Technology is ever-changing. For all the gadgets we use today, we’ve seen so many more rise and fall. We went from using records to tapes to CDs to MP3s; caught our favorite shows on black-and-white box televisions, then massive hi-definition flat screens; worked at huge computers, then ultra-portable tablets; chatted on rotary dial phones and then, eventually, slick smartphones. In many cases, these changes have become so rapid that it’s hard to keep up. In fact, you may be using gadgets right now that you no longer need. Check out this list of technology that’s falling out of favor, and may be obsolete in the next few years.
DVDs and Blu-Ray Disks
Goodbye, delicate disks of plastic … hello, streaming technology.
The way we access movies has changed dramatically through the decades. In the early days, you could go to the theater or wait for the movie to air on television. The first theatrical release that was broadcast on TV was 1933’s "The Crooked Circle", which also happened to be playing in theaters at the time. Then came the VCR, and the ability to not only buy movies on video cassette, but also record movies and shows from TV.
Relatively quickly, video cassettes evolved to DVDs. Then, cable companies started offering digital video recorders (DVR) to automatically record shows with existing cable equipment. That’s when Blu-ray disks emerged to take advantage of hi-definition televisions.
Finally, Netflix came along and widely popularized the idea of watching movies online. Now there’s a vast array of choices for streaming movies and shows to televisions, computers and laptops, tablets, and smartphones, without the need for a physical copy. As a result, DVD collections everywhere are gathering dust. (Learn about more new options in How to Cut the Cord on Cable TV – Legally.)
Digital storage has also seen serious evolution. Storage solutions have gotten steadily smaller in size, and larger in capacity, shrinking from hard drives, to floppy disks, to rewritable CDs and DVDs, to thumb drives capable of holding multiple gigs of data. In some cases, today’s flash drives can store as much as a computer hard drive.
However, widespread availability of cloud storage – unlimited capacity that takes up zero physical space for the end user – is pushing flash drives toward obscurity. There are so many free cloud storage solutions with easy sharing features that flash drives are no longer cost-effective, especially when you can access your data from anywhere with an Internet connection. (Learn more in 5 Ways Cloud Computing Will Change the IT Landscape.)
Alarm Clocks, Video Cameras and Flashlights
The declining popularity of all three of these gadgets can be attributed to one thing: the smartphone.
Smartphones have experienced a meteoric rise in the consumer tech market that’s still going strong. More than half of U.S. adults are smartphone owners, and most consider these devices indispensable. Plus, additional smartphone features beyond just calling, texting and accessing the Internet, are displacing more than just landline phones.
Millions use their smartphones as alarm clocks, for example. Camera sales have also fallen significantly because most smartphones have one. Even the flashlight app could replace the need for small, emergency flashlights.
At one time, remotes were a marvel of technology. Television and cable remotes aside, you might have remotes for garage doors, game consoles, car starters and even some appliances.
Today, if you have something that can be powered by a remote, chances are there’s an app for that.
Smartphone and tablet apps have evolved into real-world applications, and there are plenty of universal remotes that can be loaded into your phone. In addition, devices that defaulted to standard remote control are now being upgraded to interact directly with people through voice and motion control.
In the near future, you’ll probably be able to talk to all of your gadgets – from your TV to your car – and have them respond. And you can toss all those cumbersome remotes.
Security is important. When it comes to physical security, keys have been the default technology for centuries. And, although swipe cards have long served as an option in some cases, they’ve never replaced the good, old fashioned key.
Today, keyless entry is becoming far more commonplace. Businesses are leading the way with fingerprint access and other biometrics, and security authentication is gradually shifting toward a more individualized system that doesn’t rely on easy-to-lose items like keys. (Learn more in New Advances in Biometrics: A More Secure Password.)
It’s hard to imagine a world without credit cards, but that world may be closer than you think. More businesses are developing card-free payment systems, including services like Google Wallet that let you pay for all transactions online with no card required. Near-field communication (NFC) is allowing contactless payment using smartphones linked to services like Google Wallet and PayPal. And with improved technologies for biometrics like fingerprint ID, there may no longer be a need for personal identification numbers (PINs), or even signatures. Wave-and-go is poised to become the standard form of payment. (Learn more in Mobile Payment Systems: We Put Them to the Test.)
Technology is still changing, and at a more rapid pace than ever before. Devices like Google Glass and other wearable technologies are beginning to integrate more gadget functions into our daily lives, and even the technology listed here may be obsolete just a few years from now. There’s one thing you can count on though: No matter how useful a technology proves to be, there’s always something better (or different) on the way.