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A Remote Control with Built-in TV?

I realize we love glowing gadgets, but just because it’s old doesn’t make it obsolete. And just because it’s new doesn’t make it better.

I recently watched a video on the prospected “obsolete” technology of 2010 — a compilation developed by the Huffington Post which highlighted once prosaic things that are now going the way of the dinosaur.

Before I pressed PLAY, I pondered the obsolete … It stood to reason that things like analog television would make the list of the recently tapping out … or DVD in the wake of BluRay? Maybe the Snuggie was past its prime. Honestly, are blankets without built-in sleeves really that cumbersome?

Here’s the top 12. Frankly, the list itself made me a little sad:

  • Calling.
  • Classifieds in newspapers.
  • Dial-up internet.
  • Encyclopedias.
  • CDs.
  • Landline phones.
  • Film.
  • Yellow Pages.
  • Catalogs.
  • Fax machines.
  • Wires.
  • Letters.

I mean … I get it: Land line phones are old school and relatively unnecessary. And why use wires when you can go wireless? And dial-up? WAY too slow…

But this list of obsolete technology came just in time to careen over the news wires with updates from this past week’s CES expo in Las Vegas — the tech-geek’s annual orgy of futuristic, over-the-top, electronic one-up-man-ship.

Friday’s New York Times featured an article that cautioned against some of the latest vehicle technologies to come out of the CES show: namely the internet functions being tested in automobiles.

I realize we love glowing gadgets … and fast-fast-fast-as-we-can-get-it everything, but does it rub anyone else the wrong way that we’ve become this enamored with technology? We’ll all scoff derisively at hand-written letters and phone books, but stare with glassy-eyed intensity at the latest in internet-ready vehicle dashboards — technology experts say will contribute to the already high rates of distracted driving accidents.

Or how about the newest Samsung remote control with a built-in screen? This means you can continue to watch your shows while walking to the kitchen to get a snack, or … sorry for the visual … taking a bathroom break. Uh … thanks? It seems odd that we’ll laugh in the face of encyclopedias, but if you can find us a way to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians forever, then we’ll sign on the dotted line.

My tongue-in-cheek analysis of the news out of CES is not because I hate technology. Obviously, innovation is a huge driver in the American manufacturing space, and it’s creative technology that will keep us generating revenue, and more importantly, jobs. That said, I don’t have to be in favor of all of it, right?

My mom recently sent me a copy of a letter my grandfather’s brother had written him during World War II. It was an interesting glimpse into the times, and offered some insight on my family I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I realize that hand-written letters are less practical than they once were, but it got me thinking about the disposability of our current correspondence. In fact, there are very few emails and text messages which I’ve had the foresight to retain. While this is sort of depressing, the irony is not lost on me that my mom was able to scan this letter into a PDF and send it to me in an e-mail … or that you’re reading this from a glowing computer screen.

I guess all I’m trying to say here is that we should look critically at what the real useful value is to these trends — both new and old — and maybe stop throwing around this word “obsolete” so cavalierly. Much to the amusement of many of my friends and colleagues, I still use a paper wall calendar to arrange my schedule. It’s easier for me to manage a month’s worth of hand-written scrawl instead of the beeping and flashing calendar function on my data phone. My point? Just because it’s old doesn’t make it obsolete. In that same vein: just because it’s new doesn’t make it better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a telegram to send. If you'd like to send me one on this topic, e-mail me at [email protected].