With the change of command ceremony on Saturday, our time on the ISS [International Space Station] has really come to an end and our focus is on descent. Last time, I landed in the summer in the desert of California in a space shuttle. This time, it will be winter on the steppes of Kazakhstan in a gumdrop shaped capsule! I have a feeling I already know which one will be bumpier… [Sunita Williams – NASA Astronaut]

I use the above quote from NASA Astronaut Suni Williams as an example of retiring technologies without an improved successor. In 2009 the USA had a fleet of three space shuttles which were able to transport a crew into space and to the International Space Station (ISS). Now the US have no means of doing so and have to rely on private companies and Russia. NASA was the primary transporter for the International Space Station and did wonderful things with their space programme. Sadly this looks to be stalling. They retired a technology and had no replacement.

ISS crew members sit inside the Soyuz TMA-02M capsule after landing near Arkalyk
Russian Soyuz capsules are now used as the primary transporter for manned expeditions to the ISS. They lack the crucial functionality of being able to repair the space station [Image Reuters]

Over the years I have come across various technologies which have being retired without a replacement. Google Reader being the most recent example. The reason given is that Google are looking to pour their energy into fewer products. I rather naively thought that Google Reader was well used because it has been so valuable to me. It wouldn’t be possible for me to follow all of the websites I want to read and sync them across devices without Google Reader. I don’t believe RSS is dead and I don’t believe Twitter is a viable replacement – there is too much information on there to keep track of it and ultimately a lot of it will be lost in cyberspace. Thankfully other solutions have emerged including Fever, which I have installed on my own webspace so I don’t have to worry about the service being discontinued.

Sometimes, no other alternatives appear. I am a big user of Microsoft Photodraw 2000. It is so simplistic and let’s me produce quality graphics very quickly. I use it for all of my print and web work – both professionally and personally. Microsoft retired this software in 2001 and I have yet to find a replacement that matches its simplicity and versatility. As a result, I have to boot into Windows on my Mac and use a twelve-year outdated piece of software to do my graphics work because I don’t believe in replacing technologies when they work well.

Apple are taking a different approach with my first-gen iPad and are forcing me to retire the technology by discontinuing support for it and not providing any updates. As a result I am using iOS5 which means some of the functionality I would like is missing and apps are slowly becoming unsupported. It’s slower than I remember it ever being. As a result I’m probably going to have to upgrade to a newer model in 2013/14. That’s a whole different thread of consumerist thinking.

I do wonder which seemingly popular technology will be retired or swallowed up next?

Featured Image used under Creative Commons – NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via Compfight

 

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