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Transient Technologies

Updated on November 4, 2016


Our modern technologies have brought us so many good things. My concern is with the rapid pace of innovations. As a society, are they really an improvement? I wonder...

- Oct. 2016

What are transient technologies?

Technology that comes and goes so rapidly that they become obsolete in a short period of time. What is considered short? In my mind, I think anything less than 5 years is transient. Here are a few examples. The items are replaced by a more modern version or a better technology. In either case, the items we purchased just a few years ago becomes obsolete and ready for the recycling bin or garbage bin. This is the effect of a consumer based economy.

  • digital camera
  • Cell phone
  • audio players
  • computer printer
  • compact flourescent light

Digital Camera

When I was growing up in the 1960s, we had Kodak brownie box cameras. Then I moved up to the SLR cameras that has interchangeable lens In the 1970s. In the 1980s, I also dabbled in the point and shoot automatic cameras. All these were analog cameras that uses celluloid films and require development to get the photo prints.

Then, in the 1990s, the first digital camera came into the market. It was a sensation mainly because you can see the results instantaneously. The quality however was poor. I believe the first one I had was only 1 Megapixel. By the way, here is a history of my cameras.

The one I am using now was purchased in 2007 and it is a 5 Megapixel model with 10x zoom.

Recent news announced the iPhone 7 has a 12 Megapixel camera built in. How long do you think this model will last? 1 or 2 years?

Cell Phones

I remember growing up and we had an old black ATT Bell telephone. It was a land line connection it was durable. It lasted forever and even during power outages, it worked. It was heavy and bulky but it did the job.

When the phone company was deregulated, we started getting competition and had many models of phones. The wireless home phone was the latest rave. You can walk around all over your house and in the backyard and still talk to your friends. The problem was, they were not so reliable. I must have gone through a phone every year or so. Either the buttons stop working or the rechargeable battery died or you dropped it and it broked.

Then came the cell phones. At first, it was suppose to be used for emergencies. Quickly, everyone had one and it was abused. The cost came down and you can call with these unlimited minutes plan.

In modern days, there is the smart phone. These small devices are a modern marvel. They have so many features and you can do so much with it. How did we ever live without one? One device can replace a phone, a camera, an ipod, and a GPS and a wrist watch... and a computer browser.

Music Player

When I was growing up, the latest craze was the boom box. Everyone was carrying one around with them on the subways and buses. Then came the invention of the Sony Walkman. It was a dream machine. The miniaturization and the high quality was impressive.

Then came the portable CD player. I must have bought one of the very first model. Believe it or not, I still have it and it works sort of...

The invention of the iPod was revolutionary. It literally save the Apple Company from bankruptcy. Everyone want to have one. The problem was, every few months, a new model was released that had more features and capacity.

It finally ended when the iPhone also was able to stream music.

Computer Printers

I remember getting one of the very first IBM personal computer and the dot matrix printer in 1982. As an employee, we were given a discount and first dibs to order these machines. It was slow, and the resolution was poor and it was black and white only and it was text only.

Today, the computer printers are very cheap and it is almost a give away. They make the profits from the print cartridges. They work well and are in color and fast and can print text and graphics and images...

The problem is why do they need to be replaced every few years? In most cases, when a computer becomes obsolete, and is replaced, the whole system seems to be obsolete as well. Apparently, the "drivers" are constantly upgraded and the old printer just don't work well with the new system.

Electric Lighting

The incandescent light bulb has been around over 100 years. They have served us well since the days of Thomas Edison. Recent years has brought about new technologies in lighting. Driven by efficiency and the efforts to combat global warming, the new lighting first went to fluorescent bulbs and then recently to LED bulbs.

The technology has improved so dramatically that the LEDs has surpassed the CFL bulbs in just a few short years. The problem is, what happened to all the fixtures that were put in place to accommodate CFL? Here is my hub on this topic.

What Next?

I just hope the current Electric cars and Solar PV panels on roofs and wind mills are not in this same class...


Advanced technology is wonderful. It save us time and make us more productive at work and at play. Sometimes, too much technology and too soon will lead to waste and abuse. Some transient technologies are examples of these. Let's be more prudent in adopting technologies.

My old SLR camera still works fine. Just that Kodak no longer sells films or develop them.

That old ATT black phones are probably sitting in museums. Yet, the next time a power failure occurs, you might wish you still have a landline that works.

My old portable CD player stills plays some of my favorite CD's... Sometimes, it skips a beat.

I like the new LED lights in my home. It uses much less electricity but produces more light. I just don't know what to do with all the old incandescent and CFL light bulbs. Apparently, they are hazards and must be disposed of gently.


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