Lost Technology and This Week in Art

Looking Back

Once again it has been a busy week in the news for art and technology, but today I wanted to focus not on what we are about to see entering the world of technology, but what we have lost since the start of the millennium, and more recently, what we have lost since 2014. It’s surprising that most of the lost technology is virtually unremembered, but some of it, we look back and wonder just why it disappeared. Technology that has been for a long-time, out of stock at Walmart.

It was said by a Google executive not so long ago that 2013 was a horrendous year for new technology, of course critics blasted him for his opinion, but in reality he was probably right. And then in 2014, we lost a whole heap of technology. Some of that tech wasn't so old, but it had according to its various parents, users, and retailers, lost its usefulness.

Every year since I can remember we have seen something new, something that we have seen before, except it's usually a bit faster, or a tad more expensive, but we also see the end of many products. The question is does anyone really notice that they're no longer alive just a year or so on

Now we are almost done with 2015, life where did that go? We take a look back at 2014 and the tech that we lost

Perhaps the biggest ending of 2014 and maybe even the decade, was the demise of Microsoft's Windows XP. Oh boy did this cause a panic in the IT world. Millions of users around the world had a decision to make, do they jump to Windows 8, or do they find an alternative.

Organisations who weren't quite so bold decided to pay Microsoft a sum of money to provide bespoke updates. Others went to Windows 8, and they complained because there was no start button. Now the bespoke packages are coming to an end and decisions around whether or not they should jump to Windows 10, or stick with 8 fill the halls of many IT departments.

Google decided to shut down an entire social network by bringing to an end the long run of Orkut. To be fair, this had much less impact than the end of Windows XP, in part because no one really knew Orkut was a thing in the first place. Unless you lived in Brazil. In Brazil it was a thing.

Google+ overshadowed Orkut for a while, but eventually Orkut was severed from the world. People in Brazil got upset for about five minutes. It was a really bad year if you ran Orkut on a Windows XP platform. Life, the people of Brazil must have gone into meltdown. My prediction is that Google+ might go the same way eventually, I hope not though. It seems more grown up than Facebook.

So Windows XP and Orkut went forever. Although I'm not so certain about XP, it's still being used in Governments around the world. It's also being used to provide the backbone of MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) software so that geeks like me can play video games from the 1980's in old PC's.

But what else went away in 2014 that we miss? Perhaps the surprise of the year was that Apple took the decision to remove the iPod Classic from its portfolio. Suddenly they started popping up on eBay for prices beyond the original retail price. Thing is, they were actually selling.

Was this the right time for Apple to make the move? Probably. The classic was retired at the same time that the Apple Watch was announced. The Apple Watch introduced a new era in tactile interface design, and a Digital Crown which in some way replicated the original iPod click wheel. Apple were clearly starting to spin in a new direction.

Facebook have long been known for their take-overs as well as their social platform. Taking in the Oculus Rift was a bold move that is still to bear fruit, but not an unusual move. In the valley of silicone, it is know that if Facebook cannot take you over, they will simply copy the tech. It might not look the same, or feel the same, but ultimately they will get it to work better, most of the time.

Despite trust issues with privacy of data, users quickly forget why they were disappointed with the social media giant and continue to embrace the platform. But Facebook technology changes and tech changes and moves on.

Facebook Poke was supposed to be the app to take on Snapchat, although initially the platform looked promising it was later dumped by the Zuckerberg Corporation. Facebook originally offered $3bn to Snapchat but it was refused. Given that Snapchat have just been valued at $10bn, it was clearly a wise move by Snapchat not to snap up true earlier offer.

MSN Messenger
MSN Messenger. Trust me, we're better off without it.

Do you remember Windows Live Messenger? I vaguely recall clicking the not visible button whenever I used the platform, just to see who else was sad enough to go on there. Maybe you will remember it better as MSN messenger.

At its peak it was a great little application and moved everyone away from Yahoo chat rooms. If you remember Yahoo chat rooms you will probably remember free trials of AOL dial up with one hour of free access. Usually you would receive a few CD ROMS with every computer magazine, and pretty much every other magazine too. Change the username each time you loaded up a CD and before you knew it, you would have free dial up access for a week.

Although messenger had a number of announcements that it would close starting in 2012, in China the service was still functioning until 2014.

Gone were the days of late night chats with random people, but some still look back at Messenger with fondness. Honestly though, on reflection by today's standards, it really was an awful bit of software in the latter days. Mostly missed by cyber-stalkers one would imagine.

A strange version of YouTube that was more aligned to the Pirate Bay came in the form of Justin.tv. I must confess to never really taking much notice of this platform, but a number of viewers did in the hopes of streaming the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

DCMA takedown notices started popping up everywhere for copyright infringement, but the notices were replaced as quickly as they went up with new streams on different channels.

An offshoot of Justin.tv, Twitch, became a hit with gamers and quickly grew to become even more popular than its original parent site.

Twitch was then acquired by Amazon just a few short months after Justin.tv announced its end, and the outcry of all of the lost video streams didn't last too long at all. In other words, after five minutes no one really cared.

But it wasn't just technology we lost in 2014 that once great publication, Mac World disappeared, although it’s still around online. This news came as a surprise considering it was around the same time that Apple’s keynote to introduce the iPhone6 and Apple Watch was imminent.

Microsoft ditched the Android based NOKIA X range of mobile phones. Hardly a surprise after the acquisition, Microsoft clearly wanted everyone to own a Windows phone, and even today, I know one person who actually owns one. He works at Microsoft.

Maybe one of the biggest surprises came from the inventor of Flappy Bird. The app that stole hours, and enraged many people with its single button tapping prowess. The apps Vietnam based developer, Dong Nguyen was overwhelmed with the apps popularity. There were rumours that he was earning thousands of dollars pretty much every second of every day, but that didn’t stop him announcing some 22-hours before he would pull it from app stores that he had, had enough. He just couldn’t take it.

Of course the app store developers sprang into life, quickly coding variants, but none of them have ever been quite so good. Nguyen later backtracked on his position and released Flappy Bird Family for Android on the Amazon app store, but the rise and rapid self-destruction of one of the most popular mobile games in recent memory remains the game's biggest story.

A DECADE OF LOSS

But it wasn’t just in 2014 that we lost technology. No, we have been losing technology year after year.

PDAs – Personal Digital Assistants. I still have a Casio PDA with a Compact Flash Card, and do you know what? The thing never crashes, battery life lasts forever, but it’s just that the thing is quite useless.

 

Polaroid, and for those who read this blog regularly you will have read all about Polaroid and the quest to bring it back in one of my recent blog posts which rather thoughtfully I will recreate right here for you.

Polaroid
Polaroid - Top Tech from 1976

Digital pretty much killed Polaroid off, in fact digital pretty much killed the whole of analogue off. Only the diehard 35mm photographers who need some graininess in their lives keep that format going. But Polaroid hasn’t been gone from our lives for quite so long as you would think. When I think Polaroid, I instantly cast my mind back to my parent’s parties, with curled up sandwiches, and a keg of Party Seven beer in the 70’s.

More recently we have started to see attempts at bringing the brand back, none of them really setting the world alight with innovation, but it is nice to see some familiar brand names occasionally. The Impossible Project have clearly done their best at reinventing the classic instant film, but it is really nowhere near the same as the original. The problem of course started when Polaroid closed their doors and lost all of the knowledge and technology.

Polaroid introduced the first analogue instant camera back in 1947. In fact the date was February 21st 1947. Edwin Land was the original creator and first demonstrated the camera at a meeting of the optical society in New York City.

Originally known as the Land camera, the device contained a roll of positive paper with a pod of developing chemicals at the top of each frame. Turning the roll with the use of a knob forced the exposed negative and the paper through a pair of rollers, spreading the chemical evenly between the two layers. A paper cutter then trimmed the paper and low and behold, a black and white image would appear as if by magic.

I remember my parents using one back in the 70’s and I also remember vividly all of the people who were in the shot gathering around and oohing and aaghing when magically they appeared. It was like witchcraft. Panic set in when the last exposure had been reached, and it was a trip to the local photography shop to stock up with another packet.

In 1948 the Polaroid Land Camera Model 95 was on sale at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston for $89.75. It made more than $5 million in sales in the first year, and would be the prototype for Polaroid cameras for the next 15 years. The 1963 introduction of Polacolor film enabled the cameras to produce colour pictures and that was when everyone could be a photographer.

Over the years digital printing and photography lessened the need for this relatively expensive to feed camera. The concept was magnificent, but the cost of digital was quickly reducing by the day. Then one day in 2008, Polaroid said that they would stop making instant cameras, now they make digital camera that print colour photographs, but the look and feel of a true Polaroid will alas never be equalled.

So in reality, Polaroid as we knew and loved it has gone. Yes, there are replacement films, but will Polaroid ever be a real thing again?

Movie Rental Stores

AKA – Blockbuster. The massive popularity of Netflix and Video-On-Demand has made it virtually unnecessary to go to an actual store to rent movies. Gone are the independent video stores where the owner would watch every film he or she rented, and provide you with a glowing five-star review, just to make sure you rented it. Occasionally, they would give you a real opinion, but only if you were a good customer and remembered to rewind your last rental.

The Video CD. I vaguely remember the format of the Video CD, it was a competitor in the latter days to both VHS and Betamax. Created in 1993, it was essentially a first attempt at the DVD. The format had 83-minutes of video per disc, so essentially it was never going to become a mainstream staple of the 90-minute Hollywood blockbuster. Surprisingly, some Asian countries still use the format. Another format lost to time is Video 2000. Video2000 — a format marketed specifically to Europe and South America. Video2000 never really stood a chance against Betamax and VHS, and it was one of several formats that have now been almost completely erased from memory.

HD DVD’s were the future according to Microsoft, competing with Blu-ray back in 2008. Clearly Microsoft backed the wrong format when they launched a $129 HD DVD add-on for the X-Box, meanwhile Sony added Blu-ray to the PlayStation 3, and today you can pick up a Blu-ray player for around $100 less than the HD DVD add-on.

Maps. Yes, those paper maps that were the mandatory accessory for any epic road trip of more than 35-miles. I remember my parents pulling over when neither could agree which way the map said to go. I also remember that neither of my parents were great navigators. Surprising as my Father was in the Royal Air Force. Apparently flight maps were much different to a roadmap of the M1 Motorway.

Classified Adverts, where did they go? Oh, eBay and Craig’s List that’s where they are now. I remember scouring local newspapers when I was younger for anything that related to computers. I even purchased a tape deck for a Mattel Aquarius computer for £15. In the end, the tape deck was worth more than the computer.

The Landline. The landline telephone was a staple of any home in the 70’s. If you wanted to make a call you would have to queue up behind your parents. But now we have a high penetration of wireless, and you can purchase a truly mobile phone for less than £10, I have to ask, why do we still have a landline in the house?

Not too sure what you do when the thing rings, I usually look at the wife and ask “who on earth is that calling?” before picking up the handset. It’s usually a window salesman from the Amish community.

Long Distance Charges, yes thankfully they are no more. No longer do you have to pay extra to call your Aunt on the other side of the coast. Now we just have international calling, although there are many ways to communicate without actually paying for the privilege.

Public Pay Phones, yes they’re a thing of the past too. I talked to a homeless guy the other week who was selling The Big Issue. Even he had a mobile.

VCRs are officially a thing of the past. Good job since we lost all of the video rental stores. DVD players first outsold VCR's in 2002; by 2004, they were outselling them at 40 to 1. Combine that total shift to digital movie-watching with the development of DVR, and you had the inevitable death of the poor VCR.

Be Kind Rewind
Be Kind Rewind

 

The Fax Machine. Yes you can now safely take a bat to your fax machine. Although I was asked not too long ago if I could fax a signature through to a company. Having never owned one in the first place, we negotiated an email exchange instead.

The Floppy Disk. Yes, you can still purchase a 3.5 inch floppy. For the life of me I have no idea why you would want to, but apparently there are companies that still back-up using a floppy disc. Yes, this is 2015, and I am as surprised as you are.

Getting Bills in the Mail. Envelopes, how quaint. Online banking and bill paying is generally done through a phone, tablet or a laptop. However, that doesn’t stop the occasional reminder slipping through the letterbox. My best guess is that we will see the end of paper bills completely in the next couple of years.

THIS WEEK IN ART

A German art historian who has never visited Britain is to become the first foreign director of the British Museum in almost 200-years. Hartwig Fischer, 53, the director general of Dresden State Art Collections, is set to replace the outgoing Neil MacGregor, who is going on to chair a committee advising on one of Germany’s most important cultural projects, the Humboldt Forum arts complex.

According to a report in the Times, Fischer has never worked in Britain, studied art history for eight years in his twenties and likes to maintain a low profile. His appointment would end a five-month search after MacGregor, 68, who has been at the helm of the museum since 2002, announced he was stepping down in April.

In other news this week, it has been said that 1 in 5 Americans have ink. By ink, I mean tattoos. Not something I would personally have, my pain tolerance is especially low. The U.S tattoo industries revenues are expected to climb to in excess of $722m in 2015, and now we also have an unexpected twist that might make the figure increase some more.

Save My Ink is a new service offered by the National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art, that enable people who have gone through the pain of having love and hat tattooed on their person, to nominate recipients of their heirloom body art in their wills.

Following the death of paying members, the service will send a removal kit to the funeral home. The tattoos are then removed and sent to NASPA for preservation and framing. I simply cannot comprehend why on earth anyone would want a piece of skin hanging in their homes, but each to their own I suppose.

HARRY POTTER

Muggles leave a note
Muggles-please leave a note

 

A while ago I wrote about Quidditch being a real sport, and it seems that Harry Potter fans are sharing messages through the series of books through libraries and bookstores. It’s all part of a campaign called #PotterItForward, and the idea was originally created by online group Muggle Net.

Readers leave messages within the borrowed Potter books for other readers to read, and then leave their own messages. The idea has now mushroomed into an entire movement on social media including Twitter and Instagram. Searches for the hashtag reveal notes that show the lessons people have gleaned from the series, encouragement for a generation of future readers and poignant tales of how the books helped readers through hard times.

So that’s all for today, but I would love to hear about any lost technology that you miss the most, or any that I have missed in the list. Feel free to write a comment below.

 

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