Today’s world is full of new technologies that humans mimic. We have robots manning industrial assembly lines and Google’s self-driving ride-hailing service Waymo. Increasing automation has led to the notion of a dystopian future where you are unemployed and robots will overtake the world. However, some argue that automation does not necessarily mean job losses.
In the middle of the debate are so-called outdated technologies that have survived extinction, at least for the time being. We provide an overview of some of these ancient technologies that are still used today by some people in different industries, maybe even you.
If you’re wondering how your ATM dispenses money, it’s mostly thanks to COBOL. Invented over 60 years ago in 1959, COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language) is an English-like computer programming language designed for portability and readability.
Despite today’s different types of programming languages and the difficulties of transitioning to modern systems, COBOL skills are still in demand in business and financial applications. In fact, state authorities have had to ask COBOL programmers to come out of retirement during the pandemic.
If you’re interested in learning more about COBOL, you might want to read about what COBOL is and why it’s in demand.
2. Dot matrix printer
Dot matrix printers have been around since American manufacturers introduced the DEC LA30 and Centronics 101 in the 1970s. These vintage cars are less expensive, require less maintenance, and can make multiple copies at once using carbon paper. These advantages make them the printers of choice for courier companies, railways, banks, payroll clerks, or any facility or profession that requires multiple copies of documents.
The hidden security risks of today’s printers may not appeal to old-world sensibilities. Also, you may find the things to check when buying a new printer too overwhelming. If you miss the familiar grinding noise of impact printers, you’d be happy to know that Epson still sells trusted dot matrix printers.
Before overpriced Apple products even existed, the pager was considered a status symbol and fashion statement in the 1990s. Back then, Motorola dominated the pager market. Today you might be able to buy an old working Motorola pager on eBay.
Pagers were patented in 1949 by wireless technology pioneer Al Gross. Pagers were originally intended for doctors, although it took them some time to adopt the technology as it might interfere with patients or hopefully not their golf game. Future Market Insights notes that the demand for pagers is still growing, particularly in the retail and mining sectors where efficient communication during emergencies is vital.
The world has gone through several iterations of Windows, yet Windows XP refuses to die. In 2017 the internet was awash with reports that the British warship HMS Queen Elizabeth was running on Windows XP. This was promptly denied in a report by the UK Defense Journal. In 2019, Windows XP made waves again when publications circulated a story from Russian site Open Media that President Vladimir Putin was allegedly using the outdated operating system.
Windows XP is over 20 years old and extended support ended in 2014, so you might be wondering why some still prefer it. One possibility is the reluctance to learn new technologies or, in the case of the public sector, the red tape involved in purchasing licenses. In many cases, an upgrade would require such a massive overhaul that it’s cheaper to pay Microsoft for additional support than it is to spend the time and effort moving to a modern operating system.
While the current generation will raise eyebrows at one of Microsoft’s most popular operating systems, Windows XP is sure to stir 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 Telephones
With cell phones and free calling apps (unlimited calls over Wi-Fi), landlines should be obsolete. However, it may be some time before the technology dies out completely, as some areas or countries may still have patchy internet or cellular service.
If you’re looking for remote customer service, telemarketing, and technical support jobs, you might also need a landline. However, with the availability of VOIP and cell phones, we can expect that landlines will soon be 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 disk, invented in the 1980s, that became the mainstay of computers. Jim Porter, a veteran disk analyst, hailed the floppy disk as one of the most influential products introduced to the industry. According to IBM, the floppy disk allowed companies to write programs, store them on the hard drive, and distribute them commercially.
It (the floppy disk) proved to be one of the most influential product launches of all time in the industry. -Jim Porter
Today you may find an old dusty floppy disk in your attic. But it still has valuable uses in certain industries. In an NPR interview, Tom Persky, who owns an online business that sells floppy disks, says British Airways stores data on some Boeing 747s on a floppy disk. Older medical and industrial manufacturing technologies may also need the technology to store critical data.
If you still have some old floppy disks, don’t throw them away 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 it is the most popular. While there are many myths about the origin of the QWERTY layout, according to Smithsonian Magazine we can be sure that it was first documented in 1878. It soon became the standard as the major typewriter manufacturers merged and adopted it for their typewriters.
We can safely bet that most of you use a QWERTY keyboard at work. However, 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 the technology to become obsolete. When it happens you might get nostalgic, but you can also look forward to exciting technological developments. Imagine how work and life could change with recent advances in AI, immersive virtual worlds and other emerging technologies. Jobs do not necessarily have to be lost, but replaced with new tasks and better processes. So for now, enjoy your beloved technology while you still can.