When the Old Ways are Best - Obsolete Week


By Mark Falanga

Photo courtesy of Steve Snodgrass.

In the 2012 blockbuster movie Skyfall, there’s a scene in which James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, is shaving his face using a straight razor. His companion, Eve Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris, asks why he does this, and Bond replied that he sometimes likes to do things the old fashioned way. Eve replies, “Sometimes, the old ways are best.”

Many experts agree with Miss Moneypenny, as they say that compared to a safety or electric razor, the straight razor gives the best, closest shave. In addition, this scene did more than just show off 007’s manliness, it also sparked a revival in this once dead shaving art form. The Shaving Shack, an online retailer for men’s shaving equipment, said that when this film debuted, they had a four fold increase in sales of straight razors.

It seems that most people, especially the older set, feel that in certain times technology that we deem obsolete is often the better option. A great example of this is landline telephones. You’d be hard pressed to find a member of Generation Y with a landline. A 2012 USA Today poll found that six in ten adults aged 25-29 live in a household with only wireless phones. It seems obvious why, as landlines can’t do anything except call another phone, and don’t have texting, e-mail, or internet options. But even with improved service, cell phones just can’t match the reliability of a landline.

Dropped calls and spotty service are simply not issues with a landline, and in many rural areas the call quality is simply better (as a resident of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, I can attest that this is absolutely true). Also, they’re much more reliable in emergencies. Emergency services can immediately locate a 9-1-1 call placed on a landline, whereas on a cell phone, it may take a little more time. Also, during Hurricane Sandy, one in four cell towers went offline, and to those without landlines, it cut them off in terms of contacting the outside. Landline services braved the storm.

Obsolete technology sometimes has a way of coming back as a new and innovative feature. The Ford Motor Company saw that the American public was largely in love with tablet computers like that of the iPad and decided to have a similar interface with their cars. They created the “MyFord” and “MyLincoln” touch screens for certain models of their cars. However, many drivers were critical of it and found it to be too complicated to operate such basic functions as radio volume. So with the pressure mounting, Ford announced that it was making their cars safer by bringing back radio volume and tuning knobs. ‘Obsolete’ technology triumphs once again.

But perhaps the most controversial obsolete technology is the video game cartridge. A quick Google search will bring up dozens of forums that discuss whether or not cartridges were the superior format. While most of the public believes that the move to discs was a step forward for video games, this writer feels that it wasn’t all positive.

Any gamer will tell you that cartridges are far more durable than their CD and DVD counterparts. While video game discs do hold more data and are much cheaper to produce and sell than cartridges, they are much more prone to damage which will render them unplayable. As an avid gamer, I worry that in 20 years, finding games for the original Playstation or PS2 would be difficult to find in working order.

In a previous article, I stated that video games are considered art and should be taken seriously among the art world. In fact the Smithsonian Institute even displayed a video game exhibit, citing that video games are “an amalgam of traditional art forms like painting, writing, sculpture, music, storytelling, cinematography.”

Unlike these other art formats, video games need to be consistently handled in order to receive full effect of the art form. To place them on a format that can be so easily prone to physical damage has its drawbacks–not to mention an aesthetic kinship to the video going back to its origins. While it’s true that cartridges can suffer physical damage, they can be easily cleaned with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab. However, even with all of these negatives, the fact the optical discs are less expensive ensures this format will continue.

The moral of the story is just because something is newer does not mean it’s necessarily better. That way of thinking is purely obsolete. Just ask Microsoft.