Pagers, faxes and cheques: Things that might seem obsolete, but aren’t

A woman stands with a cassette player in Redcar, England in 1997Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cassette tapes have made a comeback. Thankfully, the boombox-on-shoulder look has not.

The roughly one thousand individuals who nonetheless used pagers in Japan might have shed a tear this week once they had been lastly discontinued. Wait, it’s possible you’ll say… pagers are nonetheless a factor?

Even although you will not discover them in Japan any extra, pagers are nonetheless used elsewhere. And they are not the one “outdated” merchandise nonetheless being employed world wide.

1) Pagers

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Media captionRetro tech: When the pager was king

How do they work?

They’re like small radio receivers (we’re not explaining what a “radio” is) that you’ll be able to carry round. Each consumer has a private code that individuals can quote in the event that they need to ship a message to you. Each message flashes up on the aspect of the pager.

Why are they nonetheless round?

More than 10% of the world’s remaining pagers are utilized by 130,000 individuals who work for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). One research from 2017 mentioned 80% of British hospitals nonetheless used them.

Why? For one factor, reception is at all times good: some hospital rooms are designed to include X-rays, but this additionally finally ends up blocking phone alerts. Pagers’ radio alerts are tremendous. They’re additionally quick, and helpful in emergencies.

But pagers might not be lengthy for this world: they’re to be phased out of the NHS by 2021 and changed by one other messaging system.

2) Cheques

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Image caption Cheques are so uncommon as of late, it is regular to take images of them if you see them

How do they work?

Imagine a e-book manufactured from slips of paper that your financial institution provides you. You can tear out a slip (or “cheque”), write down a quantity (one that is the same as or lower than the amount of cash you may have in your account) and give it to somebody, who can then give it to their very own financial institution for cash. Simple!

Why are they nonetheless round?

They’re used greater than you might assume, even when they’re much less fashionable than ever.

In the US, the place small shops might not settle for playing cards and landlords usually demand to be paid by cheque, a median of seven.1 cheques had been written per family per thirty days in 2015.

Chequebooks had been because of be phased out within the UK by 2018, but these plans had been scrapped, as a result of no viable alternate options for the aged and susceptible had been in place (most British cheque customers are aged over 65).

According to UK Finance, the commerce affiliation for the British banking sector, cheques made up solely 0.9% of all funds right here in 2018 – but they nonetheless added as much as a shocking £443 billion ($550 billion) in transactions.

Having mentioned this, the variety of cheques cashed right here has fallen 75% in solely 10 years. That determine is unlikely to extend once more, but the UK finance trade nonetheless expects 135 million cheque funds to be made in 2028.

Plenty of different international locations, together with the Netherlands, Namibia and Denmark, have already phased out cheques.

3) Cassettes

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Image caption Pictured: A time earlier than music streaming websites

How do they work?

Well, for these of a sure age, the thought of a cassette tape working in any respect might seem like a pipedream. This retro music format largely conjures darkish reminiscences of badly tangled tape and cracked circumstances.

But for the uninitiated: think about a small, rectangular, plastic field full of a roll of magnetic tape. On that tape you may discover, as if by magic, the work of musical icons akin to Madonna, Prince and Rick Astley. You might even document your individual!

Pop that plastic field satisfyingly right into a cassette participant – maybe a traditional Sony Walkman or your granddad’s car stereo – press play, and away you go. Just do not count on nice sound high quality…

Why are they nonetheless round?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Plenty of high-profile artists have launched – or re-released – music on cassette lately

They’re extra than simply hanging round – cassette tapes are literally rising in popularity. It’s one thing of a mini-renaissance.

In the UK, gross sales are at their highest stage for greater than a decade. More than 35,000 of them had been offered within the first seven months of this 12 months, in response to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). That might not sound like a lot (as a result of, nicely, it is not) but it marks the seventh 12 months in a row that gross sales of the format have elevated.

It’s an analogous story within the US, the place, in response to Nielsen music, gross sales of cassette tapes grew by 23% in 2018 in contrast with the earlier 12 months. So what’s behind this rise?

“I think it’s nostalgia,” says Ken Brissenden, who owns a web based cassette retailer known as – naturally – Mr Cassette. “It slows down the method of having fun with music. People of my era like the method of selecting a cassette and wanting on the band notes on the sleeve.

“Plus, it is simpler and extra transportable than vinyl.”

But it is not simply these seeking to re-live their youth who’re shopping for cassettes. “It’s on pattern,” Mr Brissenden explains. “It appeared to take off when Eminem and different huge artist began releasing them.”

Indeed, a slew of contemporary artists have chosen to launch their music on cassette lately. This 12 months’s best-selling artists within the format embrace Billie Eilish, Kylie Minogue and Lewis Capaldi. So there’s life within the little tapes but.

Farewell to the gadgets that didn’t make it

4) Tamagotchis

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Media captionTamagotchis had been launched in Japan in 1996, sparking a cyber-pet craze

How do they work?

They are digital pets within the form of an egg that you must maintain alive. Presumably it is all about studying easy methods to course of demise and guilt.

Why are they nonetheless round?

Ironically, Tamagotchis refused to die. Instead, they’ve advanced.

They had been launched in Japan in 1996, and grew in reputation world wide within the 12 months afterwards. Within its first few years, greater than 40 million had been offered. And whereas gross sales have positively slowed since, about six million had been offered between 2010 and 2017.

Last 12 months, a complete new era of Tamagotchi was launched. The fundamental pixelated gray display screen of the 1990s has now been changed by one in color. New Tamagochi can, when bumped, trade knowledge, marry one another and breed, which is sweet.

There’s additionally a brand new period of Tamagotchi followers who meet on a web based discussion board. Among the topics being mentioned: who ought to my Tama marry, tributes to useless Tamas and “mature and targeted dialogue” on Tamagotchi.

5) Fax machines

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Image caption People queue to make use of a fax machine at a US airport in 2000. Hopefully this is not an emergency.

How do they work?

If you are younger sufficient to have by no means used – and even seen – a fax machine, then think about a cumbersome printer that feels like a steam engine. Some older fashions might actually have a phone hooked up. They’re removed from glossy.

They work by scanning a doc and transferring it right into a sign which is then despatched down a phone line, to the sound of a piercing hell-scream, to a different fax machine. This machine then reproduces the doc and prints it out.

Why are they nonetheless round?

Largely as a result of companies, the well being trade and authorities departments have did not replace their know-how.

Again, let us take a look at NHS right here within the UK. It’s considered the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines. It is so reliant on the outdated tech that final 12 months it was banned from shopping for them altogether. It was then instructed by the federal government – presumably by e-mail – to section them out by March 2020.

Elsewhere on this planet, the fax machine continues to be extensively utilized in quite a few international locations together with the US, Germany, Israel and Japan. Millions of faxed pages are nonetheless despatched every single day.

“For many older individuals who might really feel uncomfortable with computer systems, faxing is simpler, cheaper, and extra acquainted,” says Professor Jonathan Coopersmith, who has written a history of the device. “Expect them to stay round at the same time as they take a smaller share of each day speaking. “

Indeed, in Japan, the machine persists to some extent as a result of handwriting and arduous copies are nonetheless so extremely valued. In reality, simply final 12 months, the nation’s new cyber-security minister admitted he had by no means used a pc. Talk about studying on the job.

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