Anyone who has worked in a large corporate environment can tell you that there’s some old legacy system that they use for something (typically Human Resources stuff like payroll) that hasn’t been reviewed or updated in years. Typically this is because they needed a system to fit a specific need at the time and since then that need has evaporated, leaving them with a custom system that works in an antiquated way. I’d be lying to say that I didn’t like these systems because this is where the majority of my work stems from, migrating old technology to new. There are however some pieces of technology that I just can’t seem to get rid of.
Take a quick look around you and survey the technology that you have. Despite the obvious (computer/phone) if you’re sitting at work reading this there are probably 2 bits of technology that are near you that have been around for so long that it’s amazing that they’ve managed to survive. The first is the floppy disk, which as I look upon my computer now is completely absent but if I turn I can see one a mere 5 meters from where I’m sitting. I had thought that this tech had sounded its death knell many years ago when the flash drive came along until about a year ago when I had to set up a server with an OEM raid controller. Seeing as the drivers were required at OS install time they had to come on a floppy disk and there wasn’t a single one to be found anywhere in our office. I think the pack of 10 we bought that day are still sitting in the office, with 9 of them unused. Luckily with the advent of things like iLO I don’t even need a flash drive to get the drivers I need on there, I can do it directly from my web browser.
The most common piece of technology that I see everywhere and has thus far evaded all other technology that has attempted to slay it is the good old fax machine. From legal documents to my weekly time sheets people still rely on a 33.6kbit/s peer to peer connection over the phone line to transmit A4 sheets of paper to each other. Whilst I can understand that the medium has been around for ages and is therefore trusted it is still a technology that comes directly from the mid 1980s, and carries its legacy with it. Whilst significant inroads have been made with email for transmitting secure documents I can still count 5 faxes on my morning stroll to my desk. Probably the most advanced form of fax technology is something like RightFax, which can at least make it look like you’re sending emails to each other with the underlying technology still being a phone line.
For all this chest beating about old technology that won’t die something has to be said for technology that works, and keeps on working. For a long time the fax and floppy disk just worked for what they needed, and indeed they can still fill a niche today. That doesn’t stop me from getting irritated when I have to use them however 🙂