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Technologies that lost relevance over the past decade

Technologies that lost relevance over the past decade
Photo Credit: Pixabay
11 May, 2022
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The adage, “out with the old and in with the new,” holds true for any business, and is more pertinent in the case of technology and tech gadgets. As new technologies evolve, the industry shifts away from older ones, making the latter become obsolete. We take a look at some of the technologies that are either “dead” or are “nearing obsolescence” and have been replaced by modern gizmos.  

Blu-Ray discs and DVDs are near obsolete   

Video Home System or VHS tapes started phasing out in 1996 when Blu-Ray discs and Digital Versatile Disc (DVDs) were invented. Videocassette recorders (VCRs) were a staple in every household for watching VHS recorded content. When DVDs appeared in the market, they were all rage. 

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DVDs are marginally obsolete today, as consumers change their viewing habits and binge on a variety of video streaming services. The shift from discs to online streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video to watch movies and entertainment is making DVDs and Blu-Ray discs less of a necessity.   

The number of total physical video transactions made worldwide has dropped from 6.1 billion in 2011 to 1.2 billion in 2021, according to market research firm Omdia. Just 300 million DVDs are expected to be sold worldwide this year, down from an average of two billion every year between 2005 and 2009. And as demand for DVDs has plummeted, video streaming has risen in its place. Subscriptions to services like Netflix have increased from 39 million worldwide in 2011 to 1.2 billion today — almost swallowing the entire DVD industry.   

The death of insta-print and digital cameras   

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Much before smartphones ruled our lives and gave us access to cameras round-the-clock, instant print cameras from the likes of Polaroid were all the rage. As the digital revolution took over, the instant print camera business started their sharp decline.  

Polaroid failed to revive its glory in the 2000s and by the end of 2008, it stopped producing instant film altogether. Fujifilm released its Instax line of instant cameras in the US back in 2008, right when the smartphone revolution was starting to take hold.  

Despite some initial success, sales for both Polaroid and Fujfilm declined quickly. Digital cameras that evolved into Digicams were a rage even a decade ago, but their popularity dipped after the introduction of smartphones which offers a superior camera experience. 

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Overall, shipments dropped by a staggering 50% across all camera categories by the end of 2019 compared to 2010, with Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) category seeing the maximum decline, as per Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA). Today phone cameras are getting better at producing images and other functionalities. Moreover, with the rise of Instagram, snapping instant photos have now become much more convenient.   

The leap from 2G/3G to 4G and more  

The 3G technology, even before seeing its heydays, reached its obsolescence. With a more pervasive 4G LTE network, 3G and its predecessor 2G became a thing of the past. The reason of course is, 3G brought some internet speed changes over its predecessor, 2G networks.  

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However, it did not bring significant improvements over calling or voice. This paved the way for 4G networks with much improved speed and connectivity.  

Back in 2012, when the first ever 4G services were launched in India, it was touted as a monumental moment in the country’s technological revolution. It subsequently led to a host of advancements across industry sectors.  

For example, while the 3G supports speeds up to 5-20 mbps, 4G supports speeds of up to 150 mbps. It also facilitates voice over data — a reason why Reliance Jio created waves as it forayed into the Indian market in 2016 pushing Voice-over-Long-Term Evolution (VoLTE) that supports both voice and data. While other major Indian telcos — Bharti-Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular — eventually introduced VoLTE services, Jio continues to dominate the telco scene for its pan-India VoLTE coverage. 

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With robotics, smart home devices, AR/VR and industrial Internet of Things (IoT) is already underway, we can expect greater transformation with the imminent arrival of 5G that will drives higher speed, lower latency and greater capacity than 4G LTE networks — making it critical across industries globally. And moving a few notches up, the 6G revolution will focus on how to connect and control the billions of machines — macro to micro to nano — making its predecessors redundant in the digital future.  

USB-A nearing obsolescence; paves the way for USB-C   

USB Type-A or USB A connectors ruled the market for over two decades. But when Apple's entry-level, 12-inch MacBook, introduced the new standard USB Type-C to the masses in 2015, the latter was touted as “the port of the future”.  

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USB-C is a 24-pin USB connector system that transmits both data and power on a single cable. The USB-C connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), a group of member companies that has developed and certified the USB standard over the years.  

Today, the forum has over 700 companies in its membership, notable among them Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung. Interoperability is a key feature where USB-C gains over its predecessors. Often called the “truly universal” device, USB-C will be common in new electronic devices being released over the next year or so. 

USB-C will replace not only Type-A, but eventually it will replace the Mini-USB and Micro-USB connectors. The use of USB-A also declined because it takes up too much space on a phone or an ultra-thin tablet. Unlike its predecessors, in USB-C the plug is reversible; there’s no wrong way to plug it in. We can say that USB-A in general is nearing obsolesce even though some computers, especially some desktop PCs, are sold with Type-A USB ports alongside the Type-C ones.  

Tablet PC’s decline didn’t really ‘change our lives’   

Tablets were supposed to change the way we lived. Thanks to the revolutionary iPad. But a decade back, it seemed that they would replace the household PC in the near future. But while the PC lived on — albeit with its own share of struggles — tablets are on the verge of death. Sales of both iPads and android tablets have been less than impressive by 2018.  

According to an April 2022  gs.statcounter report, smartphones’ share was 58% of the market, PCs and laptops stand at 40%, while tablets were pegged at a mere 2%.  

According to a Canalys report for May 2022, the market has, however, risen from pandemic times. The report showed that worldwide PC (including tablet) shipments fell just 3% annually in Q1 2022, to 118.1 million units.  

Despite this dip, shipments remain extremely strong compared with before the pandemic, with a three-year CAGR of 12% from Q1 2019. They have also become a vital tool in the point of sale (POS) for businesses and are in demand for reading or as digital catalogues. So, while we can say that tablet didn’t fizzle out completely, people realized they didn’t need them for their personal lives.  

The crumbling of LCD TVs   

All display technologies have natural life cycles. So, when the 65-year reign of the cathode ray tube (CRT) began to crumble in the mid-2000s, plasma technology was there to pick up the pieces. But by 2014, LG, Panasonic and Samsung also discontinued producing plasma TVs, and the viable alternative to the plasma TV was LCD TVs.  

Though companies like Samsung and Sony strived to offer superior image quality and ease of watch, the high-end LCD TV is in trouble as we know it. LCD production has seen significant changes as new Chinese competitors have flooded the market with inexpensive panels. This prompted Samsung, which has long been LCD’s biggest champion — to change course.  

In August of 2019, when it shut down its LCD production lines, it marked the beginning of a long-awaited jump from LCD to organic light emitting diode (OLED) TVs. The main advantage of OLED is it produces light itself and there no need of back lighting as in the case of LCD panels. They even boast even greater energy efficiency and picture quality than LCD TVs.