disks. While Floppy may be dead, the image is so iconic that it will embed itself into our psyche for years to come.
Beepers caught on quickly with early adopters and “movers and shakers” in the business world when it was first released. What was once an essential status symbol among business men, the beeper is now only used by one of two professions - doctors and drug dealers. While we loved the portable communication and flexibility afforded to us by beepers, time went on, technology vastly improved, and cell phones trumped all. As a fun little side experiment – try explaining how a beeper works to anyone under the age of twenty. Their blank stares will speak volumes.
At the dawn of the internet, many of us distinctly remember sitting at a blank screen and listening to the hellish sounds our machine was making while trying to find a connection to the World Wide Web. Around the time the PC industry was created, dial-up modems were the only way to get “online” and only a handful of companies offered a truly great solution. The dial-up modem now holds a special place in our collective hearts as the sound of the internet. Fun Fact: When you slow down these rings, beeps, and bleeps by 700% it produces one of the creepiest sounds in the world. Don’t believe me? Hear for yourself.
Writing this blog made me think of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” – we are defined by our tools but not shackled to them. While technology continues to improve at an alarming rate, it’s important to take a step back and see how far we’ve come. Then we won't take for granted the fact that our smart phone's signal travels all the way to outer space and back to bring us a text message.