I was busy doing something completely unrelated today when I noticed that I had a package of CD‑R which was still shrink-wrapped in it’s original packaging. It struck me that I probably hadn’t bought CD or DVD media in the last two years … possibly not even in the last four. Media going out of style is a funny thing, and the process is accelerating.
Some of it is just plain connector conspiracy. The hard drives that I removed from my home router (now that it is no longer also my file server) are no good for any other purpose. Firstly, they’re small (250, 320 and 500 gig) and secondly they’re parallel ATA drives … a feature that motherboards have not offered in some time. I have some PCI controller cards for parallel ATA, but PCI itself is quickly becoming scarce.
The first major media that I noticed vanishing was the floppy. They’re unreliable at best, but it has been some time since motherboards offered floppy connections. Because I occasionally had to deal with installing Windows XP with custom drivers … which was pretty much the very last use for a floppy that I can remember. I have a USB floppy drive, so I win against the connector conspiracy, but it’s a hollow victory.
I could have said the cassette tape or even the reel-to-reel tape — both of which I watched pass, but it was different then. It was unusual to have media disappear. Heck, there was even a feeling of progress that the “new” media was “better.” There’s little such euphoria now. It’s even a common conjecture that media obsolescence is planned in order to have us line the pockets of media-owning companies as we purchase yet another copy of our favorite production.
I spoke with a court reporter recently who said that her profession is paying outrageous amounts for new cassettes because the new digital media is not yet approved and the old machines only consume the now obsolete media. This is probably different region-by-region, but it’s always interesting to encounter obsolete media still in use — it often takes creativity by the people using it to deal with things.
Back here at home, I probably won’t open the package soon. There are opened packages of CD‑R around (although some of them have collected a dangerous amount of dust). I don’t even follow the prices of CD-sized optical media any longer. I have no desire to own a blue ray drive. Most of my media is more ephemeral: residing on hard drives and network resources. Is this, then, the end of obsolete media (by ending my sole dependance on media companies)? Certainly hard drives have equally regular connector conspiracies that prevent me from reusing the drives I recently removed from my old machine.
This post is a little bit disjoint. Maybe I’ll just sing “last post” accapella style and assume that the stack of CD‑R will drift lower in the strata of my office until I no longer think of them.