Recently, popular communications application Skype was down across the globe, with outages being reported in the UK, Australia, Japan, and the Middle East. From its original design as a casual instant messaging and voice chat service, the application has grown to take on more serious uses such as business conference calls and telecommuting, displacing many older modes of communication in the workplace.
However, it will surprise you to know that even with the advent of such versatile free apps and mobile devices, there are still people relying on “primitive” pieces of technology to conduct their business and lives.
Top 4 examples of outdated tech that are still being used today
The pager briefly emerged in the 1990s as a cool status symbol. Also known as the beeper, the little device could be found strapped on the belts of doctors and corporate workers – people important enough to be reached on short notice in an era when telephones were the size of milk cartons and non-portable.
The pager was a small, portable device that had the simple function of receiving alert signals and/or short messages. Because most were not able to send out its own messages, the device was primarily used to alert the receiver to return a call when he could reach a telephone. Though outdated by today’s standards, it was still the best way to reach someone who was not within the vicinity of a landline.
Shockingly, it turns out that there are still people who rely on this technology. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, Americans spent approximately $7 million on new pagers as recently as 2012, which is enough to buy 10,000 units, meaning that if you are the type of person that wants to be reachable but not too reachable, there is an awesome device available for you!
Fax machines are outdated (albeit still widely available) devices that became ubiquitous in offices around the world in the past 30 years. Though the first fax machine was invented in 1843 by Alexander Bain, it became a staple of business use by the 1980s, as it allowed physical documents to be sent anywhere in the world without the use of a postal service.
Though the scanner and digital documents have seemingly made the fax machine obsolete, it still retains a loyal fan base especially in offices throughout Japan. Foreigners regard the Land of the Rising Sun as a futuristic land filled with fighting robots,. Yet, the country’s businesses are stunningly reliant on pre-Internet technologies, the primary of which is the fax machine. In 2013, the Japanese bought 1.7 million fax machines, with the Japanese government reporting that almost 100% of business offices and 45% of private homes communicate via fax.
Some attribute this to the Japanese’ preference for handwritten documents and inability of the aging nation’s reluctance to part with the old way of doing things (also known as the Galapagos effect), but in any case, they will have plenty of people to fax with across the Pacific, with research firm NPD Group reporting that Americans bought 700,000 fax machines from 2011-2012.
Commonly referred to as the Palm Pilot, the PDA (personal digital assistant) was a nifty device that acted as a precursor to the smartphone in the late 1990s and early 2000s. PDAs had the ability to connect to the Internet via WiFi and featured a touchscreen, meaning that it allowed users to access a web browser, use it as a media player, receive/send email, and manage contacts.
Nokia was an early star in the PDA market, with its hilariously outdated-sounding Nokia 9000 Communicator emerging as the best-selling PDA device. However, the fortunes of both the device and company went south in the late 2000s with the rise of the smartphone.
Even so, the PDA seemingly has some fans who simply can’t make the switch to smartphones, with the Consumer Electronics Association reporting sales of 350,000 new PDAs in 2013.
The dial-up Internet was the source of frustration and despair for Internet users throughout the 1990s, crawling along at a mind-numbing slow speed of 56.6 kb/sec. By comparison, South Korea, the country with the fastest average Internet speeds in the world, averages speeds of 23.6Mbps, meaning that the average dial-up connection is 420 times slower.
In addition to the terrible speed, dial-up had the misfortune of connecting to the Internet via the phone line. You couldn’t use your home or office phone when connected to the Internet.
In spite of this, the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates that nearly 3% of American adults (or around 9 million people) use the dial-up modem to connect to the Internet in 2013. To be fair, about 6% of Americans live in areas without broadband access, but it still boggles the mind to realize that so many people are waiting hours to buffer a 3-minute video on Youtube.