Happy Birthday, WWW! Here are 25 things the Internet made obsolete
The World Wide Web as we know it turns 25 today and has pervaded, infiltrated and dominated billions of lives around the world since then.With the advent of the ‘digital citizen’ and the ‘netizen’ since then, the Web has effectively replaced many services and things that were integral parts of day to day life not all that long ago. When for instance, was the last time you actually took the trouble of sticking photographs in an album? Or used a physical encyclopaedia? Or sent a greeting card? With that in mind, we decided to compile a list of 25 things that are either completely or well on their way to becoming obsolete in honour of the Web’s 25th birthday.
1. Appointment diaries, planners and the rolodex
Pencil this one down as ‘obsolete’.Seriously, who uses planners in the age of Google and other online calendars? With all sorts of handy features like pop-up reminders, alarms, notifications and even shared calendars to make sure that you don’t miss your important appointments, the days of assiduously writing down your important meetings are well and truly over.
When was the last time you actually unfolded a road map to get directions? Unless you’re a true physical map romantic, chances are that you don’t remember. With services like Google Maps not only showing you roads but also calculating the best routes for you to take, there is really little reason for you to use anything else.And with online maps getting smarter and smarter and expanding their services to also show you things like traffic movement and interesting places to visit, this battle is all but over.
One word. Wikipedia. Enough said. And for the times that Wikipedia just doesn’t cut it, there’s always Google.
More likely to be found in a museum
4. Smut (porn) magazines
Really. Who pays for their porn anymore? The online porn industry has singlehandedly engineered the misfortune of many ‘established’ smut magazines. What turns off porn stars more than anything else? Free sites, that’s what.
We may fight it as hard as we can, but the truth is that the Internet has long killed privacy. Unless you have absolutely no presence on social media, no one knows what you do and you have a job that won’t show up anywhere online (i.e. spy) chances are that even a cursory search of your name will reveal at least your basic information to the outside world.And then of course there is the fact that sites like Facebook and Google probably know everything about you, based on your browsing history. They claim to use this information to decide what ads to show you, but the truth is that they probably know you better than you may know yourself.
Creeped out yet? Good, because you should be.
Remember all those ‘last’ telegrams that were sent out in nostalgia last year? Yeah, blame email for that. Which brings us to point 7 which is….
Ah the old physical letters! Initially, the handwritten ones and then typed letters. The romanticised bundles of letters tied up with a blue ribbon in the metaphorical attic are destined to be replaced with printouts of emails.
8. Reference libraries
With online references, online book stores and so many academic articles available online for a fee, there is really no reason to trudge to a reference library, painstakingly leaf through musty volumes of books, and then carefully photocopy the sections you need. A net connection, credit card and a printer is really all you need.
9. Train timetables and almanacs
With schedules of trains and expected arrival times all available online, no one really buys timetables, but for the nostalgic value.
10. Attention spans
Have you even read this far? Well done. But seriously the Internet with all its bite-sized chunks of news and snippets, short videos and little pictures, our collective attention spans are getting shorter and… oh look! It’s a picture of a cat! Sorry, where were we?
Apologies for the distraction. Please scroll back up to read again
11. Airline booking centres
The sheer number of printouts and mobile phones with PNRs that are waved around at airports is enough explanation for this one. Booking tickets has become worlds easier now.
With online dictionaries, it’s become much easier to type and search for words rather than painstakingly look them up in the physical dictionary. And as we all know, dictionary.com is the new tool of Scrabble lovers everywhere.
13. Photo albums
If it’s not on Facebook, it probably didn’t happen. (But watch out for those privacy settings)
14. Recipe books
Julie and Julia notwithstanding, the truth is that unless you’re a huge fan of a particular cook, you’re going to search for all your recipes online. It’s become that easy.
15. Greeting cards
The traditional greeting cards have been dealt a double whammy. First up, there were the e-card sites like Hallmark and 123greetings and now there is social media. Wishing people on Facebook is the new greeting card, people. You know it’s true.
16. Book stores
Amazon. Flipkart. Need we say more? Except for when you want a worn-out early edition, but then you can probably find it on eBay.
17 . Copyright
While we don’t advocate piracy, the fact is that we can’t ignore the effect of the Internet on copyrighted material like songs, movies and even books. Although industries and artists have been trying to fight back along with newly strengthened laws and monitoring, the fact is that it’s not that easy to do.But the effect of the Internet on copyright has not been all bad. There are theCopyleft and Creative Commons movements that have sought to share content fairly, instead of restricting them under copyright laws.
Internet plays matchmaker too
18. Personal diaries
These were first replaced by the blogs. But now we have Twitter and Facebook. Yup. Personal diaries in 140 characters in less. As for private diaries… please refer point 5.
19. Yellow pages
Want a number or address? Google it.
20. Matrimonial ads
While these are still completely not dead, as newspaper pages will prove, fact is that more and more people are turning to online matrimonial services to find the ‘perfect partner’ for themselves or their offspring. And there’s so much more choice and scope for stalking thanks to Facebook and Google. Again, refer point 5.
Remember the expression, “Did you get the fax I sent?”. Us neither.
22. What’s a blind date?
Though you may not ‘personally’ know someone before you meet them, chances are that with Google, Facebook and a little help from your friends, will help you find out what Mr or Ms Stranger looks like, where they work, where they went to school and what they like to eat and what they did last Saturday. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can find out pretty much anything you want about a person online. The only challenge will be how not to freak them out by revealing everything you know about them… on your first date.
Not the best way to begin a blind date
Google, Linkedin and the other social networks are really making a lot of services redundant. Private investigators can be added to the list.
24. Bill payment centres
No more standing in lines to pay your electricity and water bills, thanks to the fact that most utility service providers have their own payment gateways.
Everyone is an expert thanks to Google and Wikipedia — ON the surface anyway. But given the fact that attention spans are already obsolete, who needs in-depth knowledge anyway?
The drinking straw was invented by 3000 B.C., as attested by Sumerian artifacts. Until very recently, these straws were tubes from plant stems, such as rye. Besides dissolving in water, these straws often added unwelcome plant flavors to drinks. In 1888, Marvin Chester Stone patented a waxed paper straw that didn’t add a grassy flavor to drinks, and these quickly replaced plant straws. But we would have to wait a few more decades before straws became flexible.
Sometime during the 1930s, tinkerer Joseph B. Friedman watched his young daughter struggle to drink a milkshake from a high counter at a soda shop. There had to be a way to improve the design to make it flexible.
Here’s what he did:
Friedman inserted a screw into the straw toward the top (see image). Then he wrapped dental floss around the paper, tracing grooves made by the inserted screw. Finally, he removed the screw, leaving a accordion-like ridge in the middle of the once-straight straw. Voila! he had created a straw that could bend around its grooves to reach a child’s face over the edge of a glass.
The modern bendy straw was born. The plastic would come later. The “crazy” straw — you know, the one that lets you watch the liquid ride a small roller coaster in plastic before reaching your mouth — would come later, too. But the the game-changing invention had been made. In 1939, Friedman founded Flex-Straw Company. By the 1940s, he was manufacturing flex-straws with his own custom-built machines. His first sale didn’t go to a restaurant, but rather to a hospital, where glass tubes still ruled. Nurses realized that bendy straws could help bed-ridden patients drink while lying down.
A look at some of the gutsier and goofier proposed space shuttle missions that might have happened.
The U.S. space shuttle fleet is set for retirement following the launch of Atlantis, scheduled for mid-July. In all, the fleet will have flown 135 missions, the first in 1981, but there were many more on the drawing board. With scrubbed missions that included daring rescues, in-orbit satellite snatches, and dangerous explosives, you can see why some of these didn’t make the cut. But just imagine if they had.
1979 REBOOST SKYLAB
As America’s first space station (1973–4) slipped steadily from orbit, NASA built a small booster rocket to be attached to it by a two-man crew (Fred Haise and Jack Lousma) on an urgent early flight. But launch schedules slipped, and Skylab fell on Australia.
1980 SATELLITE SNATCH
A key scenario among the planned missions that drove the shuttle’s design was the Pentagon’s need for a superfast, single-orbit mission that would deploy or retrieve a military satellite. Strictly speaking, the retrieved satellite need not have been the property of the United States. The shuttle was built to enable this, but the idea was soon abandoned.
1981 RETURN TO LAUNCH SITE
In the event of engine problems during launch, one emergency procedure involved flipping over in midascent and thrusting back to Florida for a runway landing. It worked in the simulator, but it was so dangerous that astronauts considered it barely preferable to crashing into the ocean.
1983 SALYUT RESCUE
Following a series of breakdowns on the Soviet Salyut 7 space station, NASA wondered if its upcoming mission, carrying the Spacelab module, could be diverted to perform an emergency rendezvous so that the cosmonauts could be evacuated via space walks. The answer was yes, but Moscow never asked for help.
1986 HYDROGEN BOMB
For fast planetary probes, a Centaur rocket stage was modified to be carried on the shuttle, and two launches were planned in one week in May 1986. The explosion hazard from leaking gas later led to theircancellation, but only after Challenger was lost in January.
1980s CRUISING HOME
NASA discovered that if there had been an emergency landing at an overseas airfield, the shuttle would have been too heavy for the 747 carrier aircraft to transport it across an ocean. So the agency developed a kludge plan to lift the shuttle onto the deck of an aircraft carrier, thereby limiting emergency landings to coastal airfields.
1986 CALIFORNIA (SPACE) DREAMING
The U.S. military had planned polar-orbit spy-satellite launches from California. A launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base was ready, spy satellite payloads had been picked, an emergency landing site on Easter Island built, and a crew trained. But the needed upgrades to engines were deemed too risky after Challenger was lost, so the mission was canceled and the pad mothballed.
LATE 1980s DARTH VADER, ASTRONAUT
During research for a space-based ballistic-missile shield (the Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as “Star Wars”), the Pentagon wanted to test astronauts’ ability to track objects and aim weapons in space, and Moscow accused NASA of doing so. But in truth, the test was canceled.
1990s HANDS-OFF LANDING
The shuttle’s digital autopilot has an “autoland” option, although it does require one throw of a manual switch to lower the landing gear. NASA actually scheduled a mission to test the system all the way to “wheels stop,” but the agency lost its nerve before launch and left the astronaut in control for the landing.
A combination of astronaut selection, mission training, and flight assignments offered the option to juggle the crew manifest and put seven experienced female astronauts onto an otherwise routine shuttle mission. The selection was meant to demonstrate the level of responsibility women had earned in space, but concerns about exploitation for electoral politicking scuttled the suggestion.
2003 RESCUE COLUMBIA
Although Columb ia had been mortally wounded by launch damage and was too crippled to safely return, controllers failed to realize it in time to mount a rescue flight by the next-in-line shuttle. After the disaster, analysts examined whether that flight might have been launched in time. The answer: maybe.
2000s SUICIDE SPACE DIVE
NASA figured that if a shuttle was too damaged to safely land, the crew could hang out at the International Space Station until the next shuttle could retrieve them. The agency also developed a system to remotely pilot a crippled shuttle into the South Pacific.