Today’s world is filled with new technologies that emulate humans. We have robots manning industrial assembly lines and Google’s Waymo self-driving ride-hailing service. Increasing automation has led to the imagining of a dystopian future where you’ll be out of work and robots will overrun the world. However, some argue that automation may not necessarily lead to job loss.
Standing calmly in the midst of the debate are so-called outdated technologies that have survived extinction, for now at least. We give a run-down of some of these old technologies that are still used by some people in different industries, possibly even you, today.
If you’re wondering how your ATM machine dispenses money, it’s mostly thanks to COBOL. Invented over 60 years ago in 1959, COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language) is a computer programming language likened to English, created for portability and readability.
Even with the different types of programming languages today and the difficulties of transitioning to modern systems, COBOL skills are still in demand in business and financial applications. In fact, state authorities had to call for COBOL programmers to come out of retirement during the pandemic.
If you want to know more about COBOL, you might want to read what COBOL is and why it is in demand.
2. Dot Matrix Printers
Dot matrix printers have been around since American manufacturers introduced the DEC LA30 and Centronics 101 in the 1970s. These old-timers are less costly, need less maintenance, and can produce multiple copies at once using carbon paper. These benefits make them the go-to printers of courier companies, railways, banks, payroll clerks, or any establishment and profession that needs multiple copies of documents.
The hidden security risks of printers today may not appeal to old-world sensibilities. Plus, you might find the things to check when buying a new printer too overwhelming. If you miss the familiar grinding sounds of impact printers, you’d be happy to know that Epson still sells trusty dot matrix models.
Before overpriced Apple products were even a thing, having a pager was considered the status symbol and fashion statement of the 90s. In those days, Motorola dominated the pager market. Today, you might be able to buy a vintage working Motorola pager from eBay.
Pagers were patented in 1949 by wireless technology pioneer Al Gross. Pagers were originally intended for doctors, although they took some time to adopt the technology because it might disturb patients or, we should hope not, their golf games. Future Market Insights notes that demand for pagers is still growing, especially in the retail and mining sector, where efficient communication during emergencies is crucial.
4. Windows XP
The world has gone through multiple Windows iterations, yet Windows XP refuses to die. In 2017, the internet went agog with reports that Britain’s warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, runs on Windows XP. This was promptly disputed in a report from the UK Defense Journal. In 2019, Windows XP again made waves when publications circulated a story from Russian site Open Media that President Vladimir Putin allegedly uses the obsolete OS.
Windows XP is over 20 years old, and extended support ended in 2014, which might make you wonder why some still prefer to use it. One possibility is the hesitation to learn newer technologies or, in the case of the public sector, the red tape involved in purchasing licenses. In many cases, upgrading would require such a monumental overhaul that it’s cheaper to pay Microsoft for extra support than spend time and effort moving to a modern OS.
While the current generation might raise their eyebrows at one of Microsoft’s most popular operating systems, Windows XP is sure to bring up some nostalgic feelings. If you’re one of them, try looking back at Windows XP highlights, improvements, and more. Or you can go one step further and learn how to download and install Windows XP for free.
5. Landline Phones
With mobile phones and free calling apps (unlimited calls over Wi-Fi), the landline should be obsolete. It might take some time for the technology to be totally extinct, though, given that some areas or countries may still have spotty internet or cellular phone service.
If you’re looking for work-from-home roles in customer service, telemarketing, and tech support, you might also be required to have a landline. However, with the accessibility of VOIP and cellular phones, we can safely assume that the landline will soon become a thing of the past.
6. Floppy Disks
IBM developed the first commercial 8-inch floppy disks in the 1970s, but it was the 3½ inch floppy invented in the 1980s that became the mainstay of computing. Jim Porter, an experienced disk analyst, lauds the floppy disk for being one of the most influential products launched in the industry. According to IBM, the floppy made it possible for businesses to write programs, store them on the disk, and commercially distribute them.
It (the floppy disk) turned out to be one of the most influential product introductions ever in the industry. – Jim Porter
Today, you might find an old dusty floppy disk in your storage. But it still has valuable uses in certain industries. In an NPR interview, Tom Persky, who owns an online business selling floppy disks, says that British Airways stores data on some Boeing 747s on a floppy. Older medical and industrial manufacturing technology might also need the tech to store important data.
If you still have some old floppy disks, don’t throw them out just yet: there are useful things you can create with your old floppy disks.
7. QWERTY Keyboard
The QWERTY keyboard is not the only keyboard layout, but is the most popular. While there are many myths about the origin of the QWERTY layout, the Smithsonian Magazine says that we can be sure that its first documented appearance was in 1878. It soon became the standard as the largest typewriter manufacturers merged and adopted it on their typewriters.
We can safely bet that most of you use a QWERTY keyboard at work. But if, for some reason, you want to remap your keyboard, you can learn how to create a custom keyboard layout on Windows.
Out With the Old, In With the New
It takes time for technology to become obsolete. When it happens, you might feel nostalgic, but you can also look forward to exciting technological developments. Imagine how work and life could change with recent strides in AI, immersive virtual worlds, and other emerging technology. Jobs may not necessarily be lost but replaced by new tasks and better processes. So for now, enjoy using your beloved tech while you still can.