If you’re like me, then you’ve been caught off guard in the last couple of years by something that you hadn’t realized was obsolete. Here are a few that still occasionally take people by surprise when they get a new computer.

  • obsolete_ps2 PS2 connections (the round ones) for keyboard and mouse are almost never included on new computers. There are USB adapters if you have a treasured old keyboard that you can’t stand to give up.
  • Parallel printer ports are mostly gone, only included on the most staid and boring of enterprise level workstations. If you have one of those old HP Laserjets that were built like tanks, you’ll have to give it up unless you have an older computer in the corner to run it.
  • A host of other ports are not completely gone but really don’t have much relevance for most people any more – Firewire (the ubiquitous “1394 Connection” that we avert our eyes from in Windows XP’s Network Connections window), and PC Cards for notebooks (“PCMCIA” – how could it lose with a swell acronym like that?). If you’ve ever poked your head inside a computer, then you’ll be nostalgic for the dearly departed SCSI and ISA buses, IDE/EIDE cables for hard drives and CD drives (the flat grey ones, replaced by thin SATA cables), and AGP slots for video cards.
  • Floppy disks, of course.
  • But more interestingly, have you noticed that recordable CDs are almost never being used any more? They were frequently cranky and unreliable, they deteriorate faster than we were led to think, and we have too many other ways to save backups or exchange files. I happened to notice that Amazon has 4Gb Sandisk flash drives for $6.29. There were huge vats of 512Mb flash drives at Walmart with the other school supplies last fall, selling for pennies. Interesting world, isn’t it?
  • For that matter, it’s worth noting that you’ll almost never see another optical drive that only reads and records CDs; the drive on your next computer will almost certainly also be able to read DVDs. Vista (and a lot of other software) is only available on DVD. There are still plain CD drives out there but they’re vanishing fast.
  • Tape drives for backups on servers are completely out of favor for small businesses and disappearing fast from larger offices. Microsoft completely dropped support for tape backups from Small Business Server 2008 – the built-in backup program only recognizes external hard drives. Third party programs might back up to other servers, to NAS devices, to specialized appliances, or to offsite storage, but there’s almost no interest in using tape cartridges. I’ve restored servers from tape and it was agonizing every single time, so I’m not sorry to see them go.
  • CRTs, of course. I just helped somebody replace one last week and I have a feeling it might be the last one I see.
  • There’s no one out there still using a Zip drive, right? Stop it. People are snickering behind your back.
  • Notebooks still frequently include a modem, apparently to encourage nostalgia. It’s certainly not going to be used.

obsolete_crtAh, the good old days!