10 Horrible Outdated Technologies That Are Still Used Today

10

With all the modern technology that’s available to us it’s easy to forget some of the older devices that were used just a few years ago but have now become obsolete. New pieces of hardware like smartphones combine the features of many different devices into one package, making the older technology less desirable.

But even with the latest advances there are still some old technologies that are routinely used by a variety of people. Some users simply don’t see the need to move with the times, but other technologies are still in use for more elaborate and complex reasons.

10. Windows XP

oldtech1

Despite the fact that Windows XP was released in 2001, it’s still used on nearly 30% of all desktop computers in the world. While that wasn’t too much of a problem as late as the first half of 2014, Microsoft has since stopped offering support for the system. That means the software giant is no longer providing security patches and fixes, leaving computers running Windows XP vulnerable to attack.

Microsoft has suggested that anyone running the old operating system upgrade to a newer version to negate the risk, but it’s not just desktop users that are at risk. What you may not know is that ATMs also have an operating system beneath the bank’s own software. There are around 420,000 ATMs in the United States, and almost all of them are still running Windows XP. This puts them at risk, too. Many banks are planning to upgrade to Windows 7, but the cost and time required to change each individual machine makes this a slow process.

9. Floppy Disks

oldtech2

Floppy disks are a relic of the 1980s when users only ever had to save a few kilobytes of data. Today the technology has been replaced by huge hard drives, CDs, USB flash drives, email and cloud storage that allow users to store thousands of gigabytes of information.

However, that hasn’t stopped floppy disks from being in common use. Sony actually sold 12 million units in 2009 and they can still commonly be found in stores. The biggest buyers of these disks are businesses that still use old computers that can only accept older storage mediums. Until they upgrade to newer and more expensive hardware, they’re stuck using floppy disks.

One of the biggest culprits in the United States is The Federal Register. Documents can only be sent to other agencies on certain types of media and upgrading to a secure email system is too expensive. This leaves government employees having to scan documents, save them to floppy disks and send them by courier to their destination.

8. Dial-up Internet

oldtech3

With high speed Internet access offered to users all over the country it might come as a surprise to learn that there’s still a significant number of people still using dial-up. But a study by the Pew Research Internet Project showed that 2% of Americans use dial-up. That’s around five million people still using modems to go online, often in rural areas.

Another explanation shows that a huge proportion of people who subscribe to AOL’s dial-up service don’t realize that they don’t need it. Around 75% of subscribers to AOL have broadband as well, but are unaware that they can cancel their dial-up service and still access the Internet. These subscriptions amount for up to 80% of AOL’s profits, which seems incredibly sketchy.

7. Dot Matrix Printers

oldtech4

Those devices that would print noisily and painfully slowly onto hole-studded paper aren’t as rare as you might imagine. First introduced over 40 years ago, they became the standard printer for decades before being replaced by ink-jet and laser printers.

Despite the new models being in common use, dot matrix printers can still be found in a variety of businesses up and down the United States. While they operate much more slowly than their modern counterparts, they do offer some advantages that certain companies require to run smoothly. Their biggest feature is the fact that they handle multi-part forms much more efficiently than laser or ink-jet printers. As they don’t make an impact to put the ink on the paper, they can’t imprint on multiple sheets of paper at the same time. Furthermore, dot matrix printers can also print on continuous paper rather than separate sheets.

6. VHS Tapes

oldtech5

VHS tapes were once the bastion of home entertainment. It was a simpler time when family room shelves were full of the clunky tapes and people would actually go to a store to rent videos.

DVDs put an end to major film studios putting their movies onto VHS tapes in 2005, and now services like Netflix and Hulu are putting DVDs under pressure. Nevertheless, there’s still a large market for VHS tapes. Over 50% of all Americans still have a VCR according to research carried out in 2013, a drop from over 80% in 2005 but still relatively high. Online stores like Amazon and Wal-Mart also still sell blank tapes, suggesting that someone must be buying them. There’s also a large community in the United States that still buys and rents VHS Tapes for their media needs. The New York Times reported on older immigrants who preferred to watch their shows and movies on the tapes.

5. Magnetic Stripe Bank Cards

oldtech6

Most Americans are probably still using magnetic stripe debit and credit cards, which is incredibly outdated compared to the chip and PIN method used by most of the rest of the western world. The magnetic stripe system is far less secure — the large-scale theft of data from Target demonstrated this spectacularly earlier in the year.

In the United States customers who want to purchase something with their card hand it to the cashier, who will swipe it and ask for a signature. The magnetic stripe that allows the card to be swiped is vulnerable to data being stolen very easily. Chip and PIN uses a much safer PIN to identify the user and the cashier never has to touch the card, stopping them from being able to swipe the card in a copying machine. Studies have shown that the embedded chip can help cut fraud by up to 80%. Luckily, both Visa and Mastercard have pledged to introduce the cards in the United States by the end of 2015.

4. Phones Books

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Phone books are something that everyone has delivered to their door, yet with phone numbers able to be retrieved much quicker from a simple online search they’ve become obsolete. Seven out of every 10 Americans either never or very rarely use a phone book, making it something that the vast majority of people simply don’t need. But in most of the United States and many other countries they’re still delivered to the whole population.

According to research carried out by the Iowa Policy Research Organization, stopping the production of phone books would save five million trees a year and significantly reduce the cost to dispose of the unwanted books. The research also reports that the vast majority of people do not want a phone book at all, with just 2% of those asked by AT&T saying they would like one delivered. The commonly proposed solution is to have an opt-in program rather than opt-out. Those that want a phone book can ask for it to be delivered rather than simply forcing the book on everyone.

3. Telegrams

oldtech8

Telegrams were the dominant method of communication for over a century before the advent of the telephone and later email, text messages and instant messaging. They were even responsible for people trying to create shorter and more concise messages, though Victor Hugo may have taken it too far asking about his latest book sales by telegramming his publisher “?” who simply replied “!”.

Although telegram companies such as Western Union ceased their operations some time ago, there’s still a market for the service. The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom all have their own commercial telegram services. However, they’re mainly seen as a way of sending someone a novel or joke message for special events rather than a way to communicate. India operated a large telegram service that sent up to 5,000 messages every day until it shut down in 2013.

2. Typewriters

oldtech9

Now that almost everyone has access to a computer of some sort, you might think that typewriters would have been consigned to the attic. That’s not entirely true though — typewriters are still used by a significant number of writers in various fields. They’re useful in areas where an electricity supply may be erratic, such as in India where court typists use them.

Author Will Self revealed that he now writes his first drafts on a typewriter. He claims that it forces the person to think more about what they’re writing as they can’t simply delete a sentence and start again. They also offer the ability to write without the distractions of things like Facebook and Twitter. Even more bizarrely, typewriters are seeing something of a revival in their use by government agencies. Both Russia and Germany have discussed using typewriters to help avoid leaks and spying that’s made possible with computers and laptops.

1. CRT Televisions

oldtech10

The majority of people watching television today will probably be doing so on a LCD or plasma set rather than an older CRT model. There are plenty of good reasons to upgrade, including the fact that CRT TVs are huge and incredibly heavy, taking up lots of room and making them difficult to move.

But even with those disadvantages there’s still a market for the bulky television sets. Some consumers in Asia and South America often prefer CRT to plasma and LCD thanks to their low price. They’re also favored by some because they’re better able to handle multiple resolutions and display color more accurately. The biggest draw is to competitive gamers, who find it difficult to use modern televisions due to input lag. CRT TVs generally have a tiny amount of input lag compared to plasma and LCD sets, something that’s hugely important in rhythm and fighting games that demand high responsiveness.

Want to learn more new facts about old technologies?
Liked it? Take a second to support Toptenz.net on Patreon!
Share.

10 Comments

  1. Microsoft still releases security updates for ATM and POS machines running Windows XP. There is also a registry hack that anyone with XP on a home system can use to get the updates as well.

  2. Craig in Portland on

    In my lab we have three $100,000 machines that are operated by computer. XP is the HIGHEST operating system the analyzers can run on, because Microsoft deemed the communications protocols are now obsolete. It would bankrupt my private laboratory to replace those analyzers just because Microsoft deemed it so. I would guess THAT’S WHY XP is still in use.

  3. Fernando Cordeiro on

    I still have an old typewriter and ocasionally use it. It helps me save ink of my jet printer.I agree with Will Self. They’re good for authors to make their first drafts,avoiding the temptations of Facebook,etc. you’ll find on computers.

  4. CRT’s are the best when it comes to retro gaming. At least up to the sixth generatios of consoles which are jsut about retro now (Gamecube, Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox).

  5. Many companies still use typewriters to print on checks too. They make nice ones these days, not like the ones back in the 80s (which you wanted to smack every half hour out of frustration).

  6. Re: CRT v. LCD

    While I much prefer LCD monitors, I do have 4 of 5 CRT-based monitors that I purchased in the 1975-1985 time-frame, and they still work great for their intended purposes.

    I’ve purchased over 10 LCD monitors within the past 10 years, and only 3 are still working, and one of those no longer works 100% because it uses an obsolete “protocol”. I also just had to NEEDLESSLY replace my 3-year “old” LCD monitor because it is no longer compatible with my cable TV service provider’s set-top box FIRMWARE, and the monitor’s FIRMWARE can’t be updated because it involves HDCP, licensed software encrypt/decrypt code needed for displaying High-Definition shows.

    The primary benefit of the LCD monitors is they take much less power and thus save money…but it’s annoying that I always have to keep a spare monitor on hand because the LCDs aren’t as reliable/long-lived as the CRT monitors.

  7. On a related “throw-away society” topic…I also expect this “throw-away the LCD monitor every few years” to continue…because it is obsolete…NOT because it failed! This is because the entertainment industry continues to successfully lobby for constantly changing customer unfriendly content “protection” firmware/software and because the electrical hardware interfaces continue to change and are not required to be downward compatible.

    The same thing happens with Blu-Ray disc players when new HDCP schemes are implemented the “old” players (some literally just months old) are unable to play new Blu-Ray movies because of the new protections encoded on the Blu-Ray discs. Many players cannot be updated because the manufacturers stop supporting them within months. “Just buy a new one” is their mantra.

    But then again, “streaming” is beginning to obsolete DVD/Blu-Ray…which in the U.S. means you have to pay a lot of money on a monthly basis for a high-bandwidth internet connection with either unlimited or a very large data cap (or pay obscenely extra each month)…so much for user choice, privacy (they do keep records of what you watch, when, and how much), and being able to watch movies untethered from the internet.

  8. When I need to find if a place is open, it is much easier to find their phone number in the phone book. Even when I had internet at home, I would have to wait for the computer to turn on, then wait for the internet to connect, then hope I could find the telephone number for that place.

  9. You forgot to mention PHP as horrible outdated technologies. I actually googled php and found this article because you have .php in the URL.

  10. > You forgot to mention PHP as horrible outdated technologies. I actually googled php and found this article because you have .php in the URL.

    +100500
    PHP is #0 in this list.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.