Tech Dinosaurs of Years Past

 
 
By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2010-01-28 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Today's top products might end up in tomorrow's scrap heap.

While coming up with my suggested contributions for this week's 25 Technologies that Changed the '00s (which I like to call the "Naughties"), I considered whether product or technology played a significant role in my day to day operations for a portion of the decade, and how much staying power the product or technology maintained to this day.

During the process, I started reflecting on those things from the '90s that could have made such a list a decade ago - things that were essential during that time yet no longer have any role at all in my activities. '90s evolutionary technology dead ends, if you will - dinosaurs that once thrived but could not evolve to meet future conditions or that had their niche co-opted by something else that did the job better, cheaper, or faster.

On the personal front, some of these dinosaurs easily popped to mind. For instance, my VCR is long gone and, with it, my association with Blockbuster (last visit, 2003). Dialup Internet connectivity is, of course, mercifully a thing of the past - allowing me to say good riddance to AOL and its ilk, baud rates and modem banks (last successful modem connection, 2002).

On the endangered species list, my landline phone would be at the top. I never use it, but I dutifully keep paying the bill each month like a good little sucker. But many, many others have moved on and, I assume I will get there, too. Optical media and cable TV also fall in this category.

For me, the desktop to this day remains a Microsoft hegemony - Windows 98 and NT begat Windows 2000, XP, and 7, while Office begat Office. But the cracks are showing here, as mobile and online alternatives could spell trouble for both those lines in the next few years.

I cut my IT teeth in the -90s on Novell NetWare 3.12, the bindery, and IPX. While Novell may have moved more quickly to LDAP than some others with successive versions, it was Microsoft that quickly supplanted NetWare with Active Directory and built-in IP support.

Netscape also springs quickly to mind as a post--90s casualty. Both Communicator and Navigator on the desktop and Enterprise Server in the data center were dominant and highly respected, but both product lines faltered in the "Naughties." Their influence (and perhaps some code) still lives on in some places, so I would hesitate to call these techs a dead end, but the Netscape name has certainly ceased to be relevant.

Looking around eWEEK's West Coast lab, the first thing that struck me as markedly different was the lab itself. Gone is the old model that first attracted me to the testing business - a huge number of machines networked and scripted to do the same thing at the same time, with lots of bodies to plan, execute and keep tabs on it all. Now efficiency is the key word - all the raw compute power is packed into one or two server racks, as virtualization turns a single machine into many. We few who remain don't even sit in our lab most of the time anymore - it's way too loud in there, and wireless networks and remote access tools are so good that we don't have to.

This is particularly true as virtualization has dominated the way we test today, reduced is my need for some tools that were once essential. Ghost used to be one of the first tools in my toolbox, as it allowed me to quickly restore test beds to a basic state, ready for the next review. But with most elements of my tests now virtualized, coexisting on shared processing and storage, the snapshot tools included with the hypervisior are much more vital and necessary.

Of course, this is just my personal list. Later versions of some of these products and technologies may still have relevance to some. But for most, I doubt that is the case. Such is the nature of the beast.

So as we remember the former -90s success stories turned victims of the Naughties, take a look at our list of success stories of the Naughties, and ponder which among them may survive in some way to face the '20s.

 
 
 
 
Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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