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10 obsolete technologies that refuse to die

From fax machines to typewriters

When you want to send a message to someone you probably head for your email account, rather than a telegram. However, once upon a time, technologies such as the telegraph, typewriters, fax machines and even record decks were depended on.

These technologies served their purpose for a while, then either evolved into cheaper, faster, better forms or simply disappeared. Yet some - such as fax machines, landline phones, and instant cameras - just refuse to die, despite better digital alternatives.

Here are ten technologies that should be dead and buried, yet still cling to life.

1. The Telegraph

At the telegram's peak in 1929, more than 200 million were sent. However, by 2005, that number had dwindled to 21,000 in the US. This decrease resulted in Western Union sending its last telegraphic transmission on January 27, 2006.

Subsequently, iTelegram took over Western Union's telex network, though you can access it via the web. It's still a fairly pricey form of communication however. Western Union is still around too, though its primary customers appear to be internet scam artists hoping to dupe suckers into wiring them money.

2. Typewriters

In the age of web tablets and smartphones, typewriters are a bit like Fred Flintstone's car - strictly for cave dwellers. Yet people still buy and use them. In 2009, for example, the New York City Police Department made headlines when it spent nearly $1m on typewriters, mostly so it could continue to use multipart carbon forms for processing evidence.

Still, the typewriter's primary market appears to be snooty novelists who claim they cannot compose on any technology introduced since Hemingway died. Case in point: last December, author Cormac McCarthy's 1950's era Olivetti Lettera 32 portable sold for an astounding $255,000 at auction. Proceeds were donated to the Santa Fe Institute. McCarthy promptly went out and bought another $20 manual typewriter to take its place.

NEXT PAGE: Fax machines

  1. From fax machines to typewriters
  2. Fax machines
  3. Cash registers
  4. Cathode ray tubes


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