Obsolescence (Supplementary Notes)

Video Broadcast : #060
October 15, 2020

Text Update : January 24, 2021


  • Technical Obsolescence (T.O)
  • Functional Obsolescence
  • Architectural Obsolescence
  • Style Obsolescence


By hand

Chalk / Blackboard
Pencil / Sharpener
Mechanical Pencil
Pen / Ink
Ball Pen / Disposable / Long lasting
Soft Pen / Whiteboard
Slide / Projector


Short hand
Selectric (e.g IBM)
Word Processor (e.g Wang)
Word Processing / Language Processing Systems


Mental arithmetic
Logarithmic Tables
Slide Rule
Adding Machines
Mechanical Calculators
Electric /Electro-mechanical / Electronic Calculators, Tabulators, Unit Record Machines
Computers (Generations)


Signals / Semaphores
Rotary Phones
Switch boards / Telephone Exchange
Smart Phones
Convergence of Computers and Communications (VOIP, on-line meetings, …)

O Pei

  • In our younger days, Opal was a decent car.
    Some Burmese jokingly call it “O Pei”.
  • When one is called “O Pei”, then one is considered obsolete (good to be ignored for getting old).

T. O.

  • Stands for Technical Obsolescence
  • Can cause the slow or quick death of old technologies
    Slide rules gave way to calculators and smart devices
    Vacuum tubes were superseded by transistors and Integrated Circuits
    Manual typewriters were replaced by electric typewriters and word processors
    Floppy disks were replaced by CDs and solid state storage
  • Some artifacts can be found only in museums, antique fairs, and die-hard collectors.
  • Some technologies (e.g. automation, robotics, AI) are disruptive.
  • Many automobile workers lost their jobs when robotics (and the related fields) made them dispensable
    Those, who did not have alternate skills, were hit hard
  • Touch typists and secretaries found that their skills have been marginalized by the word processors, voice-activated systems and other advanced tools

Silver Lining

  • Survived T.O. by being a Life Long Learner.
  • In our youth, we did not have access to the wonderful world of Internet, AI, and Gaming
  • Slates, Chalk & Talk, Logarithm tables, Slide rules, Multiplication tables (up to 16), Grammar books, Pronouncing Dictionaries, and most now hard-to-find artifacts trained us to “remember” (not rote learning per se, but using visualization and tricks)
  • Ended up having a reasonably good memory and a knack of “connecting the dots” of diverse topics
  • For me, it’s easy to remember and too hard to forget
  • I am a mini-dictionary, a micro search engine and a walking encyclopedia.
    Those skills were useful in the early days.
  • Sad to learn that several sayas, colleagues and friends have memory loss.
  • Glad to learn that some sayas in the 80s and 90s still have sharp memory


  • Some people (especially in the USA) believe that I am either “brain damaged” or have an “unusual brain“.
  • One complimented me, “You can write backwards faster than most of us can write forward”.
    A few were not impressed.
  • A professor said, “You cannot earn money by being an expert in History in general, and History of Computing in particular.”
  • A manager said, “What is the use of knowing the Trivia (e.g. hobbies, awards) of your fellow workers?”
  • T.O. required me to unlearn some old skills, and to learn new “latest and the greatest” skills.
  • After procrastinating for several decades, I had a wake up call to dump my Knowledge and Experience while I still have reasonably good health and memory.
  • My spouse told me that we should pay back to our mother land, alma mater, mentors and benefactors.
  • I am heeding my spouse’s excellent advice.
  • Need volunteers to lighten some of my load and to enhance the quality of my oral and written materials.


  • Smart watches (additional functions)
  • Antique Shows / Museums
  • Converters (transfer information from old devices and formats)
  • Friend who has advanced equipment to enjoy vinyl records
  • Life Long Learning (to safeguard against T.O)

Categories: Uncategorized

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