My husband is easily moved by objects such as the blue translucent Motorola pager he used to stay connected back when he first moved to Brooklyn in the early 90s. He saves it, along with Walkmen, Diskmen and other paperweights, in a clear plastic crate we keep in our storage space labeled “Museum of Digital Obsolescence.” Pagers, yeah, I remember those – along with urine-encrusted East Village pay phones, and 45-minutes-by-myself-in-a-sushi-place dating catastrophes resulting from missed pages.
I’ll never understand why people bestow their nostalgia on the crappiest obsolete technologies — those things we relied on in certain bridge zones, placeholders occupying a brief moment before something a thousand times better became possible or affordable. LPs, hand-written letters, and Polaroids are compellingly romantic. But fax machines? Land lines? Phone books? I came across this article bemoaning technologies our babies will never know recently while I had just spent 20 minutes clambering around under a credenza retrieving and subsequently washing unknown crusty substances from DVDs my toddler had had his way with. Believe me, I will be glad to see them go. Here are some more things I think we and ours can live quite happily without.
1. Physical data storage and its associated playback devices — DVDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, floppy disks, external drives, laser discs, slide projectors, I’m looking at you. (Books, photographs, and LPs you get a pass for inherent niftiness, although I hope to cart around fewer of you next time we move.) I’m not a Microsoft sort of girl, but the message of their “To the Cloud” campaign really resonates with me.
2. Closed, lost, or inaccessible data. I don’t want to have to go to my doctor’s office to get my medical records, or City Hall to find out information about a building permit, and I would love online access to my college transcripts. We need more open data, better data standards, infinitely redundant data storage, and careful privacy practices to protect it all.
3. Ambient lack-of-awareness. We now have the capacity to measure, track, analyze and understand our physical activity, our environmental impact, our medical conditions, and our finances in real-time and space. Geo-location services give us instant insider perspectives on the places to visit in our own neighborhoods or when we travel.
4. Losing track of people. Thanks, Facebook! Now there’s no reason to lose touch unless you specifically choose to.
5. (This one may be total wishful thinking… but why not?) Built-in obsolescence. This may be the critical factor in Apple’s climb from underdog to Big Brother, but it’s abjectly irresponsible in the amount of potentially toxic e-waste it generates by inciting fanboys and girls to run out every 6 months for the latest iDevice.
What devices or technologies would you like to bid farewell to?