Back to the future: 10 retro technologies that refuse to die

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Epson LX-350 Dot Matrix Impact Printer ($231)

Epson LX-350 Dot Matrix Impact Printer

Known as an “impact printer,” the LX-360 uses the old dot-matrix printing technology that was common prior to inkjet and laser. These printers have that recognizable (and audible) feature of a printhead moving left and right to heat ink from a ribbon onto paper that’s slowly fed upward. It even supports legacy connectors like parallel. Despite being replaced by faster technologies that produce greater image quality, Epson still sells them. The LX-360 is actually one of several models, and they can cost as much $3,000 when purchased direct from Epson. While you won’t see these in homes any more, they are still used in IT security, business, and government.

Amazon Epson

Sharp UX355L standalone fax machine ($350)

Sharp UX355L

In their heyday, standalone fax machines were the bread and butter of business correspondence. You would think their usefulness should have faded long ago with the rise of email and the onset of the paperless era, but they still are heavily used in business and government. Fax lines are deemed more secured than Internet, and fax documents are considered legal-binding, such as contracts and medical records. Which is why big companies like Sharp and Canon continue to produce them, like the Sharp UX355L. Fax capabilities are also built into all-in-one printers, so it may be a while before this technology disappears.


Floppy disks ($10)

Floppy disks

Everyone knows floppy disks are a relic of a bygone era, so why do office suppliers still sell the aging technology? Many computers manufactured today don’t even read optical discs, let alone their squared counterparts. Perhaps there’s a bar somewhere using floppies as beer coasters, conveniently breathing life into the magnetic storage medium that was nearly forgotten. Believe or not, there are businesses and government agencies that still rely on them; even the tech-savvy Obama administration can’t get rid of this antiquated storage format. Whatever the reason, a 10-pack of floppies will cost you a mere $9 on retail sites like Amazon and Newegg.

Amazon Newegg

AOL dial-up Internet ($15/month)

AOL dial-up Internet

Incredibly, more than 2 million people still subscribe to AOL’s Internet dial-up service. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 3-percent of the U.S. population still use their telephone lines to dial into the Web. While there’s a push to get everyone onto broadband, infrastructure (e.g., rural areas) and income are reasons why the technology still exists. But the big question remains: is AOL still sending the free CDs through the mail?


Pay phones

Pay phones

According to the American Public Communications Council, less than half-a-million pay phones are still operating in the United States. With cell phones seemingly in everyone’s pockets, the thought of putting a germ-infested headset to your face can be traumatizing. But they are convenient, like when a tourist needs to make a call or your smartphone’s battery is spent. Some companies are turning pay phone kiosks into Internet terminals that offer more functionality. Regardless of their reason for sticking around, their numbers are decreasing.

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