This weekend I threw away (I mean really threw away, like into a skip): three Apple inkjet printers (obsolete interface, Appletalk), an Apple 40MB (that’s MB, not GB) hard disk drive (obsolete interface, SCSI), five modems, from 9.6K to 56K (obsolete interface and totally obsolete, pre-broadband model of cyberspace, obviously).
Dozens of SCSI leads and terminators (see above), two old Apple keyboards (obsolete interface, ADB), dozens of ethernet drop leads (not obsolete I suppose, just not used in our house any more), a 100Mb Zip drive (obsolete hardware format), a 40Mb Syquest drive (obsolete on so many levels), five old Powerbook batteries, two old Powerbook power supplies (one from a 180c, the awesome colour Powerbook from 1993!)
I didn’t throw away: two Apple Newtons, one Apple eMate (which is actually a Newton in a clamshell case), Newton chargers, docks, modems, styli and a really dopey Newton keyboard, an Apple Imagewriter II dot matrix printer (obsolete interface, obsolete print method, just can’t bear to part with my first printer!)
I felt obliged to record this lot but I think what I really ought to do is put them onto a timeline or something, maybe a big floaty map thing. An ‘obsolescence map’, a visual way of tracking the arrival and the departure of media and computing technologies. Once adopted they feel so solid and permanent but they’re really so ephemeral and we’re losing them fast. Should we be preserving these second-order technologies? Peripherals, buses, storage, printing, input, output? Will we miss them in forty or fifty years time if we don’t?