Which current technlogies will go obsolete last?

Related to the GQ discussion about recently obsolete items, I was wondering: “new” technology today will last the longest? If you asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have easily answered magnetic harddrives because of their speed and cost, but today, with solid-state drives, I can see the end of the mechanical storage. Conversely, there was no way, 10 years ago, I would have possibly predicted keyboards would never be replaced (due to the jumps in voice recognition at the time,) nor monitors (the first VR glasses were hitting the market at the time.) Even mice, with the advent of cheap touchscreens, seem on the decline. I probably would have laughed if anyone suggested a cell phone could replace a computer as well, or a laptop could come close to the price point of a desktop for the same performance.

I think Bluetooth has a pretty good claim for longevity, it’s as close to an industry standard for mobile peripherals as there’s likely to be and as far as I know there’s nothing planned that would replace it.

I think QWERTY keyboards are a safe bet for longevity just based on their track record. The layout is a tech that refuses to be improved upon or made obsolete altogether - even though Dvorak is acknowledged to improve WPM. So I don’t think voice recognition could kill QWERTY either.

Pencils. Back in the early 90s it seemed that mechanical pencils would kill off traditional ones, but no.

Staplers. Automatic exist, but the plain ole Swingline isn’t going anywhere.

Microwaves. Seems like it would have been replaced by now if there was something better that could heat food evenly (like an oven) but in microwave time.

Aluminum beverage cans.

None so “new”, but definitely the current standard.

This is kind of weird but I’ve always marveled at the fact that the only way to get an airplane off the ground, since the beginning of airplanes, is to drive it very fast down a very long stretch and let physics do the rest.

Yes I know a Harrier and other related planes do a very short takeoff but I don’t see any major airlines clamoring to adopt this technology.

Seems like the way airplanes have been taking off has been around for over 100 years and it will continue to be so.

Seconding keyboards as not going away any time soon. If anything will replace the mouse (or the keyboard) it won’t be touch screens. They’re neat, but they’re an ergonomic nightmare when you need to use them continuously. There’s a reason the keyboard and mouse are flat on the desk, while the monitor is right in front of your eyes. As for voice recognition; just try talking for 8 hours a day and you’ll see the problem there.

And with good reason.

Vertical thrust-driven takeoff *a la *Harrier is stupid inefficient.

Its burn way more fuel per takeoff and also requires much larger engines per weight of airplane. The nature of turbine engines is they are most efficient at near full throttle. So oversized engines means running engines at cruise at well below max power whcih means at well below max efficiency.

Add in the fact that airlines buy fuel, but taxpayers buy airports and it becomes clear why the current arrangement is as it is.

Most airports’ operting costs are paid by fees levied on their user airlines. But much of the capital comes from taxpayers, whether Fed or local.


If that thing replaces keyboards throughout the world’s offices, I’ll eat mine starting with Esc.

The benefits of STOVL/VTOL are pretty much wasted on commercial air travel. Fixed-wing VTOL craft are good at one thing, and one thing only - taking off and landing in small spaces (well, also maneuvering, but the applications of an ultra-nimble airliner are obviously limited by the stomachs of its passengers).

This is very useful if you think your airbases might all be destroyed in the opening stages of a war, or if you need aircraft carriers but don’t want to spend the money to build large ones, or if you are operating in an area with poor infrastructure.

In any case, VTOL severely limits payloads and range. It takes an awful lot of thrust to lift something the size of a Harrier off the ground. It would take an almost vulgar amount to lift something that could carry more than a half-dozen passengers. The Germans built a VTOL military transport in the 60s, using two Pegasus vectored-thrust engines from the Harrier and eight additional conventional engines in rotating pods at the wing ends, and it could only have carried about 40 troops.

In any case, people do not travel in large numbers to places that don’t have airports, so there is no need to transport people in large numbers to places where only a STOVL aircraft could go.

ETA: I guess I could see a time when airliners are launched vertically- maybe using rocket boosters- and land conventionally, thereby reducing the size of an airport by as much as half. I don’t think the concept has even been mooted yet, though. Well, except by me. You heard it here first!

Never happen, there are people out there that will never learn to touch type. I would be willing to bet that the girl in the demo clip did not just walk in there grab it and start typing away at 70 WPM … There is probably a pretty steep learning curve as you can not see the bottom half of it at all when it is held properly and many people need the crutch while learning of watching where they put their fingers while they type.

We still use lenses and their technology keeps advancing, so that much of lens technology has something new to it. But I think it is obvious that the many situations where lenses work with electronics will some day be replaced with phased arrays of antennae that are of half-micrometer scale; at this size, light waves work like radio waves do on the scale of rabbit ear antennae. It only takes electronic changes to alter how a phased array “sees” the world around it, so cell phones (or whatever they have become) will have what amounts to an f/0.3 lens that can zoom from 1 to 10,000 mm focal length (35 mm camera equivalent).

But it is going to take a while.

At first blush, I thought that was the dumbest product I’d ever seen. After watching the typing demo with the chick in a recliner… that really might be the future.

Keyboards & mice are not going away for a long time. Sure, there are touchscreen computers out there, but no one wants to spend hours sitting with their arm outstretched in the air in front of them.

Imho, one of the points of this thread is perspective. It may seem ludicrous to us that keyboards would ever go away, but remember, there’s an entire generation who peck with their thumbs growing up. When arcades were hot in the 80’s, I figured thumbpads would never catch on…but, there ya go.


Putting those satellites in orbit took a lot of money and effort, and the system works well. Should be around for quite a while.

Actually, it only took about 2 days to learn to touch type. Since you don’t have to move your hands about searching on a homogeneous surface, it’s quite easy to memorize. Index finger in = T. Easy.

It took another month for muscle memory to come in and start typing without thinking about it, but that’s going to be true of any alternative.

Yeah I used to play WoW lazed back in a bean bag on the floor, playing in front of a projected image on my wall. I could move, chat, toggle all of the various windows, and cast all of my spells without having to move any finger more than a couple millimeters. It’s a greater leap than getting a mouse with an extra key to be certain, but for the amount of immersion and direct, comfortable control it gives you, it’s definitely worth it.

The only downside is that the mouse ball on the top tends to eat up hairs and grime. If they can sell enough, they will hopefully swap to a light-based sensor in the next generation.

I used to work at pizza hut, where they used a 10 key pad for the full alphabet. I also trained myself to do 10-key in a day, and I used to hit some ridiculous cps.* I also was able to learn telephone 10 key (opposite numbering as traditional 10-key), and then, just to impress the cook, I did them upside down. :slight_smile:

Left-handed and two-handed was too challenging.

  • My memory says 100 cps, but today, even I can’t swallow that.

The simple compass is an extremely reliable technology that will remain a fixture of navigation for as long as people want to explore their surroundings on planet earth (at least as far as dry land is concerned - not sure about the high seas).

Travelling in rough weather conditions makes electrical devices such as the gps just that bit unreliable, so it doesn’t matter how sophisticated they get, they will never completely supplant the mechanical compass. I’m just in the process of packing a bag for some hiking, going for a day’s walking in the Scottish mountains tomorrow. The gps is in the bottom of the rucksack and will almost certainly not make an appearance, whereas the map and compass will be to hand in my coat pocket.

Not quite answering the OP because it’s not new technology, but I’ll post it anyhow because I was just thinking about it :slight_smile:

ETA: I see Mach Tuck has posted the GPS as an enduring technology - I completely agree, it is and will be part and parcel of how we travel in vehicles etc. It will never completely supplant the compass, though, for some types of travel / exploration.

Certainly not new, but I predict the rapid demise of:

  1. Movie Theaters. Do you think they’ll still be around ten years from now?

  2. Newspapers.