Earlier this week, people in Mexico and the US celebrated Dia De Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday in recognition of friends and loved ones who have recently departed.
So this week we have decided to investigate some technologies that have recently or will soon be leaving the mainstream. Unlike other recent lists, this was fairly easy to construct and there was limited, if occasionally spirited (no pun intended), debate about its order.
Some technologies did not make it onto the list. Dial-up connections were squeezed out because they are still used by the majority of the world to access the internet, and are still a last ditch method for those of us in the West.
Similarly dot-matrix printing also did not make it on here, because it is still widely used in certain key vertical markets. My garage still uses dot-matrix printers because the printing head will punch through three layers of paper at a time and they do not mind the noise because the lathe and buffing machines drown it out.
Still, with so many technologies falling by the wayside, we almost certainly overlooked a few, so feel free to contribute additions in the comment section.
mention: Power cables
Iain Thomson: Shaun was a little sceptical about this one, but I think the power cable is going the way of the dinosaurs thanks to growing interest in wireless power.
Palm Pre owners will already be familiar with the concept of wireless power. The Pre sits on a power block and recharges wirelessly with no need for a dedicated power supply. It's a great little system in a lot of ways.
And who would really mourn the lack of power cables? Most computer users who go on the road have suffered from forgetting to pack power cables at the last minute and had to either buy a replacement or get the unit shipped to their destination. In the past year I have had to buy a power cable for an iPod (£10) and have a laptop power brick shipped to me ($100 in customs and shipping charges).
However, there are problems with wireless power. It is not terribly efficient, for a start, but manufacturers are recognising that it is the future and are devising common standards so that the power brick could be a thing of the past.
Shaun Nichols: I'm still not completely sold on this one, but there is no doubting that cordless power systems are emerging in a big way, and for certain areas the switch can't come soon enough.
Just about anyone who has ever owned a notebook computer can tell stories about people or pets walking past and tripping over a power cord, often with disastrous consequences.
There is also the convenience factor. Who has not had to wander around an office or public building searching for an outlet to recharge a phone? Wireless power systems can go a long way to relieving the pains of having to charge up electronic devices.
Mention: Disk-based storage
Shaun Nichols: One of the most popular new technologies in recent years has been the solid-state drive (SSD). Once only offered in the highest of high-end computers and servers, the SSD is increasingly making its way into everyday consumer PCs and enterprise workstations.
SSDs have a number of advantages over disk-based storage. For starters, Flash memory is much faster, cutting down on start-up and seek times. Additionally, SSDs are becoming as reliable as conventional drives. As a result, the market for the old platter-based hard drive is shrinking.
That does not mean that disk-based drives will disappear entirely. Despite falling prices, Flash memory is still far more expensive than platter storage. For large-scale storage systems, the conventional hard drive has a stable future.
Iain Thomson: Hmm, I am sceptical on this one. Disk storage has one major advantage over Flash – what gets written stays written, barring proximity to a major magnet. Call me a curmudgeon but I don't trust Flash for long-term safe storage.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the SSD is the future. The advantages in speed and power savings are hard to argue with, certainly on desktop and laptop computers. I do not think datacentres are going to buy into Flash in a big way any time soon – the cost would be prohibitive – but storage manufacturers are already bringing out Flash/disk hybrids for use in servers.
But the disk system will survive for the foreseeable future in my opinion, because it provides data security, sometimes a little too much. I got into a conversation with a UK computer police expert about the safest way to wipe data from a disk drive and she said that the technology for retrieving data had now got to the point that the only way to be sure your data was irretrievable was to use a sledgehammer, petrol and matches.
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