As technology advances, older technology is replaced by new technology. It’s the way of things. Before computers came along, if you wanted to write a letter, you either had to had write it on paper, or use a typewriter. When computers first came on the scene, you would write a letter on your computer, print it, and mail it through the US Mail. Then when the Internet became more accessible to most people, you quite printing it and mailing it and instead sent email. Then many people moved from email to instant messenger. As most people got faster internet service, you could then use programs like Skype to communicate with other people with voice and video on your computer right over the internet. Thanks to the Internet, stamp sales are way down.
This type of thing has happened over the years with technology. The horse and buggy was replaced by the car. The train was, for the most part, replaced by airplanes. The list is very long.
Let’s look more closely at the types of technology that the internet has replaced in the last ten years or so.
Printed Reference Materials and those who sold them
When you wanted information, you went to a printed encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, or other similar reference material. While Dictionary’s and thesaurus don’t get out of date that fast, encyclopedias did. Often, the encyclopedia you were using was several years old meaning the information in it was outdated. You also had to contend with Encyclopedia salesmen coming to your door trying to sell you more up to date encyclopedias.
When home computers started becoming popular, you could then purchase encyclopedia programs on CD that you could run on your computer. They were cheaper than the old printed encyclopedias and you didn’t have to contend with salesmen, but just like printed encyclopedias, the information in them was stale when you first got it and became outdated. Then came the world wide web. Now you can go to Google or Wikipedia or encyclopedia.com or any other of the many places to get the information you need. And that information is usually up to date.
The Yellow Pages falls into this same category. It’s still around, but used much less than it used to be. At some point, it will go away.
Fax machines used to be the best and quickest way to send a document. You could overnight them, but that was, and still is, expensive. When computers first started becoming popular, fax modems became a popular substitution for fax machines. But the technology was still limited because it still revolved around the idea of printed documents. Then as the faster internet speeds came, you could simply create a document on your computer, attach it to an email, and send it to someone.
Fax machines are still around, but you are finding fewer and fewer of them as time goes by. One thing that has kept the fax machine around longer are multi-function printers that can fax in addition to print. But I suspect that in 10 years, fax machines will be very rare.
Although paper checks are still used a lot, its declining fast. It seems strange for me to say this since most of our clients pay us by check. It’s going to be many years before checks are gone, but they are on their way out. You can pay your bills online. You can pay by credit card, of course. You can often set it up so that a vendor can simply take what you owe directly from your bank account.
Printed Newspapers, Magazines, and Books
Newspaper circulation is way down. So are magazine subscriptions. During the next 10-15 years, more and more newspapers and magazines will fold. With devices like Amazon’s Kindle, books will start to decline as well.
When you hear the term bulletin board, you probably think of a cork board with papers pinned on it. But if you were into computers in the 80’s and early 90’s like I was, then you might think of a computer bulletin board. The Internet certainly hasn’t replaced the cork bulletin board, but it has totally killed the computer bulletin board.
Back before the internet was available to the average person, we did have modems. If you could find the telephone number for a computer bulletin board, you could have your computer call it. Once you got on a bulletin board, you could upload or download software or read and post messages. The hard part was finding a bulletin board’s phone number.
As the Internet became more popular, especially to those who worked at corporations, the bulletin board was replaced by Gopher. Gopher was basically a bulletin board on the internet. Think of it as a text only version of the world wide web. Gopher didn’t last long before the web came along. Computer Bulletin boards and Gopher were great in their day, but they were basically stepping stones to the internet and to the world wide web.
This is another one that isn’t gone yet, but like several others on this list, it’s going fast. I’m sure you have probably head of NetFlix. It’s a company where you can get online, tell it what movies you would like to see, then they mail you the DVD. After you watch it, you mail it back and then they mail you the next one on your list.
Have you ever wondered about its name? The name NetFlix doesn’t sound like a good name for a company that mails DVD’s. That’s because mailing DVD’s is just a stepping stone to where things are going and the founders of NetFlix knew it. And it’s starting to happen. With NetFlix, you can now watch movies, online, on your computer. BlockBuster is offering similar services. You can also purchase devices that you hook up to your TV and to the internet. These devices allow you to watch NetFlix movies online right on your TV without a computer. And now they have Internet ready TV’s that have this built right into the TV.
While we are on this subject, we might as well talk about cable and satellite TV. You can watch movies online, but can you watch cable TV online? Not really. A lot of companies are working towards that, but we have a long way to go. You can, however, watch a lot of TV shows online. But it’s after the fact, not live as they are being aired. I can picture a time, however, where there is very little airing of TV shows. Shows will be created and released on a certain date and a certain time. At that time, you can download or view them over the internet. There will always be some live programming for news and things like that, but they will be delivered over the internet for the most part.