Pmilo Previous

Still Around and Working Very Nicely

Has the whole world gone digital? I m referring to the digital displays found in all sorts of gadgets and products from CD players and watches to test equipment such as multimeters and function generators. Even my refrigerator has two digital displays for temperature one for the food compartment and one for the freezer. Furthermore, I can select the temperature to be displayed in  C or  F.

No, the world has not gone totally digital. Although the blood pressure monitors in the local drug stores are digital, the sphygmomanometer my doctor uses is still analog. Maybe he is behind the times. Come to think of it, the instruments used in other doctor's offices I have visited are analog as well. The gas gauge in my 2001 Toyota is analog as is the electric meter on the outside of my house.

Obviously, digital displays are much easier to read. A digital thermometer makes it easy to tell the doctor over the phone your child's precise temperature as he tries to determine how to treat the illness. The air temperature displayed on the sign at your local bank is easy to read as you drive by, even though the reading may be quite inaccurate. You never see a runner check his split times using an analog watch.

Does this mean analog-display watches are pass ? Well, of course not. Can you imagine a world without those exclusive and pricey Rolex analog watches? Of all the digital watches I ve seen, none are truly elegant timepieces. Nothing beats the sophistication of an analog watch with its gold or silver case and matching band and sweep-second hand. Everyday watches are digital, but dress-up watches definitely are analog.

In a recent article in the MIT Technology Review entitled “Ten Technologies That Refuse to Die,” analog-display watches, compared to their multifunctional digital counterparts, are old-fashioned, pathetic, one-trick ponies. But analog watches, especially the high-end models, are enjoying dramatic sales growth in recent years. Why? Because how a product performs its essential job matters more than its extra functions.

Other technologies that refuse to die include dot-matrix printers, typewriters, broadcast radio, pagers, reel-to-reel tape, vacuum tubes, fax machines, mainframe computers, and FORTRAN. The typewriter is a long way from extinction. According to the MIT article, more than 400,000 word processors and electronic typewriters were sold in 2002. Even manual models are doing pretty well. With a typewriter, you don't worry about viruses, you will never have a hard-drive crash, and you won t have to contend with buggy software.

I m sure FORTRAN is older than most of the programmers who currently use it. Released in 1957 by IBM, it still is popular with the scientific computing community. As noted in the article, adaptability and compatibility are attributes of its longevity. Older versions have remained intact even when major upgrades were made.

I m sure many, if not all, of these technologies will be around for many years to come. Typewriters and fax machines are used almost daily at our offices, and I don't expect much change in the foreseeable future. I m sure the situation in your office is pretty much the same.

Paul Milo
[email protected]

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