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Monday, 9 March 2015

Obsolete And/Or Harder-to-find Technologies That Should Come Back Into Popularity

Cellular phones are as bad as drugs these days. I'll never buy a cell phone, I hate 'em, don't need to indulge in fads like Twitter or Myspace and it's disturbing to see two friends in the hallway at school, standing side-by-side, texting each other rather than speaking aloud. I mean come on, is it really that hard to put down the damned phone?

I have an Asus laptop with Windows 7 on it (Windows 8 is useless, just another example of the future being worse than the past). I have two digital cameras, and those things are the only more modern technologies I like having around with me. I don't have Twitter, I don't have a cellular phone and I think it's pathetic that so many sheeple out there have become so addicted to their trendy I-phones and Blackberries and Smartphones that they think older things like VCR's, celluloid film, cathode ray tube televisions and vinyl records should just become obsolete and fade away. Some morons even think that paper should altogether be replaced with I-Pads and Kindle devices. They assume that just because they're in love with their e-reader, everyone else should abandon paper books and join in the fad. Some schools are trying it as a trial experiment. So, as technology gets smarter, society gets dumber, and gets owned by their own electronic toys.
And what's wrong with rolls of film or a CRT TV? Well, it's ignorance. It takes very little, if any effort, for some loser to snap a million digital photos of their cat every night and share them all on social media sites. Film takes time, film takes precision and it takes effort. It's more difficult to use but it provides a look that even the best digital cameras can't compete with. Traditional film has brighter and more vivid colors, no blocky pixels to worry about, you get to step out of a darkroom feeling like your photographs are an authentic accomplishment, not just a game. Cell phone sheep, their attitude is “I don’t know about these things so it’s time for them to go.” They've never seen the excellent picture quality or felt the static crackle on a CRT television. They just click a button to play music, they've never slowly lowered the needle onto a vinyl LP and heard the whole room fill with the voices of their favorite bands. They've never anticipated what their 35mm rolls will come out looking like when they open the envelope from the photo lab. They want everything available instantly, effortlessly and lazily, and they want everything to be disposable. I'm not trying to sound like a shriveled-up old man, I'm seventeen years old. But there's a lot of older technology that's better; it takes more effort to use but it's more rewarding in the long run.
#1: Film
Kodachrome, it gives us the nice bright colors, gives us the greens of summers, makes ya think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah, I've got a Nikon camera, I'd love to take a photograph, so mama don't take my Kodachrome away... or so the lyrics to Paul Simon's song go (but Kodachrome was known more for vivid reds and yellows, not "greens of summers", hence the red and yellow of Kodak's logo). Well, Kodak did take our Kodachrome away, literally - Kodak's world-famous color film was last available in 2010. It's depressing when a company's most well-known product has to be discontinued. Nowadays people are selling their old Kodachrome slides and super 8 home movie reels like trading cards (eBay's got list after list of 'em), and although film is still available, it's quickly disappearing, getting increasingly expensive and many people predict that the next generation won't bother manufacturing it and will just render it obsolete, focusing on digital cameras. Digital cameras can be a great, inexpensive tool for any photographer, but although they can mimic the bright, nostalgic look of film, they're never the same as authentic film. I could go on Kodak's website right now, and the famous film company doesn't even have film mentioned on it's main page, only digital equipment! You have to type in "Ektachrome" (replaced Kodachrome) in the search bar, and a roll of Ektrachrome color film is expensive as hell, especially if you're Canadian.. Honestly I think this is Kodak's intention; if they make film less affordable, people will be forced to turn to digital until there's no longer a demand for film. Kodak is a film company, or at least it was for the past hundred-some years. Now it's mostly digital, and a smaller section of Kodak (Kodak Alairis) manufactures film for enthusiasts and artists. Sad.
Digital cameras have a smaller color range than film. The photos are all blocky if you enlarge them. And digital cameras are instant, so there's no surprise or feeling of accomplishment that you get when you develop in a darkroom or go to a professional lab. Celluloid can last for ages when taken care of properly, but memory cards and USB sticks can fall apart or become corrupted for no reason at all. People will argue that digital is better, but I think it's more a matter of opinion and what the photographer can do with any type of camera. And there's still a nostalgic feeling when you hold a little Kodachrome slide in your hands or hear the sound of a super 8 projector running.
But hey, Kodak did set up agreements with several large film companies to keep film alive in Hollywood for several more years, so Kodak still deserves some credit. I'm sure there are plenty of people working for Kodak who don't want film to die out just yet. Now if only there was a way to convince the next generation that film is a medium that needs to live on...
#2: Cathode Ray Tube Televisions
 That picture is a photo of "Ray", my ten-year-old Akai cathode ray tube television. I was six years old when we got him as a gift for Christmas in a large box, and I've seen the Zenith go, the Sony go and now we're on another Sony LCD flatscreen TV, but Ray's lasted longer than all three of those TV's put together, his only problem are these odd horizontal lines that occasionally cross the screen (if you tap the side of the TV lightly, they'll go away). Unfortunately those lines are a sign that Ray's days are numbered, but I'll keep him 'till he burns out (it'd be too expensive to have the failing component replaced these days). My little brother put lipstick in Ray's DVD player so a Sony DVD player lets me use Ray to watch all my slasher films (we don't have cable or satellite service, haven't for years). A lot of the movies I download come in MP4 format and I convert them to AVI before burning them to DVD, so their resolution changes. If I play the converted films on the Sony flatscreen, they look all blocky and pixelated, but on Ray's screen, the converted films look clear and sharp, with hardly any sign that they were converted at all. 
So, a television that lasted ten years (and counting), has a clear picture, plays DVD's and VHS tapes and is the perfect size for a bedroom or child's playroom, what's not to love?
Well, CRT's went obsolete for the most part around 2010, when LCD screens and similar formats started taking over. And this wasn't just televisions that went, arcade games and computer monitors have abandoned the cathode ray tube as well. People keep wanting TV's to be larger and larger, and then smaller and smaller. LCD and LED screens helped with conspicuous consumption, pollution (ever seen a landfill full of CRT televisions that blow up if you accidentally hit 'em?), and those basement geeks and tech snobs who think that by streaming on Netflix they're getting a deal of some sort (they're definitely not, Netflix is just a fad). 
One thing I can agree with, CRT televisions use more electricity. But I'm in school eight hours a day and I do things outside of that too, so good ol' Ray isn't left running 24/7 with some video game flashing across the screen or the latest episode of Supernatural.
To replace a broken or overheating component in a CRT TV, you have to either hire a tech-savvy person to do it (for a ridiculously huge price), or do it yourself and risk a fire, burns, electrocution, an explosion or the accidental damage of your beloved TV. And even if you have the money to hire someone professional to do it, Canada doesn't have very many in business. It looks like after Ray plays his last run of Sleepaway Camp and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, I'll have to check Kijiji for free CRT TV's in the area.

#3: Vinyl Records
 Believe it or not all you online music streaming lovers, vinyl has made a huge comeback; more vinyl records were sold than CD's were last year in Canada. I have a big wooden apple crate full of vinyl LP's, from The Fixx to Cher to 10cc, and it gets bigger all the time. What's not to love about vinyl records? You get this huge album cover with cool artwork, you can line them up and display them on shelves like books. You can buy '45's if there's only one particular song you want, or you can buy the full album. You can trade them, you can sell them yourself, and even the scratched or damaged ones can be used for art projects and crafts or  sold as "bargain records". Vinyl has a better sound quality and it's better for playing at gatherings or parties. A CD has a life span of 25 years tops, whereas you can buy gramophone records from the 1940's and they still sound just as good as a CD sound-wise, if not better.
Some people hate vinyl; they think it's too pricey and that it's annoying to have to take proper care of a record player. If you know where to look, you can find entire record albums for sale for a dollar or less, and if it's that hard to take care of a record player, than I pray to god that these people never have to take care of a child or a pet someday.

#4: Super 8 Home Movie Cameras
 Like traditional film, this is one that's subject to opinion, as well. Some people say that they don't like the hassle of having a short amount of minutes on a film cartridge, some people hate having to load the camera with film and some people want to have the free space available to film themselves getting drunk at a party or their dog running in circles and want to share it to YouTube and Twitter without the expense. But super 8 home movie cameras have a grainy, nostalgic look that digital cameras can mimic but not genuinely portray. Aside from the nostalgia factor, the $20 Kodak film cartridges might be more expensive, but they're more special and valuable that way, so they don't get wasted on a bunch of garbage, they're used to film really important things, memories and projects. It takes effort to set up, load and use one of these, and in that respect they're much more special and artistic than just a Smartphone camera or Canon digital camera. Like vinyl records, super 8 is vaguely making a comeback. Not only do the cameras themselves look cool, but film students, artists and enthusiasts are using them more and more for film festivals, major-motion pictures, art projects and practice. Although large companies stopped manufacturing them in the Nineties, small organizations like Pro8mm work on used ones and build hybrids, and used super 8 cameras are readily available on eBay, Etsy and Kijiji, occasionally for free.

#5: VHS Cassette Tape Players (or VCR's)
 To anyone reading this who has a very large collection of invaluable DVD's or CD's, especially those HD Blu-Ray super-expensive collector's edition ones... well, I really hate to break the news, but DVD's and CD's don't last. Their life span can go up to 25 years before the plastic breaks down and the DVD becomes unreadable. You can download and store your movies, but a memory card or USB stick can become unreadable or corrupted at any time with no warning. 
A VHS tape, although an older format of home media and not as popular as DVD's or online streaming, can last an incredibly long time. I've got a VHS tape of the TV movie Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal, manufactured in 1982, in a case in my room somewhere and still in perfect playing condition. My VCR is sixteen years old, my parents bought it or got it as a gift back in the late Nineties, and the only issue with it is that it has a small dent in the side. I don't have to wait for a VHS tape to buffer or load, I don't have to clean scratches or fingerprints off of it, a VCR doesn't use up any internet bandwidth and unlike Netflix, it allows you to have a physical copy of your favorite movies in your hands that belongs to you whether the company removes it from viewing online or not. 

#6: Disposable cameras
These guys aren't very popular with professional photographers. But if you're an amateur photographer or even just a professional wanting a cheap practice material, a disposable camera can be picked up at the local drugstore or supermarket for $2 to $5. It's a camera that comes with one roll of film, usually 35mm, and about 27 exposures although it varies depending on the brand. It requires no charging and when the roll is completely used up, you can drop it off at Wal-Mart or Costco and they dispose of the plastic camera but give you back the film roll and your printed photographs, fully developed, for around $7 a roll on average. If you're a professional with a darkroom and knowledge of how to properly open one, you can. And a disposable camera requires no charging! So suppose you're camping in a rural area. You want those moments with your spouse and kids and pets to be preserved and kept, but you forgot to charge your digital camera and can't charge it in your tent. Just bring a few of these little guys as backup in your luggage and they require no charging at all! They come with a flash bulb pre-attached and instructions for how to properly use it. After your vacation you just drop it off at the lab and pick up your developed photos anywhere from an hour to a week later. They're cheap, so if your kid wants to practice taking photos but you'd rather not lend them your favorite camera to run around with, one of these makes a great gift.
Unfortunately, a lot of disposable cameras in stores sit on shelves until they expire because people don't buy them. The expired cameras and virtually useless rolls of film get sent back to the manufacturer for disposal, or just ditched in the garbage by the store. It's sad, because that's a lot of perfectly good film expiring and being wasted. And these little cameras are a lot of fun, the photos are always a surprise when they come back and you can get some beautiful-looking ones sometimes provided you follow the proper instructions.

There were many more I could have listed, but I don't have the time at the moment. And I'm not trying to sound stuck-up or anything; there are several cell phone users who can still appreciate and understand the detailed, colorful beauty of film and the amazing way it sounds when a needle on a record player begins spinning on the surface of the vinyl. There are people with Twitter accounts who still watch VCR tapes on a CRT television. The problem is, they're in the minority now. And businesses will only keep manufacturing these items as long as there's a lot of money to be made, so there has to be a relatively large demand for them. The only way to keep these older technologies alive is not to fall into the trap of modern tech addiction, stumbling around in streets and hallways texting like your life depends on it. We have all of this new technology popping up every day, we live in the digital age, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's better.

Other technologies that went "out of style" but can still be found in some places:
Bubble Lights:
 Bubble lights were very popular several decades ago. LED's and other styles have replaced them, but they can be found online (eBay, Etsy, a few Christmas specialty places carry them), and local thrift stores get them in from time to time.

 Laserdiscs haven't been mass-produced anywhere for years, but thrift stores and used online stores sell them, usually with 1980's films on them (a laserdisc is kind of like a vinyl record sized DVD). As of 2013, Japan still sells and manufactures laserdisc players. 

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