We live in a fast-paced era of technologocial development, release, and growth. That development's fast pace also leads to an even more rapid speed of obsolescence.
Obsolescence can be defined in a few different ways, but the end result is usually the same. A previously popular object, service, or practice declines sharply in popularity, despite having the same functionality making it popular in the first place.
For example, consider the VCR and VHS cassette tapes; when first introduced, this technology was revolutionary. Now, there’s almost no practical value in owning such systems.
It’s important to think about obsolescence from both financial and cultural standpoints.
Financially, you need to make prudent tech investments, preparing to replace old technologies that may not be useful much longer. Culturally, we need to wrap our heads around the pace of technological development we’ve come to expect. We need to brace for the potential consequences of such breakneck speed.
So what modern technologies could be the next to become obsolete, and what does it mean for the average consumer?
Surprising Technologies That Could Go Obsolete
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that today’s top-of-the-line iPhone X will probably be replaced with an even fancier model in the next few years, but there are some more surprising technologies on the obsolescence chopping block over the next few decades.
These are just a few of them:
- CDs. It doesn't seem like that long ago that CDs were the gold standard when it came to listening to music, but it looks like streaming music is here to stay. Just recently, Best Buy announced that it will no longer be selling any CDs in its stores beginning July 1. Target is also planning to cut back, only selling physical CDs on a consignment basis.
- Car Mirrors. Self-driving cars are close enough on the horizon that some people are speculating the total extinction of human-driven cars. While that’s certainly a possibility, the timeline for that path is decades, rather than years. Instead, there’s a much more common feature of cars likely to go obsolete in the near future: car mirrors. Instead of including side view and rearview mirrors, car designers are working to include more digital screens, which allow for a more accurate picture of the driver’s surroundings.
- Plastic Credit Cards. Plastic credit cards replaced cash as the go to payment method of choice due to their convenience, but even those may become obsolete thanks to the even higher convenience and higher security of mobile wallets. Instead of using a credit card, consumers can swipe a phone or similarly digitally recognizable chip, and withdraw from a digital account.
- Cords. Have you noticed the sudden spike in products that operate wirelessly, from charging stations that charge your electronic devices without the need for a cord to phones that don’t even have an auxiliary port? That’s no coincidence. We’re getting better and better at producing cordless and wireless technologies, and since cords serve no other functional purpose (and look cluttered and ugly, besides), they’ll probably be rooted out within the next decade.
- Remote Controls. Remote controls used to come packaged with every home entertainment device (and certain other appliances) to maximize user convenience. Now, it’s annoying to have multiple different remotes to use for multiple different appliances. Today’s smart home technology is pushing for all-in-one command centers, located on your smartphone and tablet, so you can have a truly universal remote control.
- Cable. Ever since the first popular streaming services started rising, people have been proclaiming and predicting the “death” of cable TV (and internet, too, while we’re at it). With brands like Netflix and Hulu still raking in the profits, presenting original content, and easily outcompeting the prices of cable, the battle is on its last legs. Cable TV will likely become fully obsolete within the next decade unless something drastic changes.
- Human Beings in Certain Industries. A commonly cited PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study estimates that by the early 2030s, up to 47 percent of jobs in the United States could be fully automated by machines. That doesn’t mean we’ll see an economic collapse — since those jobs will likely be displaced, rather than replaced— but it does mean that anyone in a service-related or operations-related position could become obsolete as a worker in the near future.
The Perks of Obsolescence
Just because a technology is going obsolete doesn’t mean it’s no longer worth considering or having, however. In some cases, the value of this technology may actually increase as its rarity increases, the same way vintage and antique jewelry becomes more sought-after the longer it’s been around. Enthusiastic collectors and nostalgic adults alike will continue keeping the secondary market open for even obsolete technologies, so keep watch for the latest and greatest gadgets — but hold on to the older pieces of tech you’re still attached to.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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