November 19, 2009, 1:49 PM —
It's the time of year to reflect on all of the good things for which we are grateful, including the techology that we can't live without. But ask any IT professional if there's a technology that they're happy to no longer support, and you can bet they have a list.
We polled a handful of IT pros and asked them to share the technology that they were more than happy to wave goodbye to. Here's what they said.
[See related article: Technology That Makes You Smile]
So long to different DLLs, unreliable hardware
Chris De Herrera, portable/mobile device guru, pocketpcfaq.com, has spent over 20 years as an IT administrator:
"The concept that each Windows application needed a different DLL (Dynamic-Link Library) version and they could not exist together. Now we don't think about what DLL versions an application needs because they all work together without issue."
"Hardware today is very reliable compared to even five years ago. For example, hard drives are lasting longer and systems continue to work longer."
Adios to RS-232, IE 4, and dongles
James E. Gaskin, technology consultant, author and speaker:
Modems and RS-232, and "most happy to see gone: generating NetWare network clients based on the interface card added to the system."
Merryl Gross, 15-year veteran web application designer:
"Internet Explorer 4, and in general the task of writing practically a different version of your web application for every browser out there."
The BLINK tag. "To my great relief, many browsers don't even support it anymore. Wikipedia claims its inclusion was a joke, but you just can't underestimate people with poor taste. Or judgement."
Dongles for expensive applications. "Even when they worked, they were a real PITA. Or maybe I just no longer work with applications that are expensive enough to have them."
Disposable removable media like floppies, Iomega drives, even most CDs and DVDs. "Managing a library of badly-labeled bits of plastic is no fun."
Blue line duplicators, used to make copies of official engineering drawings that were done on vellum with engineering pencils. "Unless you like sniffing ammonia fumes."
Bye, bye proprietary LANs, UNIXes
Dan Ritter, director of IT/Operations, Smartleaf, Inc., a Cambridge MA financial software-as-a-service provider:
Proprietary (with "Proprietary" being interpreted -- back then -- as "good") LAN systems like AppleTalk, VINES, Arcnet, and Pronet, to name a few. And proprietary email systems.
The really ugly UNIXes. "Xenix, SCO UNIXWare, Coherent, and all the single-manufacturer ports of SVR3."
The days of Machrone's Law ("The computer you really want costs $5,000."). "It's hard to find a desktop system that won't do everything you want for under $2,000, and many people can be happy with systems running under $1,000 including monitor(s). In 2004, Machrone claimed that his law was still valid, but he had to expand it to include multiple computers in a house. Servers, of course, can still go sky-high."
Dan Franklin, senior software developer at an educational publisher:
"Internet Explorer 5.0 (and 4.0, and 3.0, and 2.0, and 1.0...), plus "Tapes as a distribution medium," and "Tapes as a backup medium (we're almost there, anyway)."
Ron Watkins, production manager at a financial institution:
"I have always hated those blasted tape drives. They seldom ever worked right and it was literally impossible to ever restore anything more complex than a simple data file."
Ernest Lilley, IT architect and former system administrator:
"Tape backup. We now use hard drives as backup media, as well as commercial services for small offices that don't want to be bothered with backup maintenance."
Goodbye to more dongles, TTYs and token ring
David Day, 30-year IT veteran, a former electrical engineer turned software engineer turned QA dude/"bug wrangler":
Dongles. "There were a couple of different but similar-looking PCMCIA Ethernet adapters whose dongles weren't interchangeable -- If you got them swapped you had two apparently non-functioning Ethernet adapters. Another thing I am glad to miss -- from back in college, using a circuit simulator in an electrical engineering course -- is security dongles, which we'd need in order to run our simulations. Other students would walk off with them -- never me, of course! -- which meant long waits for these limited resources, and on more than one occasion, causing students to fake the necessary output artifacts to turn in to the professor."
Mechanical teletypes. "I used to own an ASR-33 which had an acoustic coupler, and [it] made so much noise I didn't dare hack at night (normally my most productive time) for fear of waking my roommates. I also had to maintain the thing and buy it ribbons and roll paper."
Rolland Waters, developer/entrepreneur and 25 year Internet veteran:
"The old fart in me is really, really grateful I don't have to worry about poking too many physical holes in the physical Ethernet cable. And that I no longer have to get a few dozen (completely unorganized) senior geeks to agree that adding a new workstation really would be good for the company, all things taken into consideration (with no process to do so)."
Benjamin K. Stuhl, physics Ph. D. student and open-source enthusiast:
"ISA cards with manually configured IRQs and DMAs. Coax-cabled Ethernet. Parallel IDE -- no, it's not dead yet, but it is easy to do an all SATA system now, and the cable management is so much easier if you do. x86 segmented memory. Crazy non-IEEE floating point formats. Bytes of sizes other than 8 bits, and machine words that aren't a power of two. Non-Ethernet wired desktop networking... it's so much easier now that Ethernet is the de-facto standard and comes built into basically every motherboard."
David Williams, former helpdesker and network analyst:
"I sure don't miss the 300 or 1200 baud modems, and I surely don't miss being tied down to a desktop machine -- wireless is the biggest boon for me, and now with the phone card modems, I don't miss the need to be in a set place to use my networked computer, I'm willing to give up a little speed for the convenience of typing this on my couch in the living room."
Cornell D. Green, CIO, 21st Century CommunIT Solutions, and a 17-year IT systems management professional:
"If you have no idea what 'token ring' [networking] is, you're blessed. And you've probably also never had to crimp a BNC connector, or Fluke a network to troubleshoot trunk length issues."
My own glad-they're-gone's include all those serial, SCSI, parallel, printer, mouse, keyboard and other pre-USB connectors. Mmm, and ultra-heavy notebook computers with two-hour battery life. And mono-tasking desktop operating systems.
But it's too early to write off a lot of irritations from the past, says Craig Mathias, Principal at technology consultancy Farpoint Group. "Don't count them out yet, I don't think we can out-of-hand dismiss all of the earlier technologies, because we or at least I, still run into them from time-to-time, and in many cases, they'll be with us still for some time to come."
For better or worse, I agree with Mathias. There's a lot of IT gear and methods I'll happily never use again, but my own closet still has a modest pile of adapters, disks, cables and other dusty doohickeys just in case.