Extinct in our time

Written by Dilip Bobb | Updated: Mar 31 2013, 06:04am hrs
Never in human history has the pace of change been so rapid and so dramatic. Whether these changes are positive or negative depends on how we use them or adapt to them, but one thing is for sure, it is leading to certain things we took for granted becoming extinct in our lifetime. Here are some on the endangered list.

The landline telephone

I cant remember the last time I used my landline. Most people I know have the same experience. The mobile phone has percolated down to the lowest strata of society and the fact that calls have become so cheap means that every call, even by people who happen to be at home, is now made on the mobile, spelling the end of the landline, and along with it that antique facility called dial-up-internet, at least in urban India. Landlines are still used for getting a Wi-Fi connection, but no one uses it to make or receive a call any more, unless you live in the boondocks, far away from cell phone towers.

The post office

The only time I see a postman these days is during Dussehra when they show up for their baksheesh. For doing what I cant understand. All my mail comes on my computer or through courier services, which are so cheap and ubiquitous that they have just about wiped out the revenue needed to keep the post office alive. What I get from the postman is mostly junk mail and the rare relic from the past that requires registered post. Even government offices are sending bills online these days. With environmental concerns growing, paper bills and snail mails are getting extinct and with them, the post office.

The cheque book

Most banks these days are ramping up their online services. Britain has announced that it will do away with cheques by 2018. It actually makes financial sense since it costs a lot of money to print and process cheque books. Online banking, plastic cards and the increasing popularity and spread of ATMs all point to the eventual demise of the chequea factor which also contributes to the death of the post office. Most banks today have elaborate online systems for customers, including facilities for paying utility bills, which is a lot faster and more efficient than issuing a cheque or getting one and having to wait till it gets cleared.

CDs

Tapes replaced vinyl records, CDs replaced audio tapes and DVDs replaced magnetic cassette tapes and VHS systems for movies. Whether audio or video, CDs and DVDs have ruled for quite a few years, but with the rise of flash drives, memory chips and cloud computing for storage as well as tablets and iPads for watching movies and listening to music, it wont be long before CDs go the way of eight-track audio tapes and LPs.

The petrol-driven vehicle

With climate change on the front-burner of most governments, international organisations and individuals, petrol-driven vehicles are becoming cause for serious concern. Neither petrol nor diesel vehicles are particularly environmentally friendly but the growing trend to produce more diesel vehicles is because they are less damaging and have lower CO2 emissions. CO2 is one of the major greenhouse gases driving climate change. Most major auto manufacturers are making hybrid cars and electric cars, and with better technology and cheaper costs, in a decade or two, petrol cars could be in car museums.

Books

Most people say that they will never abandon the pleasure of holding a printed book. Yet, those same people, who reluctantly invested in Kindle or similar devices, have become converts. More so since the cost of downloading books is so much cheaper. With the popularity of e-readers, which are becoming increasingly affordable, bookstores in the West are already closing down and it will only be a matter of time, sadly, that it happens here as well.

Diaries

At one time it occupied pride of place on everyones desk and the start of the year was eagerly awaited for the bonanza of diaries that would arrive. With the advent of the smartphone, diaries are now a threatened species. Why bother with a bulky object when you can store phone numbers and contact information on your cellphone, along with appointments that actually sound an alarm to alert you to impending events

Camera film

One year ago, Kodak filed for bankruptcy and the reason was its late entry into the digital camera space. The company that had dominated the world of photographic equipment failed to see the light. That also announced the death of the traditional photographic film as digital cameras became everyones choice for their ease of operation and convenience.

Getting lost

Once upon a time, getting lost while getting to a unfamiliar destination was fairly routine. Now, thanks to Google maps, satellite-based GPS systems, surveillance cameras and other digital navigational devices, embedded on our cellphones, getting lost is no longer an option.

The writer is Group Editor, Special Projects & Features,

The Indian Express