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Technology Science

Ten Technologies That Refuse to Die 1381

Posted by timothy
from the toilets-shouldn't-have-visible-electrical-wires dept.
kudyadi writes "Technology Review has an interesting article on, as the title suggests, ten technologies that we continue using despite advances made in the same. The best example is that of analog watches, "Compared to today's digital timepieces, old-fashioned, sweep-hand watches are pathetic one-trick ponies. Digital-watch wearers can check temperature, altitude, and the time in Tokyo, play tunes and games, and send messages. Can wristwatch videoconferencing, Web surfing, and tarot readings be far off? But what digital watches can't do, according to sweep-hand proponents, is display the time and context as elegantly and intuitively as an analog model."" Interesting counterpoint to this post from a few years back about technologies that didn't manage to hang on. And Bruce Sterling has a short list of ones he'd like to see go away, too ;)
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Ten Technologies That Refuse to Die

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  • Small benefits (Score:3, Informative)

    by SimplyCosmic (15296) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:22PM (#8183081) Homepage
    Two things I like about analog timepieces:

    The first is that you can usually make out the time further away, and in poorer lighting conditions, from an analog clock versus a digital.

    The second is that you can use your analog watch as an impromptu compass. In the northern hemisphere, hold the watch flat and point the hour hand towards the sun. Now bisect the angle between the hour hand and the figure 12 (ie. noon) on your watch to give you a North-South line. In the southern hemisphere, hold the watch dial and point the figure 12 (ie. noon) towards the sun. The line that bisects the angle between the hour hand and the figure 12 is the North-South line.
  • by reallocate (142797) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:22PM (#8183085)
    ...it actually points out why these "old-fashioned" technologies continue to be popular. You wouldn't know that from the /. intro.
  • by Country_hacker (639557) <country.hacker@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:24PM (#8183112)
    Point the hour hand in the direction of the sun (Keeping it horizontal of course), and the point between the hour hand and 12 will be South. For you "Below the belt" /.rs (South of the equator ;-) it'll be pointing North.

    Cheers!
    --RjS
  • Re:Windows NT (Score:3, Informative)

    by Reverend528 (585549) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:25PM (#8183123) Homepage
    A lot of public schools are still using 95.
  • Re:Snob (Score:2, Informative)

    by KanshuShintai (694567) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:25PM (#8183126) Homepage
    Well, you likely shouldn't buy her diamonds [slashdot.org] in the first place. No?
  • by Savatte (111615) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:26PM (#8183147) Homepage Journal
    I use a typewriter almost everyday at work. Typing purchase orders requires a typewriter, since ours are carbon paper based.

    And I find that feeding an envelope or a label into the typewriter is much easier than setting up the printer to print one address. It may not be elegant, but it's simple

    Of course, I can't surf slashdot from a typewriter.
  • by vlad_petric (94134) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:28PM (#8183175) Homepage
    It's much easier to vectorize Fortran loops than C loops, as Fortran does not have pointers and it's almost always safe to vectorize. Vectorizing is the easy part, figuring out if it's safe is extremely difficult in C/java.

    So as strange as this may sound fortran can be much faster!

  • Re:Toilet Paper (Score:3, Informative)

    by sulli (195030) * on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:31PM (#8183223) Journal
    washlet [washlet.com]
  • by erasmus_ (119185) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:32PM (#8183228)
    Annoying, wasn't it? Here is the link [ninemsn.com.au] to the full article that I saw in that Google search though.
  • by Rufus211 (221883) <(gro.hsikcah) (ta) (todhsals-sufur)> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:33PM (#8183252) Homepage
    Here's a real link to the article instead of having to look through Google:
    Ten technologies that deserve to die [msn.com]
  • Impact printers (Score:2, Informative)

    by sunaj (655412) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:34PM (#8183281)
    The article does not mention that the real reason impact printers are still used so much by banks and other businesses is to produce multi-copy forms. Yes, you can print several copies of a page on a laser or inkjet, but there is no way to get them to feed tractor multi-parts forms!
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:35PM (#8183292) Journal
    Analog guages in a car, as well.. There was a big trend in the late 80s to go with all digital dashes, then all of a sudden the analog guages came back - or LCD reproductions of analog..

    Same reasons you cite. With a quick glance you can tell that you're pushing your engine into the red, or that your temperature getting too high, or you're going wayy fast.. You just see speed, rpm, temperature without having to read it.. Reading engages wholly different parts of your brain and complicates the activity.

  • by selderrr (523988) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:39PM (#8183342) Journal
    if you like a clock that's quick to read, AND you're a MacOSX user, may i recommend fuzzyclock [objectpark.org] ?
  • Re:vacuum tubes?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:39PM (#8183347)
    Of course, vacuum tubes are alive & well in every radio & television station, and every microwave oven across america. There are solid state devices that will do a similar job, but they are horribly expensive & not as robust.
  • by AT (21754) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:00PM (#8183609)
    With C99, the most recent revision of the C standard, they added a new keyword restrict, to make "restricted" pointers. Basically, by using this new feature, it is possible to write code in C that is as easy to vectorize as Fortran.

    Of course, its available only in recent compilers (gcc 3 for example) that may or may not be as good at this type of optimizing as Fortran compilers, but hopefully this argument for starting new development in Fortran can finally be put to rest.
  • Re:About watches (Score:2, Informative)

    by dj.delorie (3368) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:05PM (#8183673) Homepage

    So why do people still buy watches?

    Alarms. I need at least three for my usual days, more occasionally. The one on my cheap digital has been set to 2:17pm for five years now (to get the kids from school)

  • by SunBug (31218) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:13PM (#8183754)
    Going on the instrument example, this is exactly why sport bikes have analog tachometers even though most have a digital speedometer. I'm able to tell, without even looking, that I'm above 8000 RPM, and that redline (14,500) is coming up real soon now -- about 1/4th of a second WOT in 1st. If I didn't have that hand sweeping through my peripheral vision, I would hit the revlimiter.

    I couln't imagine flying with digital gauges. Most of the stuff I look at while flying doesn't need to be quantified in hard numbers, but more or less whether or not something is changing: if i'm climbing or descending, if i'm deviating from my course, the direction to the next ADF beacon, things like that.
  • by proj_2501 (78149) <mkb@ele.uri.edu> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:20PM (#8183840) Journal
    the invention of photography allowed art to break away from merely capturing nature. it was no longer interesting to paint the natural world, so painters turned to non-objective art.
  • by panaceaa (205396) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:39PM (#8184106) Homepage Journal
    MAC NOT AN ACRONYM. Capitalize it "Mac".

    I don't understand you people.
  • by Felinoid (16872) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:49PM (#8184222) Homepage Journal
    From what? Being older than PCs?

    Todays PC is still a heavly modified IBM PC AT the full 16 bit upgrade from the classic PC.

    Mac classic was made a few years after the classic PC.
    The first Mac didn't even have it's own explantion buss making the whole Mac IO based around the Mac II.. A plug and play system. where as the PC buss has to play to the legacy IO of the ISA buss (and PCI dose ditch that to some extent to move forward).

    And.. The power Mac is a totally new Machine. Apple ditched the 68K processor and the legacy Mac design just as the Mac was having it's first few legacy design problems.
    The PC however is still using a processor that plays to the 8086 and that chip is based on the 8080 who is from the 4004.

    Then as MacOs itself gets dusty MacOs X.
    Not an os built on top of MacOs (Like Windows).
    Some people complain that OsX dosn't even keep up the Unix side (Thow this kinda shows that Unix isn't that dusty eather).
  • by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:56PM (#8184292) Homepage Journal
    "Not true. You have to learn how to convert the numbers 1 through 12 into fractions of 60. Digital is written almost as simply as it is stated in common dialog."

    I think he meant that the 1-12 numbering was quite useful and intuitive in a lot of senses. For example, when I worked at McDonald's, we had a system for making sure that burgers weren't left in the bin for too long. There were the numbers one through 12. Shelf time was like no greater than 10 minutes. So if you put the number 7 down, then you knew that if the clock was at 35 after or later, then you knew it was time to throw that stuff away and make new stuff.

    Ehh I think I'm missing a step here but hopefully you get the gist of it. Using a clockface to measure relative bearing is also useful. "You gotta bogey on your six!"
  • Re:Pen/Ink/Paper (Score:3, Informative)

    by michael_cain (66650) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:03PM (#8184371) Journal
    I think handwriting technology (pens, inks, paper) will be another one. I admit that I have never hidden my love of fountain pens, but even the average Bic has a role. Jotting down a small bit of information while on the phone or standing somewhere is just simpler and quicker with pen and paper.

    Class notes for almost any class with serious math content. Subscripts, superscripts, integrals, odd character sets, sketches of curves and graphs. Large expressions that barely fit across the page of paper, let alone on a PDA screen. Flipping back two pages to see whether an expression there matches what you've just written. All typically done at insane speed -- somewhere in the Ph.D. programs there must be a seminar where they teach the secret of how to write that fast on a blackboard. To a lesser degree, the same argument applies to almost any situation where you're trying to work out a bit of math by hand.

    For notes I'm addicted to Parker ballpoints. For more normal writing, my personal favorite is a high-quality #0 drafting pen with India ink. Darned hard to find these days. Pain in the butt to keep clean. Tends to make a serious mess when you take it on an airplane due to the drop in air pressure (had the same thing happen when I drove over the Continental Divide with one). But a wonderfully-precise high-contrast smooth-flowing line, no bleeding through the paper, almost waterproof as soon as it dries.

  • And in C++ (Score:3, Informative)

    by devphil (51341) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:05PM (#8184391) Homepage


    Rather than add even more new keywords to the language, C++98 put the can-optimize-for-various-parallelisms numerical arrays in the library. The std::valarray template is defined to be free of aliasing, so implementations are allowed to chew hell out of the numbers. (Many don't, yet.)

    FORTRAN 200[03] then went and added even more weird and wonderful features. :-)

  • Re:#1 : Slashdot (Score:2, Informative)

    by gnu-generation-one (717590) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:34PM (#8184725) Homepage
    "I find that LED [binary] clocks are more intuitive. People who say they can't read them must just be stupid and unable to read the most intuitive clock in existence."

    Well if binary is such a good concept (least number of LEDs per required time resolution etc.) then why have ThinkGeek gone for binary coded decimal? They're throwing away all the advantages, by using 6 LEDs for something which only needs to count to 12 (24?).

    Could we modify it to display seconds since the epoch?

  • by ameoba (173803) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:37PM (#8184752)
    I tend to mar faceplates. I don't care how ruggedly built they are, they *will* get scratched. If the watch is a $30 digital watch, it's no big deal. If it's a $200 analog watch, I do care.


    You know, it's not too hard to find watches with decent crystals. Your $30 POS probably has a plastic one, slightly more expensive & you get glass and after paying a few hundred you finally get to sapphire crystals. Sapphire is close to diamond in hardness so it's not going to scratch at all (my Dad's been an aircraft mechanic his whole life, and the sapphire-crystalled Seikos he has last -years- doing that kind of work with almost no visible damage to the face).
  • by Stray7Xi (698337) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:54PM (#8184908)
    Yes but its easier to face the hour hand at the direction of your shadow then the sun since it's on the same plane as you. But this also reverses the directions.

    That said there's no reason you can't figure out direction with digital watches, if you already understand how that works. (also many digital watches have compasses in them)
  • by reiggin (646111) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @08:17PM (#8185099)
    Edison's incandescent light bulb has changed little if any since it's invention in 1879 (Yes, Sir Joseph Swan beat Edison to the punch in 1878). In fact, a light bulb from the 1880's would glow if screwed into one of our "modern" sockets, which also haven't changed. Now, that's a technology that refuses to die.
  • by solprovider (628033) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:22PM (#8185689) Homepage
    Modern Mac has the old ROM stored on disk, Openfirmware, OS X, (S)ATA, CD/DVD-RW, USB, Firewire, PCI, AGP, RJ-45, Ethernet, DVI, PowerPC... note that the Mac has grown more in the direction of the PC than vice versa

    I do not know Macs, so I may have missed something, but which of these started with the Wintel PC?

    ROM/Open firmware - The news is that Wintels may do this soon, but I have yet to see motherboard without ROM BIOS.

    OS X - Unix, not Wintel

    SATA - From the harddrive manufacturers. The implementation for Wintel has the BIOS must faking one of the standard IDE positions so that MSWindows thinks it is running from "C:". This reduces the number of drives that can be used in a dual IDE/SATA PC, and encourages the consumer to find an OS that can fully use the hardware. This could not have been planned by MS.

    CD/DVD-RW - Consumer technology coopted by the computer world.

    USB - The Wintel answer to Firewire.

    Firewire - Apple. It is so much an Apple technology that Intel refuses to incorporate it into their motherboards.

    PCI, AGP - Hardware manufacturers, but they are the standards for Wintel. Be thankful that Apple has decided to follow the "standards" for commodity hardware.

    RJ-45, Ethernet - Ethernet came from the mainframe/Unix world. It barely touched the Wintel world until the late 80s. The RJ45 plug was a quick prototype that accidentally made it into production. The engineers are still kicking themselves for designing a plug that is designed to catch on EVERYTHING.

    DVI - I do not know who started this.

    PowerPC - IBM. Was it first designed for Apple or Microsoft? Does anybody other than Apple and IBM use it?

  • Musical Instruments (Score:5, Informative)

    by fornix (30268) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:25PM (#8185724) Homepage
    Despite all the advances in in technology and manufacturing, old musical gear still reigns supreme in many areas. A vintage Neumann U47 mic (like the Beatles used) fetches a tidy sum and sounds better than most anything made these days. They don't make the exact replacement vacuum tube for it anymore, but there are close substitutes.

    And speaking of tubes - the rich nonlinear sound of a tube amplifier hasn't yet been replaced by a more modern equivalent, especially for electric guitar. I think one of the articles mentioned vacuum tubes.

    Piano, horns, guitar - most all acoustic instruments have nice sounding synthesized sampled versions that can be had at a fraction of the cost. These can be played from your computer or a keyboard. Yet the physical instruments, as expensive and potentially out of tune as they are, will probably always be preferred because of their human interface. Similarly, drum machines, which do not show up late or steal your girlfriend, are not replacing human drummers playing acoustic drums, except in 80's music and certain "techo" genres.
  • by TheTomcat (53158) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:44PM (#8185868) Homepage
    I said widespread.

    S
  • Re:Fortran is # 10 (Score:3, Informative)

    by slamb (119285) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:59PM (#8185984) Homepage
    The reason that Fortran is still popular in the scientific community is that it's pretty well optimised for the kind of tasks that you're likely to be doing. For example, Fortran has complex numbers as a basic data type. It's also simpler than C based languages for working with multidimensional arrays - no need to futz about with arrays of pointers or whatever, just declare a (resizable, if desired) multidimensional array. In general, the builtin functions are designed to work well on parallel architectures, so writing good parallel code isn't (quite) so much hard work.

    The advantages you've listed just aren't that important against C++:

    • Compex numbers aren't built-in, but who cares? C++ classes let you do anything you can do with a primitive type, both as far as optimizations are concerned and syntactically (through operator overloading)
    • Likewise, multidimensional arrays can have all the syntactic sugar you want, through magical things like boost::multi_array [boost.org].
    • I don't know as much about the parallel stuff, but obviously a lot [mathtools.net] of thought has gone into doing that kind of thing in C++. Intel also has a compiler [devx.com] that will auto-parallelize C++ (and Fortran), though I've never played with it.

    It's very commonly said that Fortran is faster than any other language. I don't think that's actually true. This article [iu.edu], written back in July '97, talks about a lot of other techniques possible in C++ to close the performance gap and even outperform Fortran. And in the seven years since, C++ compilers have improved greatly, and these techniques have been widely adopted. There are a lot more papers here [oonumerics.org].

  • PIANO (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2004 @08:00AM (#8187992)
    Piano synthesizers are absolute CRAP! You try belting a Rachmaninoff prelude or a Beethoven sonata, or goodness some Chopin or Liszt out of a Steinway model D or enjoying the smoothness of something new or different (Petrof, Shigeru Kawai, Overs, there are beautiful instruments out there!) and then sit down at a "Roland digital grand" which has the same interface and claims to be a real instrument and tell me it's as good. It's not a piano unless hammers hit strings and it needs a whole soundboard to resonate it properly. And if you think you can do this synthetically, well many have failed before you.

    It is worth noting that in a concert instrument we would not amplify the sound at all with microphones and speakers. If a 7-foot-6 semi-concert grand isn't big enough (they go from large loungeroom to 500-seater theatre) then you upsize to a 14-footer.

    Also note that rather than trying to find the right samples, a tuner/technician can actually change the nuances of the instrument depending on the music to be played (timbre, tone, tune, it all counts) and that with over 7000 moving parts in your average action, thinking you can copy it cheaply even with a variety of samples just isn't going to work very well.

    Pianos are one instrument and keyboard synthesizers are another.

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