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The 40 best dying or dead technologies

A spirited send-off for the best tech of yesteryear


Technology evolves at a breakneck speed, which means today's most-used technology could just be a fleeting memory by tomorrow. We've rounded up 40 once-commonplace activities that are rapidly approaching extinction.

6. Chatting with the SysOp

Status: Deceased

The SysOp - short for system administrator - was a figure of power beginning in the late 1970s and continuing into the early 1990s.

As the creator and overlord of the local bulletin board system (BBS), the SysOp watched over the users who dialled into his pre-internet electronic communication system.

He chatted with visitors, kept the system running smoothly, and occasionally hit the disconnect button when someone remained logged in for too long.

7. Paying for long distance

Status: Nearly deceased

Once upon a time, people had to pay expensive per-minute fees for long distance. Then, the big bad mobile phone came along and blew those charges away like a straw house. The end.

8. Getting fuzzy TV reception

Status: Deceased

When digital broadcasting commenced, it also effectively sent the fuzzy "white snow" to the graveyard. So long, annoying static; we always loathed you.

9. Hearing the sound of a modem connecting

Status: Nearly deceased

How a familiar series of sounds could simultaneously be so grating and so gratifying is a mystery that man may never unlock. Looking for a fix? Try the 56K Modem Emulator.

10. Shooting Polaroids

Status: Nearly deceased

Polaroid plans to stop selling its signature instant film at the end of this year.

11. Waiting to get photos developed

Status: Showing signs of illness

Though film-based cameras aren't completely gone, the advantages of digital snapshots - namely, that you can view a picture immediately after taking it and that you can discard bad shots at no cost - have certainly made traditional cameras far less common.

12. Typing on a typewriter

Status: Nearly deceased

The clickity-clackity sound of the standard typewriter has slowly got quieter over the years.

13. Removing the perforated leader strips from continuous-feed paper printouts

Status: Nearly deceased

Born in the 1970s, the dot matrix printer delivered low-quality printouts for nearly two full decades before inkjet technology offered an alternative that was slightly less hard on the eyes.

The dot matrix printer will be remembered for its frequent paper jams; for its slow, noisy operation; and for the thin strips of perforated paper that you had to tear (carefully, so you didn't end up with a document that looked as though a tiny but voracious shrew had been sampling it) off the left and right sides of a printout once their work of keeping the paper properly aligned in the printer was done.

14. Having easy-to-remember TV channel numbers

Status: Nearly deceased

Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on? More like 557 channels (and still nothin' on). Try writing a catchy tune to that, Springsteen.

Broadband speed tester

NEXT PAGE: Checking your answering machine

  1. They're now nearly obsolete
  2. Chatting with the SysOp
  3. Checking your answering machine
  4. Storing data on a floppy disk
  5. Flipping on an incandescent light bulb
  6. Sending documents via fax


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