Drones, Phones & More: What Tech Will Last A Century? - InformationWeek

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1/26/2015
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Drones, Phones & More: What Tech Will Last A Century?

The first transcontinental phone call was made 100 years ago this week. What technology including the phone will make it another 100 years?
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Introduction
(Image: TRF_Mr_Hyde)

(Image: TRF_Mr_Hyde)

We're marking the 100th anniversary of the first transcontinental phone call this week. If you missed our celebration of the call itself, please check out InformationWeek's picture gallery highlighting the call and the history of the phone, one of the most fundamental business tools in the enterprise.

That got us thinking. What other technologies will survive and adapt as well as the phone has? What technologies are coming to the end of their life cycles? We’re putting some major technologies to the test of surviving another hundred years.

The phone's survival and adaptation over 100 years from simple communication device to handheld computer is a tribute to the brilliance of the invention. It also indicates humanity's innate need to communicate, even across great distances, even if we’re reducing that communication to increasingly shorter text messages.

Before we get to those other technologies, can I simply point out the irony of the text message? Bell invented the telephone so we could hear each other's real voices instead of sending short, clipped messaged via telegram. For over 75 years, we have long intimate conversations on this device. Now we take the smartphone, the most powerful communication device ever invented, and turn it into a glorified telegraph machine sending shorter messages than Western Union. Seriously?

Is usage like that threatening the life of the phone? Are other changes in society making other technology obsolete? In the 1970s would you have believed that the phonograph, a contemporary invention to the phone, would have all but disappeared? Would you have believed you'd be telling your kids what a record was?

Not all technology survives. Sometimes there is a paradigm shift that wipes an invention from common use. Take gunpowder reducing the bow and sword to things you see at the Renaissance Faire. Some have survived for centuries like the wheel or paper.

A century is a long time in the lifetime of an invention. Just think. Since Bell made that call from New York to San Francisco, his phone went from something requiring living operators to connect people to rotary and touch-tone phones, to wireless and cellular, up to our current smartphones, which are personal computers in our pockets that take pictures and everything. Some technologies adapt. Others die.

So I thought I'd go through some of the most fundamental technology, old and new, in the enterprise today and see if I think it will last another 100 years. Seeing a couple years into the future is hard enough. Trying to see to 2115 is impossible. Remember it was only a little over 60 years between the Wright Brothers and landing a man on the moon. But heck, I'll give it a shot.

Check out the slideshow to see what I think survives and what doesn't. Then comment on what you think I got right and wrong.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
2/16/2015 | 2:19:33 PM
Re: Adios Voicemal
@Gig3 True, and find what will be popular with the next generation certainly pays off. I'm sure businesses are applying big data analytics to just that end.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2015 | 9:17:00 AM
Re: Adios Voicemal
@Gigi3 that raises another interesting use question: to figure out what is  ikely to be used in the future, should be focus on what younger people are using now. The assumptions could be that they will stick with what they like and carry it into use for longer than something used only by older people now.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
2/9/2015 | 2:51:43 PM
Re: Adios Voicemal
@Gigi3 Interesting development. Do teens use it, too? They are so averse to leaving voice mails that they hang up when the option comes on if they even deign to place a real call. Most of the time, they text even when a call would prove more efficient at getting the particular question answered.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
1/30/2015 | 11:38:43 PM
Adios Voicemal
Dave I would also add voicemail to the list--who really wants to listen to all those messages! Some companies are already axeing VM more will follow.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 3:19:09 PM
Re: Communication and Connections
@Jastroff- I like the way you put it. It is like we're whispering in each other's ears. I've noticed the only time anyone does that anymore is children (well in a public setting). Maybe we should learn from our kids and whisper to each other more, through the phone and otherwise.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 2:17:55 PM
Re: Really, no paper?
@TerryB- Don't worry. There were instructions on the USB on how to make the right USB. :)


David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 1:55:00 PM
Re: Really, no paper?
@TerryB- Just an old clip from the movie Demolition Man. :)

And you're right. I'm really worried about this problem, too. But I think we already jumped off the cliff on this one. The vast majority of the data we create today is not also stored on paper. We're all just assuming we're going to fix that problem when we come to it. My biggest fear is not whether we'll keep up with our own data storage. We'll always have people who make it a profession to bring back old data from tapes and old disks. My biggest worry is when we are destroyed and the alien archeologists come and they want to learn about our civilization but they can't read our primitive magnetic devices.

You think I'm kidding, but I'm totally serious.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 1:29:00 PM
Re: Really, no paper?
@TerryB- Has no one taught you how to use the three sea shells? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBI8uCKi2lI

I have to admit, I didn't think about that as paper. Even though it obvious is. I suspect that really will be the last place we keep using paper. On the paper plate front, we'll have robots to do all our dishes. No worries there. :)

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 1:20:46 PM
Re: Evolution rather than revolution
@whoopty- What do you think is killing the keyboard? touchscreen? Or voice? Or gesture? A combo. Because right now, I still feel the keyboard is the best way to interact with computers. Do you think that's going to change?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 1:18:59 PM
Re: VoIP
@tzubair- True, the network has changed. But I think we're still basically making calls on a network of connected wires/signals. So I think VOIP counts. But it is a fun question. Each step awat from the original seems a small step. then you take a look at all those little steps and it is hard to recognize the thing we keep calling a phone.
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