Evolution is a harsh reality of technology. There is constantly a “next best thing” on the horizon, and brand new gadgets often seem obsolete by the time you get them out of the box. There are some concepts and technologies, though, which have outlived their usefulness years ago, and should probably be extinct but refuse to die.
A couple years ago PCWorld took a look at some ancient tools and technologies that should have been extinct, but were still clinging to life. Many of the technologies cited in that piece are more of less dead at this point. But, some—namely fax machines—are stubbornly still in use.
There are some industries—like real estate and financial institutions—that still rely heavily on faxing. Technically, there isn’t any real difference between faxing, which scans an image of a document and transmits it over a phone line, or simply scanning the document and zipping it over as an email attachment, or by sharing it from a cloud-based storage service. The difference is that many people have scanners, but almost nobody has an actual fax machine any more.
LinkedIn surveyed more than 7,000 professionals to ask which office tools or business practices are most likely to go extinct soon. Audio cassette recorders topped the list for 79 percent of the respondents. Number two on the list is the tenacious fax machine with 71 percent.
Here’s the rest of the top 10:
· The Rolodex (58 percent)
· Standard working hours (57 percent)
· Desk phones (35 percent)
· Desktop computers (34 percent)
· Formal business attire like suits, ties, pantyhose, etc. (27 percent)
· The corner office for managers/executives (21 percent)
· Cubicles (19 percent)
· USB thumb drives (17 percent)
Somewhere, I believe I still have an actual Rolodex, with actual Rolodex cards. I used to tape or glue business cards to the Rolodex cards for easy “input”. Now that I can open the Contacts app on my iPhone and find the information in a few seconds—or better yet, just ask Siri to look it up—the idea of rifling through Rolodex cards seems a tad quaint.
The explosion of mobile devices explains the expected demise of both the desk phone and the desktop computer. Smartphones fill both roles simultaneously for many common tasks. USB thumb drives are still going strong, but the rise of cloud storage, and the ability to share or access the data from anywhere will soon make the idea of carrying around a few gigabytes in your pocket on a device you can easily lose seem pretty dated.
LinkedIn also asked survey participants what “dream office tools” they wish they had. Tied for the top spot with 25 percent were a clone or assistant to lighten the load, and working in natural sunlight. Those were followed closely by a quiet workplace where naps are allowed, and a mute button for annoying coworkers.
How do these responses line up with the reality in your office? Is there a technology or business practice missing from this list that you believe will soon go the way of the dinosaurs?
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Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.