With the change of command ceremony on Saturday, our time on the ISS [International Space Station] has really come to an end and our focus is on descent. Last time, I landed in the summer in the desert of California in a space shuttle. This time, it will be winter on the steppes of Kazakhstan in a gumdrop shaped capsule! I have a feeling I already know which one will be bumpier… [Sunita Williams – NASA Astronaut]

I use the above quote from NASA Astronaut Suni Williams as an example of retiring technologies without an improved successor. In 2009 the USA had a fleet of three space shuttles which were able to transport a crew into space and to the International Space Station (ISS). Now the US have no means of doing so and have to rely on private companies and Russia. NASA was the primary transporter for the International Space Station and did wonderful things with their space programme. Sadly this looks to be stalling. They retired a technology and had no replacement.

Over the years I have come across various technologies which have being retired without a replacement. Google Reader being the most recent example. The reason given is that Google are looking to pour their energy into fewer products. I rather naively thought that Google Reader was well used because it has been so valuable to me. It wouldn’t be possible for me to follow all of the websites I want to read and sync them across devices without Google Reader. I don’t believe RSS is dead and I don’t believe Twitter is a viable replacement – there is too much information on there to keep track of it and ultimately a lot of it will be lost in cyberspace. Thankfully other solutions have emerged including Fever, which I have installed on my own webspace so I don’t have to worry about the service being discontinued.

Sometimes, no other alternatives appear. I am a big user of Microsoft Photodraw 2000. It is so simplistic and let’s me produce quality graphics very quickly. I use it for all of my print and web work – both professionally and personally. Microsoft retired this software in 2001 and I have yet to find a replacement that matches its simplicity and versatility. As a result, I have to boot into Windows on my Mac and use a twelve-year outdated piece of software to do my graphics work because I don’t believe in replacing technologies when they work well.

Apple are taking a different approach with my first-gen iPad and are forcing me to retire the technology by discontinuing support for it and not providing any updates. As a result I am using iOS5 which means some of the functionality I would like is missing and apps are slowly becoming unsupported. It’s slower than I remember it ever being. As a result I’m probably going to have to upgrade to a newer model in 2013/14. That’s a whole different thread of consumerist thinking.

I do wonder which seemingly popular technology will be retired or swallowed up next?

Featured Image used under Creative Commons – NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via Compfight

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4 thoughts on “Retiring Technologies

  • April 3, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I know exactly what you mean and sympathise greatly. I too use an outdated iPad 1 that the latest and greatest apps don’t work on and it collapses under the weight of media rich web pages. If it ain’t broke though, I won’t replace it. My Psion 3x still works too (from 1996) and I update my cv on there every birthday but it doesn’t connect to the Net or print via USB so is outdated and a bit useless! Unfortunately tech moves so fast, average lifespan is mere months and even my own kids don’t want hand me down iPods from just three years ago. Solution? Charity donation possibly.

    • April 3, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this! Tech life-spans are definitely shortening… it just baffles me that we have technologies that are retiring which have no replacement.

      I remember the Psion devices… I always wanted a PDA like that!

  • April 3, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Martin, I howled at the Reader news too, but on reflection I think was not the disappearance of the tool so much as the seemingly cavalier way in which it was announced that upset me. I suspect that you’re right about usage, by the way: I think Google may be guilty of counting page visits when in reality we were all using it as plumbing.

    I’m also an iPad v1 user, but that feels to me to be a clear example of Apple’s strategy to drive us all to covet the latest milled-aluminium marvel. They usually do this via the economics of envy, but I thought not supporting a product when it got to the grand old age of two was callous even for them. I don’t care too much, in fact – when I got my Nexus 7 fifteen months ago I stopped using the iPad and when I got my Samsung Note II six months ago I stopped using the N7.

    Nevertheless, I think that some of my displeasure was more to do with the hassle of having to rethink my workflow – to find new ways of doing things but also actually having to question what I do and why. Can Feedly fill my Reader gap? I don’t know without some time-costly examination of my routines.

    I suspect this is also why you feel you can’t find a better tool than MS PhotoDraw. I went a year on a Chromebook – and nothing but – recently, and could manage just about all my print and web work just fine. After a year, i went back to an iMac for my home machine but apart from Snagit and Camtasia I haven’t felt the need to go back to fat-client apps because the web tools I’d got used to are actually pretty perfect for my needs.

    Damoward’s right: the speed of change means shorter and shorter lifespans. Thankfully, I think this means that we are moving beyond our current obsession with devices. A lot of the debate about which tablet or company or OS is better will look very dated in just a few years from now, and it’s about time too because it’s content an collaboration and learning which matters more. I suspect a lot of shiny 1:1 ‘strategies’ (which are too often not as much strategic as ostentatious) may begin to look pretty silly soon.

    • April 3, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks for this input Mark. Incidentally it was you who actually introduced me to Google Reader back in 2010 and I was very grateful that you did. I think you’re right about using GReader for plumbing. Fever is working very well on my webspace and it syncs with the Reader app on my iPhone so I’ve got my replacement sorted. Thankfully, in this instance, there are other replacements.

      Yes, totally agree with you regarding the iPad 1 and the appalling lack of support. I got a Android tablet a year or so ago (HTC Flyer) but it wasn’t a patch on the iPad and I lost a lot of faith in Android after a couple of technical and support fails with HTC (and lack of updates due to fragmentation etc). Apple have got me really tied into their eco-system now – impressive since I have had my iPhone for less than a year. I have been guilty of wanting the latest and greatest in the past but have taken the stance that I will not be upgrading my iPhone 4S until the iPhone 6 is released (at the earliest). However, by then I am fairly sure that Apple will have reduced my 4S to a seemingly useless brick.

      MS Photodraw is just so simplistic and let’s me do things really quickly and easily. I have purchased new apps and bought stuff from the Mac App Store and they’ve never matched the simplicity and versatility. I ended up spending too much time trying to find an alternative. Photoshop just scares me frankly; so I have decided to stick with MS Photodraw!

      I think my concern (or moan) was really focused on the retiring of technologies such as the space shuttle. Yes it was an old technology but a new one hasn’t emerged yet… why not wait until one has emerged before replacing?

      You are definitely correct about the obsession with devices. We seem to be in a spec-free culture at the moment – focusing on what things can do in reality rather than on paper. My HTC Desire HD had wonderful specs but had some major software, hardware and design flaws!


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