4 Technologies on the Verge of Extinction

Source: sxc.hu Photo: MaxCarnage
Source: sxc.hu Photo: MaxCarnage

Much of the technology that we take for granted today is indistinguishable from what our ancestors would call magic. In the future, things like wireless electricity are likely to see close to magic in our eyes. We have advanced so far in the last 100 years, that it almost constitutes a miracle. Technological advances continue all the time, making our lives more convenient and entertaining. As we move forward, though, there is plenty of technology that will fall out of use and be relegated to the dust bin of history (or to the Smithsonian). Here are 4 relatively recent technologies that are on the verge of extinction:

1. Landline Telephones

The landline telephone is practically a technological dinosaur. It has been around for more than 120 years, and in wide use in homes for almost a century. The landline was a fixture in just about every home until less than 10 years ago. In fact, the cell phone revolution didn’t really pick up speed until around 5 years ago. But since then, the effect on the landline phone has been devastating. Almost no one under the age of 30 even bothers with a landline anymore, preferring cell phones that can be outfitted with cheap plans, or deciding to get their phone service over the Internet at a steep discount from landline or cell phone prices.

2. DVDs

photo credit: C.P.Storm

When DVDs started get popular in the early 2000s, it seemed like they would enjoy the long popularity of VHS. DVDs are compact, in comparison, and of infinitely better quality. They are easier to use tham VHS, and quickly came down in price, ensuring that that the discs and their players became affordable.

Now, though, DVDs are already falling out of favor. Blu-ray is of better quality and can hold more information than DVD. And it’s not just the disc format competing with DVD: The ability to download and stream video from the Internet is also hastening the demise of the DVD. In fact, Blu-ray may only last a little longer itself as people become interested in the versatility of completely digital media. We don’t want to carry our music around on discs, so why would we do that with movies? Only those enamored of the idea of hard proof of media ownership will still be interested in discs of any kind after the next few years.

3. Cable-like TV

No Listings Available == 66% Full?
photo credit: rick

DVDs aren’t the only media likely to lose ground to blazing fast download speeds and Internet streaming. Cable and satellite TV could soon be losing ground. Cable is losing to satellite, and satellite could easily lose ground to online sources of television programming and entertainment. Especially since so much of it is free. Even though Rupert Murdoch is pushing to start charging subscription fees for Hulu, it is still free right now, and there is a chance that the move could backfire, since we’re all very used to the idea that Internet content should be mostly free. As long as the up and coming generation is more interested in being able to access their entertainment from anywhere via a laptop, cable-like TV is in danger.

4. GPS Devices

Huh? Aren’t GPS devices brand new and popular? That they are. And this past holiday season, many GPS manufacturers were desperate to sell units and marked them down dramatically. This is because with the entrance of Google in the market, it seems clear that GPS capability is going to be standard on smart phones. You can already use maps and other helpful GPS-like applications on a wide array of smart phones, and integrating full-service GPS will only encourage the decline of standalone devices. Why would you buy an extra gadget when your phone can fulfill the same function?

With the advancement of technology, it seems clear that some things will fall by the wayside. What gadgets do you see disappearing in the next few years?

53 Responses to 4 Technologies on the Verge of Extinction

  1. The fax machine is another. Nowadays it’s just as easy to scan a PDF and email it as it is to fax a document. And you don’t need the phone line.

  2. i think DVDs will be here long enough…CDs perhaps…why? where would you burn linux distros? pc software? BR is too big and expensive for such uses…CDs should have been it, instead of DVDs…:)

    anyway, nice article!

  3. Oh, right. Like cellphone cameras can produce images as crisp and clear as a scanner. Tho, an advancement in scanning technology would be nice…

  4. Your epic ship load of fail has arrived.

    1. Will be around for decades more. Are you at work? Look down. What do you see?

    2. Even the CEO of NetFlix, who is leading the charge toward new video delivery systems like streaming readily admits that the DVD will be around for at least ten more years.

    3. Wrong again. The whole internet video idea completely ignores the reality of of the numbers. There is simply no where near enough bandwidth in the world to replace the cable or broadcast spectrum with internet transport. On top of that, you think you can replace all that broadcast spectrum with on-demand? LOL!

    4. GPS is already standard on smart phones. So are cameras. But, smart phones are no more likely to hurt Canon’s camera business than they are to hurt Garmin et al’s GPS business.

    You are clueless!

  5. The landline telephone may go, but the land line won’t. Don’t most of us get the internet through the land line? Therefore, if you’re still paying for a line and line rental, you’re wasting money by using mobiles for all your calls.

  6. Sorry, but you won’t get the same quality from a picture as you would from a scanner. Scanners are still invaluable for digitizing older print media and documents. A lot of artists also use them to digitize sketches that will be turned into artwork. I don’t think scanners are going to dissapear any time soon.

  7. Blu-Ray is a kind of DVD. Movies don’t come on DVD or Blu-Ray, they come on standard or Blu-Ray DVD.

    They are the same disc, different format. Digital Versatile Disc.

    You don’t stop watching television because you get High-Def, you watch High-Def television.


  8. I’ll agree with all but the DVDs. Streaming downloads don’t look as good on my large screen as either DVD or BluRay. Streaming downloads also don’t have Dolby encoding, and what audio it does have lacks any real punch, it’s been compressed so much. Which is why I bought Phantom of the Opera and Fifth Element on BluRay (and promtly backed them up on the home server. That said, Netflix style streaming is great for sitcoms and documentaries where I don’t care about the sound or picture quality.

    But – my home media server holds 800+ standard DVDs with their Dolby soundtracks and I don’t need to rely on an internet connection to watch them.

    I hope the DVD prediction is wrong as do no doubt most home theater enthusiasts. Maybe people like me are an exception – preferring to buy top quality and physical media to overcompressed garbage. Oh wait, this is the land of the McCrap drive through and “MP3 is good enough”.

  9. I find the bit about the land-line a bit stretched. You can get a land line for cheaper than $30 that includes free long distance within the U.S. no minutes to worry about also.

  10. Landline phones might be a technological dinosaur, but in some areas of the country that occasionally get visits from hurricanes, the landline phone remains operational and more reliable than cellphones. A good example was Hurricane Ivan in 2004 which hit the Florida Panhandle. You couldn’t get cellphone service south of Interstate 10 throughout Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa countries for a week, but landline phones were fully operational all the way to the coast.

  11. I agree with all but the gps, cell phones dont use 4 satelites to know your exact lat and long position, basicly meaning cell phones have to use cell towers to triangulate where you are, giving you about a 200-400 foot circle around where your wanting to go, so it cannot acctually get you where you want to go, maybe close but you’ll still be looking around at the end trying to find where you need to be, this site needs to do some research, also, cell phones cant tell you your altitude, theres no way atleast not in the next 5 years cell phones will be even close to the accuracy as an acctual GPS Unit.

  12. People keep bringing up the point that they believe that gps devices are going to vanish because of all the “apps” available on the new phones. Maybe thats true from the turn-by-turn gps devices used in cars but i believe that a large majority of gps devices are used in marine applications as well as out in the “wilderness.” Phones aren’t going to replace these devices. Not unless someone comes out with a shock resistant, waterproof cell phone and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  13. >The fax machine is another.

    No, it is the only way to send a legally binding signature. Until there is a standard on eSignatures, Digital Signatures of whatever you want to call them the fax machine is not going anywhere. You may send it via a computer and receive it via a computer but it is still a fax.

  14. @FFB, the government will ensure the fax hangs around. A friend emailed a PDF of a request memo in to a government agency and received an email back saying he needed to fax the request. Unreal. It took us two hours to find a fax machine.

  15. haha “verge of extinction”.. landline is still used in 80% of all households in the US (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/wireless200905.htm)

    only 1% of the US downloads movies, “Cable-like TV” still has a long life ahead of it (http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/03/03/only-1-percent-of-adults-regularly-download-watch-movies-from-internet/)

    you guys in your college towns and hi-speed areas tend to forget what the rest of the country is like. While broadband is now in 75% of households, the current calculation defines “broadband” as 384k, something I doubt you would be willing to live with.

  16. Future products from TomTom will be far more advanced than any simple sat-nav-on-a-phone. The real time and dynamic aspect of travel is completely missing from smart phone solutions.



  17. @Arohan: Have you ever tried using a cellphone camera to “scan” a document? Even if your camera is high quality, it’s hard to match the resolution and evenness that a scanner can provide.

  18. Well I still feel that dvd’s will be around for a while because switching to Blu-Ray is still pretty expensive these days and plus not everyone is going to watch a movie off there 13 inch screen. So I still feel that Dvd’s will be around for a bit longer, maybe 3-6 years.

  19. Good point. In fact, scanners may be next in line as well as it is just too easy to use your cellphone to take a picture and email/message it to someone.

    I wonder what our kids will think of when they are told of the primitive lives we lived!

  20. Unless relatively soon is like 25 years, hogwash.

    GPS – Not Going Away. Drive outside the city and watch your device fail as you lose signal. There is not enough coverage to really support this outside major areas. The streaming isn’t consistent enough either unless the maps are cached better than the current gen. Still Tom Tom for me please!

    DVD-Not going away soon. BluRay is still ramping up. I do like streaming video, but there is not enough content or broadband service to support mainstream streaming. Also, for us HD AV lovers, the quality isn’t there.

    Cable TV- Again not going away soon. While I’m fine without it, much of the mass market isn’t. It will continue to languish and suffer under time shifting apps for years.

  21. 1. Until you have cell service that covers everywhere — and I mean EVERYWHERE, clear as a bell, without a dropped call, there will ALWAYS be landlines. Right now there’s huge swaths of rural America that are without any cell service at all. In fact, I’m sitting in one. Am I in a remote rural area? I’m rural, but not that remote. In fact I’m 15 miles from an Ivy League school.

    2. VHS would have been a better technology to say was dying. DVDs may get cheaper, but they will be around. People like their physical media and broadband is not at the speed where it can deliver movies that quickly. Plus, as people like to watch and re-watch, physical media is the way to go.

    3. See the above re:broadband. The speed in the US is declining, not improving. How can we expect to think that our broadband can withstand a nation of 300 million to be able to carry all that media?

    4. See #1. I’ll take my reliable Garmin satellites than have to rely on spotty data 3G/4G service.

  22. [quote]DVD or Blu Ray… who cares, they look the saym[quote]


    People like you should not vote.

    Either you need better eyes, a real HDTV or are simply clueless. I bet you listen to 128K MP3 too.

  23. I pretty much agree with everything except the comment that phones will make standalone GPS units go away. GPS will be built into the car stereo/media dashboard unit.

  24. It will be interesting to see how this landline business shakes out in disasters. Cells are notoriously loaded to capacity, so all it takes is a little more activity to push the entire network over the edge (see: AT&T). In my last moderate earthquake, mobile phones were effectively useless — and you can forget the Internet.

    Although landlines aren’t immune to the overcrowding problem, you have to imagine there’s a lot more capacity there that is no longer being used.

  25. There is no way GPS will go away. First, cell phones use a a form of gps that is useful for finding directions and does not use a multitude of satellites. The more satellites you have the better reception and accuracy. Those gps devices that utilize a multitude of satellites, like the ones I use in the survey/mapping industry, are extremely expensive and range anywhere in price from $500 to $2000. Even those smaller gps units used for trekking have far better reception and accuracy than those found on the phone. Most gps units in cars and on smartphones are good for inner city use, but outside the city, they are just about crap. While the technology may improve they still wont be that good for any “real world” applications such as survey or backpacking your way through dense forest/mountain ranges etc. all the technologies listed as able to become extinct will not disappear. While technology will certainly change, many of the technologies listed, such as landlines, are at the backbone of various other technologies out there. they will remain, but within the context of different technological/real-world applications.

  26. As someone who works for a large telecom, I can tell you that landlines are going by the wayside at an astounding rate. We have thousands of disconnects for landline telephone service every year, but people keep the DSL part of it, as it does not require phone service. Businesses still need them, and they won’t ever be completely “gone”, but as someone who installs voip phone systems in businesses, the main use of landlines will be for alarm and security systems. Most businesses use Dedicated internet access and split out channels to use for voice such as T1’s, PRI’s, and Metro Ethernet

  27. I don’t plan on getting rid of DVDs anytime soon, not with the DRM garbage the media companies are trying to shove down our throats.

    DVDs are still great quality pictures, and I can do whatever I want with it – rip it to a media center, transfer it to my iPod (or any other device of my choosing), resell it online, trade them, whatever.

    BluRay is just an attempt to remove that freedom people have by offering them slightly better picture quality.

    The other 3 technologies I completely agree with though.

  28. DVD or Blu Ray… who cares, they look the saym. I want to see us get to a non-disc based media period!

    Also, unfortunately, there are still many people on DSL. We are behind other countries when we compare our broadband technologies to theirs!

  29. I don’t think that this article is written with much, if any research.
    Land line phones are used for security systems, credit card machines, and faxes. I work for a software company that sells fax servers to send and receive faxes.
    Blu-Ray discs while superior, will not replace DVD’s completely. Remember VHS? Stayed around for a long time.
    Cable TV again will be with us for many years. If you think something is replacing it anytime soon, then your paradigm might need to be tweaked. How many people surf to watch a show? I don’t, because I only use an antenna to get tv. I don’t have, nor can I get high speed internet, and with the speed of the internet slowing down in the US according to one report, then this even seems more unlikely.
    GPS devices are superior to the iPhone in one major aspect, in that there is no monthly fee. I can not justify spending an extra $60 a month on a phone, hence, I will not get a smart phone. I can think of many other things that make my life fulfilling.
    I suppose that in essence, you are correct, in that all things on this planet, even bad journalist, will become obsolete over time. If you are going to write about technology, don’t be vague, and spend at least an hour doing some kind of research. I see this as an article on how you feel, since you probably live in a large city, and have not even given any thought to the way other people view the world. Hopefully, you can make a career out of writing, but if this is an example of your work, then you should try a lot harder next time!

  30. As @YouFailIt! notes, this article is largely crap — unless “verge of extinction” is being offered the article’s author as a measure in geological time scales.

    In particular, the idea that cable is going away anytime soon is absolutely silly. Does the author even vaguely understand how much bandwidth a coax cable into a home represents?

  31. “1. Will be around for decades more. Are you at work? Look down. What do you see?”

    I see my keyboard, but if I look to my right I see a Cisco IP phone–there’s probably a connection to the local antique phone network for backwards compatibility, admittedly, but I have to wonder how long that will need to exist.

  32. All you fine internet warriors are totally missing the point of the article.

    1) Landlines ARE disappearing at an astounding rate. Yes, they will always be used for certain applications because of their reliability, but chances are in 20 years, you won’t have a dedicated phone line in your home.

    2) DVDs are dying and BluRay hasn’t got a chance in hell at surviving. Sure, most people don’t have super-high speed internet but that’s irrelevant. Other format physical media is becoming so cheap (2TB HDD for $100), I can store all my Hi-Def movies on my computer/laptop and stream them to my TV in <5 seconds, or use a $2 cable to hook it up.

    3) Cable will be around for a long time, but yes, it's dying. The coax cable into your house has less potential bandwidth than the fiber-optic cable it will be replaced with. That said, there are lots of fat retards who will continue to pay for cable/satellite long after streaming content is better/faster just because they don't know how to turn on their computer if they wanted to.

    4) I use my iPhone GPS in the middle of bumblefuck Pennsylvania and it can still tell me what side of the street I'm on. And even if you're without a signal, you can very easily get an app that will tell you your gps coordinates (the blue dot always shows up in google maps, even if it can't load the map itself) and HOLY SHIT, that's EXACTLY what wilderness GPS devices do anyway! \o/\o/\o/\o/

    Look, you can all bitch that all of these things will never die and be 100% CORRECT, because there are still people that use fucking Betamax/Laserdisc/etc and ARENT THEY COOL. I can argue that VHS isn't dead because I still have a VHS player in my basement. But I also have an 8mm projector and nobody gives a fuck about that do they.

    The point the author was making is that all of these things are already/will very soon become obsolete, and then hipsters will have landlines and and watch movies on a disc (which is already laughable) to be ironic.

  33. Some thought provoking discussion here. Clearly, we will need advancements before any of these technologies disappear, but I doubt the DVD will stick around as long as VHS managed to hold on for. Too many other things are moving forward. If we could catch up with some other developed countries in terms

    But I’m here at work in my home office, and I don’t have a landline. I’ve got a pre-paid cell phone and VoIP. I do think that the point about GPS standard in cars is a good one, since that is something that might happen. And, no, a cellphone can’t compete with a good nav system. But those who buy smartphones may not want a GPS. I’m old fashioned, though. My GPS is a map and a reasonably reliable sense of direction 😉

    And, yes, Matthew, it was written as my opinion, and not meant to be anything approaching journalism (which I am familiar with, having earned a M.A. from a fairly decent school in the subject). Sometimes a little fluff is in order. You don’t need to worry about my career, though. I managed to pull down six figures in 2010. I guess that means that people have progressed to that horrible state of confusion that allows them to like my crap.

  34. Uhh. Landline phones? No, I don’t think so. Even with the latest technologies, landline phones are still very useful. Besides, during emergencies at home, you can depend on the landline phones more than cell phones.

  35. Ah, my incompetence comes through again. My haste and my son’s exuberance in the vicinity of the keyboard caused my comment to post before I proofread and finished it. I made six figures in 2009, not 2010. It would be cool if I had made so much thus far this year, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Anyway, I also wanted point out that if we could catch up with some other developed countries in terms of broadband penetration and even in developing the next round of communications technology, we could see a number of high quality alternatives to technologies that we have today. Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when I can do just about anything I need to without carrying a bunch of gizmos around, and the thought of accessing my movie library from anywhere, without having to lug it around on discs, is intriguing.

    But many of you are probably right that will be some time before all of these technologies disappear completely off the face of the earth. Someone, somewhere, will probably still use them.

  36. This article was a waste of bandwidth.

    Landline phones will always be around. Power outage? cordless base and all cordless phones are useless.

    You really need to do more research before you randomly decide to write up some crap article.

  37. @Waste of Time,

    Are you confused? Cordless phones with cordless base are still landline phones.

    The article discusses wireless (as in mobile) or voip as supplanting landlines.

    The article DOES NOT discuss using cordless phones instead of wired phones.

    As you very *perceptively* remarked, that would be daft.

    Hope not all your bandwidth is wasted 🙂

  38. I won’t go as far as saying “this article was a waste of bandwidth” as I am sure the author was more concerned about passing off his/her opinion as a way to live. I do think that there is a big assumption regarding the way we move forward. Mobile might be convenient but cable/internet is moving to DOCSIS3, which if we were to get into technical details is a great improvement. So let’s just see what pans out instead of acting like we all have crystal balls.

    I have made a personal note to not read material on this site as the author is quite proud of making 6 figures. What good does that do for humanity? By “Live rich. Live well. Be informed” I was expecting real journalism, not to make you rich by reading your opinion. It’s not always about the money. Just shows the gutter the education system is in. Motivated by profits and greed is a weakness IMO :).

  39. 5) Toilet paper..
    In the near future everybody will be using ‘ the 3 shells’ method.
    as seen in Demolition Man way back in ’93…

  40. CDs are extinct now (or becoming extinct). I still remember those days when i still used those floppy disks. -sigh-

  41. Whoa, whoa, whoa…

    The first picture, the rotary landline telephone is FAR from extinct!

    Well, in the Russian embassy in Prague, Czech Republic, that is! 🙂

    I tried hard not to laugh out loud, but I couldn’t stop myself. Each service representative, in every help window, exactly like in this first picture — there is a white, old fashioned, rotary, landline-connected telephone. In fact, they look brand new.

    A beautiful relic of days gone by.

    (Ever wanted to live overseas?)

  42. @Anthony: I’m sorry my income offends you. It is clearly not entirely from this site. In fact, my position as a contributor on this site accounts for a very small portion of my income. I write for a number of web sites and publications, including some journalistic type places. I don’t understand why it’s so terrible to occasionally write something straight from your heart, and sharing your observances and personal experiences.

    My point was that my career (which someone seemed to think was in jeopardy due to my occasional dabbling in *gasp* sharing my opinion and not always going with straight journalism) is just fine. I have worked very hard for years to get to the point where I can be paid to share my opinion. That’s one of the joys of evolving technology. There are a number of ways to earn money, and I don’t think it’s greedy to find different ways to use technology to earn money and live the kind of life you want, able to spend time with family, give to charity and maybe even take a trip or two.

  43. In response to some who commented o GPS in phones: Most smartphones nowadays have an actual GPS chip inside. They don’t use the cell tower triangulation (although it is an option). My BlackBerry Bold 9700 has actual GPS and when I fire it up while I’m driving it even knows which direction I am headed. Right now it has my location within 3 meters. Not bad for a free app

  44. I liked your article. I think maybe extinction may be to strong of a word. I still believe these these technologies will still be in use for many years to come but they will simple be used less often than they once were.

  45. I think it’s a bit soon to call a few of these “soon to be outdated”. It even might be a bit naive. To you these technologies might not be useful, but old people are skeptical and dumb. No offense but most of those crazy bat shits will have trouble figuring out the GPS capabilities of their cell phone when handheld GPS units tend to have very easy user interfaces. Let’s also face it that most LCDs are still being sold at 720p, which when you run a DVD through to an old person, they will be satisfied. It is easier to aquire the players and an upscaling progressive DVD player is rather cheap nowadays. And there are some old people that just cannot figure out a cell phone so they will stick to their landlines. There is something about trying to reach a family vs trying to reach a person.

    Lastly my greatest peeve. TV/Satellite. There is just something satisfying about having a plan to watch a show. I don’t know what it is. But the only reason I watch it on the computer is because I missed it and for some reason it didn’t record. When you watch it on your tv you can easily do something on your laptop at the same time without much interruption. I even have a setup with 2 computers side by side, (monitors close enough to see both at the same time) and it’s just not the same. I do have a 24 Mbps down speed, but lets face it, to get the same 720p with 5.1 surround over the internet will take you another 30 min to get in the first place. I don’t want to even imagine it on a slow line. (especially one that will cut you off after an allotted amount of bandwidth like Time Warner Cable). When the line is dedicated to streaming video transmissions it is almost better to me.

  46. Most of you must be over forty to deny these claims.

    1. DSL is the only form of internet service that requires a phone line but we already have cable and fiber that will soon replace it because of the speeds it can handle.

    2. The internet can handle the bandwidth that normal cable or satellite can produce, we just need to build more servers. If I can have something free and watch it when ever I please wherever I please, why would I even think about purchasing cable? Hulu is only going to start charging for watching older episodes.

    3. Discs will be replaced by streaming content or digital distribution. If I can purchase a movie or a game and never have to worry about the disc scratching or losing it, and knowing that I will have it forever why would I buy a stupid piece of plastic…. You can also put Linux Distros on USB drives. Streaming can be produced at 1080p just need the proper internet speed.

    4. Garmin and TomTom’s stock dropped tremendously after the Motorola Droid was announced with Google Navigation. Turn by turn navigation free with the phone, why would I ever pay for GPS system?

    This all comes down to saving money, saving materials, and saving time. All of our lives will soon be wrapped around the internet, it’s just a matter of time.

  47. yeah, linux distros in USB functions well, but what about windows? you will not get them in USB sold? or in bluray sold?

  48. The only one I see on this list going away is GPS devices. The rest will still be around for quite sometime.

  49. I just Stumbled here. Reading this was really interesting because GPS’s are pretty mcuh phased out along with many land lines. Cable is replaced by HBO Go and Hulu. DVD’s are dieing to instant streaming and pirating. The amount of change in two years

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