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Saluting the Obsolete Skills of Tech

Date/Time Permalink: 03/04/08 09:10:45 am
Category: LINKS and Lists

People said "It's about time." when the idea came up to collect one list in one place of all the skills that are now obsolete. But after a few months, the Obsolete Skills Wiki has obviously been hit by a few trolls.

"fdisk" is obsolete? I use it every week! Lisp??? Not dead at all; in fact I believe that Lisp is still waiting for its day in the sun, which lies in the future. All it takes right now is for one Ruby fanboy to say, "Do they have anything like Ruby, only more elegant?" and bam! Lisp would be hotter than Obama. Other entries are too obvious. Yes, we know churning butter is obsolete; but isn't the purpose of this list to note things that have changed since the dawn of the Information Age?

Nevertheless, the list affords plenty of opportunity for recalling days of technology gone by...

Adjusting rabbit ears on top of a TV - That I don't miss so much, but I do miss having that one person around the house who couldn't stand too close or too far away or raise their arms without messing up the TV reception and making it go all static. Remember that? Everybody else could move around as they pleased, but every household had that one person who was the walking Bermuda Triangle of TV signals. You'd have to turn to that person and say, "Could you just sit still until the commercial?" What the heck was that?

BASIC - Good riddance! Although recently when I was consulting for a client who had a really hairy edge-case scenario with a file portability problem, I was this close to recommending emulating QBasic for a solution. But I waited for a saner idea, because I didn't want to be stuck supporting a BASIC program for the rest of my days.

Entering "freeware" programs from a magazine - After the current Dark Ages of ignorance ends, this will come back into vogue. I mourn for the days when coding was seen as an ordinary everyday skill. Believe it or not kids, there was a time only 15 years ago when you could step onto a city bus and hear ordinary citizens batting around COBOL code and HTML tags as naturally as anything, the way you'd talk about the weather. The public didn't see computer literacy as the exclusive domain of autistic freaks. These days the standard opening line is for the citizen to wave their flippers in a helpless gesture and cry, "I barely know how to turn one on!" God, I get sick of hearing that.

Finding channels on UHF - Ah yes! Back when we got the same quality of television content on 50 back-end channels for free, instead of paying for it through cable.

Gopher - Meh, I don't exactly miss it. Here's a Gopher server. Firefox still supports a Gopher protocol. Other web browser's Gopher status here.

Multiplication using a Sliderule - Sliderules were already going out of style when I was a wee tot. One thing I liked about the sliderule age, however, was that it made people think in terms of significant digits. Digital calculators brought us false precision, along with people who think that every digit of an answer is crucial. Here I am in a store adding up a price tally in my head and I ask somebody what something costs and they say "thirty-nine-ninety-five". That's supposed to be pronounced "forty"! Digital calculators got us people who report every number to ten friggin' decimal places, standing there rattling off increasingly trivial digits like Mr. Spock telling us the probability of escaping the supernova.

Morse-coding messages - Trivia: BSD-games still has a morse program! "BSD" is "daw dit dit dit, dit dit dit, daw dit dit". So there!

Nested table web design - While somebody on the site is protesting "It is still widely used!", it is nevertheless obsolete as churning butter. Just because half the population is still living in 1995 doesn't make their hideous web design current! While we're at it, other obsolete web page tech includes: animated .GIF backgrounds, background .MIDI music, animated cursors, designing a page in MS Frontpage Express, frames, and web content available only in the form of a downloadable .PDF. Since about Ben Franklin's time!

When will blogging become an obsolete skill? Any guesses?

old fashioned FOSS blogging

Continued here.

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