Jul 30, 2008, 12:42PM

Technologies That Shouldn't Exist Anymore

If you were to dig a trench through a landfill you'd see layers of phonebooks like geological sediment. So why do we still get those heavy things delivered to our house every year? Read on to find out how ridiculous our reliance on outdated technology really is.

Phone Books

An incredible 615 million phone books were printed last year, most of which were used to replace missing legs on sofas or were ripped apart in Youtube videos.

About another million tons of these useless blocks will be shipped out to households and offices next year, where an increasing number will make a U Turn at the front porch and head to the landfill without ever being opened. William Rathke, an anthropologist who studies garbage, says you can "dig a trench through a landfill and you will see layers of phone books like geographical strata or layers of cake." Rathke, who despite digging through trash for a living has his Ph.D. from Harvard, claims phone books account for about 10-30% of the trash at your local dump.

In an era when you can fit many gigabytes onto a device small enough to be swallowed by a cat and even your local bait shop has a website, phone companies still want us to find phone numbers the same way we did 100 years ago: by dragging out a bulky, ten-pound list printed on dead trees.


After ten years we're finally seeing dropping DVD sales. Considering movies can already be downloaded onto set-top boxes on a pay-per-view basis, and can be downloaded over the internet on a pay-nothing-per-view basis, it's a wonder it took this long. Any economists reading may recognize that combination of risk factors and symptoms the same way doctors recognize coughing, shortness of breath and a constellation of funny-shapes on a chest X-ray.

Companies like Sony would like to think the dip is due to people getting all excited about Bluray, but while Bluray sales have inched along, movie downloads have doubled.

Box sets of TV shows have inexplicably injected huge profits into DVD over the last few years. Even though the shows are free to watch in rerun form and, if you're not happy with that, rips are available four nanoseconds before a show finishes airing. But loyal fans hold out for the official box set. If you're new to this human thing called "capitalism", corporations interpret "loyalty" the way a prisoner might interpret "dropping the soap".


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