10 Technologies Your Kids Will Never Use

Posted on Jul 14 2014 - 9:18am by Eric Tompkins
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By Evan Dashevsky (PCMag)

I was very fortunate for a kid growing up in the 1990s, with a high school computer lab fitted with all the latest Clinton-era technology. While I most fondly remember it for being the place I played Oregon Trail and Number Munchers, it was also where I mastered all the basics I’d need to maneuver the burgeoning information age.

Aside from access to the primordial AOL-keyword-era Web, the lab was also populated with a lot of stuff that would soon wither on the technological vine: floppy discs, CD-ROMs, early (that is, not functional) talk-to-type software, and ClarisWorks (remember ClarisWorks?).

It wasn’t that my school made poor purchases; it was that technology moves fast. Real fast. What was hot at that moment, or on the verge of hotness, would soon find itself obsolete. It’s just the way things go. And the way things will continue to go.

While you would indeed be wise to provide your kids with an up-to-date technological education, much of what they master may soon become just another curiosity of tech history.

Check out our slideshow for a list of 10 current (or once-) ubiquitous technologies (and tech-adjacent concepts) that kids born in Obama’s second administration will probably never experience.

Desktops

“Desktop,” is being defined here as a comparatively large, non-portable (i.e. stationary) computer. It’s probably the kind of computer that you were first exposed to and—as its name implies—might have actually filled up an entire physical desktop.

As Moore’s Law remains largely intact, so has the size, cost, and availability of computing power. Compare the power of a midrange laptop of today to the top-rated desktop of just 10 years ago. Large stationary workstations will probably not go extinct altogether, but they will be used for very specific high-end tasks that necessitate a dedicated large screen and top-shelf computing power.

While there are plenty of great desktops still available out there, the power and ease of laptops and other petite form factors is such that the once-ubiquitous desktop is well on its way to becoming another relic from grandpa times.

Calculators

I was actually surprised that many school districts still require students to purchase expensive graphing calculators, even though there are many suitable (and cheaper) alternatives.

Smartphone use among students is fast becoming the rule rather than the exception. Surely there are inherent problems here for schools to consider (including using phones to cheat), but surely there must be a better solution than forcing students to purchase redundant hardware. If graphing calculators haven’t disappeared yet, they really should soon.

Standalone Cameras

Many think that standalone cameras have a bright, full future. These people are wrong. High-end cameras will probably continue to exist for limited, niche uses. But the fact of the matter is that digital imaging is getting sophisticated and accessible. Outside of photography enthusiasts, who had even heard of HDR a few years ago? Now every high-end smartphone can utilize it.

There will always be the hobbyists and prosumers who will want to capture the best photos possible. For this minority of users, high-end lens makers (a quality lens being integral to a good photo) are experimenting with snap-on lenses that enthusiasts can add to their smartphones. But consumer-grade standalone cameras (and the high-school photography classes that accompany them)? Your days are numbered.

The Dewey Decimal System

For more than a century, the Dewey Decimal system helped organize the world’s information—it was an analog-era Google, one might say (but theoretically, less entangled with the NSA, #boom). I remember spending weeks learning that thing in elementary school.

Even before physical books started to become less of a thing, some libraries were starting to re-think their Dewey dependency and embrace a more people-friendly, bookstore approach to organization.

But that’s all kind of a moot point now. Physical books are going away and their digital incarnations can be found with a few keystrokes. So, thank you Melvil Dewey, but your 19th-century form of classification is no longer needed.

White Noise

White noise. Snow. TV snot. Whatever you want to call it, today’s kids will probably never encounter it. As we’ve moved away from analog transmissions, this once ubiquitous annoyance has fallen into the dustbin of history.

Physical Media

Young kids might never need to stick anything in their computers ever again. If it can’t be sent through the Internet, then at least it can be beamed via Bluetooth, NFC, or local Wi-Fi network. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time long ago when if you wanted to upload the latest OS you had to use multiple (!) discs and wait until each one uploaded the appropriate files.

Whether the young whippersnappers like to think so or not, having a local physical backup of your important files is always a good idea. For those inevitable times when the Cloud fails to materialize.

Hardwired Internet

I’m writing this very post on a computer connected to the Internet via a wire connected to the floor in the PCMag office. However, as Wi-Fi becomes ever more capable, it seems this mess of cumbersome wires will slowly fade away from use.

I rarely, if ever, use a hardwire Internet connection for my many devices at home, and I imagine most kids coming up today will have very limited experience with this sort of setup.

Scanners

The desktop scanner was an integral part of the computer lab in my 1990s high school. Like many technologies we’ve mentioned, flatbed scanners will probably have some niche use going forward, but as we catapult towards a paperless society, scanners are not the kind of thing on which cash-strapped schools should be spending their tech budgets.

Printers

You may have a printer in your house. And that’s great. I hope you get a lot of use printing out photos to give to your elderly relatives. My printer died a year and a half ago, and I’ve been just fine without it. We’re going paperless, people. Consumer printers are going away for most folks. (Image)

MP3 Players

Apple is still making some high-quality iPods. But as connectivity becomes more universal, consumers are moving their media into the cloud. And even those who don’t can just store their music on their cell phone.

About the Author

Eric Tompkins is an Experienced Web Developer and Digital Media Professional. As well as a Professional Photographer and Technical Instructor. You can follow on Twitter @_codemics.