If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that technologies always are advancing — and some tech will drop off. This is no new trend. New and improved ideas constantly hit the market, making what was not so long ago the latest and greatest look vintage and derelict.
We’ve identified six such technologies that we don’t see making it past the calendar year.
CDs and DVDs are super dead
Let’s start with some low-hanging fruit. Remember proudly displaying shelves of your music and movie collection? Those CDs have been replaced with the likes of shared Spotify playlists. Your rows and rows of DVDs? They’re now all in the cloud on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Or maybe you have a well-stocked Plex server.
Record sales actually increased 10 percent between 2017 and 2018, but CD sales dropped by almost half. Last year, DVD sales unsurprisingly also saw a decline.
In addition to the threat of streaming services, physical media has another competitor — better physical media. In the last decade, physical media storage has progressively become smaller, cheaper, and more reliable. And even 1TB thumb drives are on the way out.
The bottom line: The shiny discs are almost dead, and physical media might be next (and is next on the list).
USB drives are alive, but quaint
Thumb drives. Flash drives. Jump drive. USB sticks. Whatever you want to call them, the pocket-sized storage devices became omnipresent after their 2000 release. Back in those days, an 8MB (yes, with an ‘M’) USB Drive was $45, or $5,625 per gigabyte. Today 128 gigabytes will cost you about $20, and 1TB external drives can be had a startlingly low $16 (but you might want to pay a little more).
USB drives came about at a time when floppies could no longer cut it and burning CDs was cheap, but not necessarily convenient. They also became an item of geek cred. Having a flash drive handy to share or move big files around was a badge of honor.
Today, they still can be useful, but with cheap cloud storage and broadband everywhere, sharing files by plugging something in seems almost quaint. Just throw it on Dropbox and send a link from the comfort of your desk.
Security can be a problem, too. USB drives are just so dang small and easy to lose. Haven’t we all had a user keep one copy of a super-important doc on a flash drive only to have it die? Keep it in the cloud!
The bottom line: USBs are cheap, easy, and you probably have them scattered throughout your home and office. They’re like time capsules, really (if you have the right dongle).
The beginning of the end of USB as we know it
Behold, the evolution of the USB. From Android phones to wireless headsets to game controllers, mini and then micro USB ports were everywhere. By replacing proprietary cables, it was a welcome trend. But this year likely marks the end of the mini and micro. That’s not to say you don’t still have a box of cords, but they’ll soon be legacy technology as USB-C picks up steam.
The new USB connector is more rugged, provides more power and data bandwidth, and in an innovation long desired since the first written USB spec in 1996, NO MORE PUTTING IT IN THE WRONG WAY!
USB-C hit the mainstream when Apple infamously released its new generation MacBook Pro with no USB-A ports in 2016. The trend spread to iPhones and iPads, then Android phones, and even the Nintendo Switch. USB-C is here to stay, while progressively dethroning King USB Micro.
The bottom line: USB-C is progress. We can’t deny that. It’s just this transition period that sucks.
Standalone devices for personal use
GPS. Digital cameras. Digital voice recorders. These we’ll group together into a single category doomed by the same fate — single-purpose devices assimilated into the smartphone. We might as well also throw in calculators, Game Boys, iPods, Palm Pilots, alarm clocks, fitness trackers, e-readers, and, well, telephones. That little plastic rectangle in your pocket has replaced them all.
We say this with a clear asterisk on the “personal use” element. Your phone is a convenient replacement for a quick selfie, but no self-respecting professional will replace their DSLRs or 4K video cameras with an iPhone anytime soon. But what casual photo-taker wants to continue carrying a separate camera when the one in their pocket will capture completely passable snapshots?
As for the likes of TomTom and Garmin GPS units, many miles have been guided by the vaguely British computer voice. You can’t buy a smartphone today that doesn’t have either Apple or Google Maps preinstalled, which renders the standalone GPS useless. Sales have tanked in the last several years, and Garmin has doubled down on commercial solutions.
The bottom line: The pros will ensure this category isn’t completely dead.
The slow demise of wires
Apple declared the headphone jack dead a couple years ago — and so it died. It started with the iPhone 7 and Google quickly followed suit with their Pixel 2. Other brands are starting to jump on the bandwagon as well like Motorola, HTC, Essential, and the hilariously tiny Palm.
Wireless charging is another area where Apple is bringing a niche idea into the mainstream. iPhones, Apple Watches, and (soon) AirPods all natively support this technology. There are downsides, however. Charging is not very fast and wildly inefficient. Also, there’s no picking up your phone to check a notification while charging. But the convenience factor can’t be beat, and public charging stations are spreading as more and more devices support it.
The bottom line: Bluetooth headsets are getting better and cheaper. Plus never again having to fight the inevitable tangle of cables is a blessing. Pairing works pretty well too…sometimes…OK, fine, it needs work.
It’s not so bad, really
Technologies come and go, sometimes controversially, but always for the better once market adoption catches up. Do we miss wires? Yes — well, sometimes. Do we miss USB Type A? Yes — but only when there’s a dongle involved.
It will be interesting to see what replaces some of these items in ten years. “Remember how we had to charge our phones?! Micro-hydrogen generators changed all of that in the early 2020s!” Coming soon to the iPhone X16ΩS!