Useless Technology

Raise your hand if you actually still have a land-line in your home – and use it. I have a feeling not many hands will be up in the air. Many people simply don’t see the need to pay for this type of service when they already shell out money for their cellular device every month. We need our cell phones, right? However, if we have those, do we really need a land line as well? The answer – for millions of users – is a big fat NO.

This makes me wonder what other types of technologies are considered outdated or useless. Things such as CDs are obsolete in large part these days. They aren’t gone, no. But they certainly don’t sell the way they used to. With services to listen to and download your favorite music out there, who wants to go buy a disc that you aren’t supposed to rip onto your devices? I’m pretty sure almost no one does, which is why record companies keep screaming about their bottom line.

Head to any electronics department, and you’ll find a number of VCRs for sale. Who the hell uses one of those anymore? If you still have old VHS tapes lying around, you’ve likely converted them into digital media to use on your computer or other (newer) devices. We want to save those memories, right? Those little tapes don’t last forever, and they just don’t play well, anyway.

Another piece of “obsolete” tech I see everywhere are fax machines. Can anyone tell me who still USES those things? I wish they would die a terrible death in a fire or something. There is actually one of these devices in my home. I can’t tell you when the last time was that I used it, though. These days, I scan documents into the computer and transmit them via email. Remember, no one has land lines so how the heck are they going to receive a fax?

What other types of technologies currently being sold make you scratch your head and wonder why anyone bothers? What is obsolete in your mind?

60 thoughts on “Useless Technology”

  1. We only use analog lines coming out of the wall at my place of business for faxes, and even then the fax machines only send faxes, we use efax for incoming faxes. All other telephony is IP until it hits the end of our network.

  2. We only use analog lines coming out of the wall at my place of business for faxes, and even then the fax machines only send faxes, we use efax for incoming faxes. All other telephony is IP until it hits the end of our network.

  3. CDs – I still buy CDs. Sure, music can be downloaded, but I prefer having that physical media so that I can rip them myself, and have them in case the device I ripped them to goes south. Ironically (based on some definition of “irony”), I have stopped buying physical books in favor of ebooks. Go figure…

    Fax – the company I work for gives network enabled fax machines to our clients, but they usually don’t use the fax component of the machines – they use the fax machines to scam the documents then email them to us.

    The last time I had need for a phone jack was when SunGuard (voip service) was in business.

    1. I’m (almost) fully with you on the CD front. I’ve discovered I appreciate listening to music via subscription services, though. I can’t even recall the last physical disk I’ve purchased. In fact, I’m even thinking of eliminating a few services that don’t get used – like XM satellite radio. I’m in my car frequently enough, but can easily stream via Pandora or the like (via Bluetooth).

    1. Ah, “cell phone only” doesn’t mean that the mobile device isn’t being used as an alternative. I’m less tied to a “land line” anymore, and that’s saved me untold amounts of cash. If I don’t use it but sparingly over the next year… it’s gone. Even now, my RJ-11 jacks go largely unused – since I’m relying on a VoIP provider.

    2. Ah, “cell phone only” doesn’t mean that the mobile device isn’t being used as an alternative. I’m less tied to a “land line” anymore, and that’s saved me untold amounts of cash. If I don’t use it but sparingly over the next year… it’s gone. Even now, my RJ-11 jacks go largely unused – since I’m relying on a VoIP provider.

  4. LOTS of companies in the UK still use faxes… no-one likes them, and we do have email too obviously but it’s just easier to fax a document than to locate a machine with a scanner attached, scan the image, attach it to an email, repeat for each page etc. With fax you just plonk the document in all at once, dial a number and that’s that.

    Landlines. Everyone has one in the UK! Nearly everyone has one or more mobile phones too, though.

  5. LOTS of companies in the UK still use faxes… no-one likes them, and we do have email too obviously but it’s just easier to fax a document than to locate a machine with a scanner attached, scan the image, attach it to an email, repeat for each page etc. With fax you just plonk the document in all at once, dial a number and that’s that.

    Landlines. Everyone has one in the UK! Nearly everyone has one or more mobile phones too, though.

  6. companies use definately use faxes. they are not dead. for the average home user maybe yes your right

  7. The only reason we still have faxes is because governments and large organizations that handle protected information (financials, health records, etc.) see the fax as “more secure” than email. I wonder how many fax numbers are actually hooked up to services like eFax, showing up as email anyway.

  8. Government agencies are what keep fax machines far from obsolete, in my opinion. At least in my “third world country”, they kept asking for files on diskettes -yes, 3.5″ diskettes- until not so long ago. I can’t even remember the last time I ever used one of those – somewhere around 1999, perhaps.

    Internet service at home is offered by the same state-run telco that put a landline where I live eons ago. So the landline is still there. It used to be that you needed a landline for Internet access in the modem era. For added retro value we have an old phone tied to the landline that sounds big and loud, the way the pre-1980s generation was used to.

  9. Government agencies are what keep fax machines far from obsolete, in my opinion. At least in my “third world country”, they kept asking for files on diskettes -yes, 3.5″ diskettes- until not so long ago. I can’t even remember the last time I ever used one of those – somewhere around 1999, perhaps.

    Internet service at home is offered by the same state-run telco that put a landline where I live eons ago. So the landline is still there. It used to be that you needed a landline for Internet access in the modem era. For added retro value we have an old phone tied to the landline that sounds big and loud, the way the pre-1980s generation was used to.

  10. where I work still uses fax machines the other person who sends them needs to get a new pen as you can hardly read them sometimes! Oh and reading other peoples hand writing that’s a bit tricky as well.

  11. I just used a fax machine an hour ago! It’s hard because I deal with a lot of documents that need a signature on them. I could obviously scan and then email the document but a fax machine scans and sends in one step. I’ve used the scanners that automatically scan and create an email but I’m on the road a lot and it’s easier to be able to throw a document in the fax machine than it is to bust out my laptop and set up a new scanner on it. I work as a technology specialist for a large school district and find that it’s easier to just ask a teacher to throw the document in the fax machine than it is to have them find a scanner and have them scan the document over. Scanners are harder to come by nowadays!

  12. Ok Chris- you are not “worldly”.

    Dial-up is still with us. May even be infringing what we do or say for those who did not like like it? Your call if you promote it past you- how we act is how we are judged…

    1. But… why?!

      DSL is at least in the range of dial-up (in terms of dollars spent). You are hurting yourself by being on a connection that’s slower than molasses by today’s expectations.

      1. I agree with this, AT&T Direct DSL is only $14.95/month with no landline required (and no taxes added)!

  13. Ok Chris- you are not “worldly”.

    Dial-up is still with us. May even be infringing what we do or say for those who did not like like it? Your call if you promote it past you- how we act is how we are judged…

  14. Landline is still useful for those with home security systems that need to “call home” for fire and illegal entry. With ISp’s, such as mine, who reserve the right (EULA) to delete any message they consider a danger, without notice, and do!! eMail, like USPS Services, does not always work as advertised.

    1. As you likely saw from my recent home security video, the wireless option has been available for years. No “landline” required.

      Email works fine if you find the right provider and pay for it. ISP email is… well, you know how “good” it is.

  15. I normally use a wired phone, a fax (my European brother-in-law doesn’t use the internet), and a cell for roving holiday use – on a pay-as-u-go basis. My wired phone line also provides the DSL connection I use for my home PC network of wired desktops and wireless laptop. Got to stay connected. I might, however, agree with you that my VHS R/W could probably vanish without any problem (except then I couldn’t play my library of bought VHS tapes that stands next to my over-flowing library of DVDs. Have a great day. Chris P., Canada

    1. I stopped wasting money on physical media years ago. Even shows I DVR are deleted not long after they’re viewed.

      Might as well argue that telegrams still have a place in your home office. πŸ˜‰

  16. When a person has owns a very large collection of VHS tapes (think a 1000 or more), the amount of time necessary to convert them to any other form is enough for anyone to shy away from the effort. If you also have hundreds of music CDs, that effort is also potentially tremendous (I’ve converted maybe 100 of these–the ones I listen to most). So it’ll be a long time (every pun intended) before someone like me will ever get all my media converted . . . and I don’t intend to do so. I’ve better things to do with my time. So VCR and CD/DVD player will be with me for a long time yet, at least until the last tape/CD and/or their counterpart players ultimately die.

    Re land line. When the power goes out in a large area, cell towers go down. From a home security standpoint, a land line is much, much more reliable. During the eastern blackout several years ago, this is precisely what happened here. So, for some of us, a land line is still essential.

    Never count old technology out. Heck, record players are making a comeback in audio circles. πŸ˜‰

    1. How many of those VHS tapes do you actually view on a regular basis? May be just as cost effective to send ’em into a service to convert FOR you than it would be to keep storing ’em and hoping they’ll work when you want to watch ’em again.

      1. These are commercial movie videos; most copy services won’t touch ’em (copyrighted material!). Even if I could send them to a service, imagine the price tag for doing all of them or just a mere, say, 200 (the best ones). So cost effective is–from my perspective–a protect-the-media and store situation. (It costs me nothing so far)

        As far as worrying about them working or not, I’m not too concerned. Since I take very good care of these, my failure rate is 1 tape in the past couple of decades or so . . . and it’s the most often played recordings that are typically more at risk then the lesser played. And the greatest risk, from my experience, is from old VCRs chewing tape up. So proper care of equipment is also very important, and the ability to acquire new equipment when necessary is essential..

        When it’s impossible to get s new VCR, that’s when I’ll worry about saving tapes by circumventing copy protections and “digitizing” my collection. And then I’ll not be doing all of them..

  17. We still use Fax machines and landline phones at my workplace.
    At home, the landline is part of the TV, internet, phone bundle. I carry a cellphone with me, but it’s not always turned on. As far as other devices, I have an “entry level” high-end audiophile music system, and I like to have physical CDs to take advantage of high-end sound.. As far as downloading, unless you go for hi-rez downloads, you lose about 90% of what’s on the CD and you get very poor audio quality. Having said that, there are some very nice music servers out there , and I may purchase one in the future. And, there’s all kinds of music on internet radio that can be streamed to music system and TV.

  18. Come on. The landline is bi-directional and much easier to listen to; on the cell when you talk you “step on” the other party. We need to learn “roger, over”.

    Cell phones are great for verbal tweets, horrible for conversations.

  19. My problem is that my husband is not tech savvy. He can barely use his cell phone. Doesn’t even know how to text.

  20. I have 2 VCRs that I use to tape TV shows and they work perfectly fine after many years. The two give me a larger storage capacity and the ability to record on one while watching the other. (Or I can record on both at the same time.) I also have 2 DVD players.

    I have a land line in addition to the cell phone. I am not in reach of Verizon’s fiber network so I use it for DSL (for high speed) in addition to using it as my main line. The battery life in central offices tend to be much longer than that in cell phone towers. I’m not sure how I would deal with the multiple extensions I have if I used cell phone only. As a small additional bonus, on a landline if you dial 911 you typically get connected to the right responding agency right away and they know the address you are calling from.

    Bill

    1. VHS has been outmoded for years. Sure, VCRs work – but not nearly as well / reliably as today’s virtual DVR options.

      The “land line” may have better battery life – but at what cost? You’d likely be better off investing in a battery pack for your wireless communicator. Or, ya know… overpay the phone company every month. πŸ˜‰

      1. AT&T has a landline plan that’s only ~$5/month for 300 outgoing minutes and unlimited incoming minutes. They don’t advertise it, but you can ask for it. Pretty good for a little piece of mind when it comes to emergencies.

  21. I still possess 3 VHS tapes and retained my DVD/VHS combo player specifically for these 3 tapes.

    Star Wars, A New Hope

    Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back

    Star Wars, Return of the Jedi

    Of course the are original cuts, no added scenes or graphics πŸ˜€

    -Greg

  22. Chris just saying land line phones are dead tech, over and over doesn’t make it so… when, not if a hurricane hits (I live on the Mid-Atlantic coast), the only powered device that is still working after day two, is the Land Phone lines. During Isabel and a couple of other outages, I’ve been able to tap the phone line to power a couple of lights in the house as well, from the 70 volts the line carries (kinda cool too when the lights flicker when the phone rings!)…

    Faxes, well, companies and lawyers still demand stand alone Facsimile expressly because they do not pass through a computer where they in theory might have been manipulated. I know that in 99.999999999% if the times it’s not reasonable to think that they would be compromised, but lawyers seem to get their knickers in a twist over that 0.0000000001% case.

    VHS, CD, Cassette, and 8-Tracks (yes I saw, and heard a working one last week!)… Well, I can’t argue with you there. There will always be those hangers on that will stick with that tech, as long as the media for it still works.

    1. That’s kinda dumb since I could easily alter the document before I print it off/copy it to fax…

      1. It’s not about the sender altering the document. If I receive a fax from (###) ###-##### I can trust that is where it came from and that privacy was kept during transmission. Not only can an originating email address be spoofed but email is not a secure protocol so snooping is possible.

        There are tools like PGP that solve this and I have worked several places that have used encryption on email but it is not integrated in most mail clients and is not a simple user friendly process yet so it has not rolled out to the masses.

        Now compare what is easier.
        FAX: Lay 5 sheets of paper down on FAX, type in number, hit send, other user picks up 5 sheets of paper
        EMAIL: Scan 5 documents, send email requesting receivers public key, receive email with public key, encrypt documents, attach to email, hit send, other user receives documents, save documents, decrypts.

      1. Yes, and the TV, the Radio, and so on ad nauseum…. Storms happen in all sorts of variations of strength and size… sometimes is safer to stay put, than just hit the road without an evacuation order. Usually unless there is a observed storm surge (its the flood surge that is the most destructive force), the authorities want you to stay put unless your area is vulnerable. If everyone hit the road all at once here, without staggered evac orders, it would be instant gridlock and there would still be untold numbers on the roads when the storm hit. Oh… and the evacuation phone call from the Emergency Management only goes out to the local Land Lines!

  23. Yes, I have a landline and yes I use it. At home it’s my primary phone. When out and about I carry a tracfone with pay as you go service (no plans, no bills, no unexpected charges). Internet is DSL -through the landline-.

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