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10 obsolete technologies that refuse to die

From fax machines to typewriters

These obsolete technologies didn't get the memo about their extinction -maybe because someone wrote it on a typewriter and faxed it to them.

6. Cash registers

Ka-ching! Despite the emergence of computerised point-of-sale systems that can automatically track inventory, identify your top-selling products and best customers, and simplify back-end accounting, thousands of retail stores still rely on what's essentially a cigar box that can do simple maths.

"The basics of the cash register haven't changed since it was invented 127 years ago," notes Tom Greenhaw, founder of CashierLive, a company that offers web-based point-of-sale software.

"While [it] might be powered by electricity now, it still can't tell you what your store has in stock (and it never will). Computers with point-of-sale software are expensive, which is why a majority of small retailers still stick with the dying cash register. But web technology is finally coming to eliminate the cash register."

Basic cash registers - and really, cash itself - are analogue dinosaurs in the digital jungle of financial transactions. It's time for them to check out.

7. Instant cameras

Like their distant cousins the snooty novelists, many camera buffs eschew digital for the comfort of darkrooms and the aroma of developer fluid. Even the venerable Polaroid Instant Photo is making a comeback.

The original Polaroid company filed for bankruptcy (for the second time) in 2008 and had its assets purchased in April 2009 by a private holding company. Despite that, the newly revived firm has introduced an updated version of the One camera that, yes, uses instant film. That trip down memory lane will set you back £55 for the camera - plus a steep £1 per shot. Polaroid has even hired pop diva Lady Gaga as "creative director". If Polaroid can survive Lady Gaga, it may be with us for a long, long time.

8. Disc drives

Shiny plastic platters of all kinds - CD, DVD, even Blu-ray - are destined to eventually follow the various floppies, Zip discs, Click drives, and other portable storage media into the digital graveyard. These days, many of us get our software via downloads and our entertainment streamed to whatever device happens to be convenient. Yet discs and disc drives persist.

"You can download almost anything today and stream much of what you can't download," says Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group.

"Flash drives have dropped substantially in price, and we don't really need more than 64GB anyway (and you can get that in an iPod). So why don't we say hasta la vista to the disk drive and finally move to something lighter, more robust, and less noisy?"

NEXT PAGE: Cathode ray tubes

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


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