It is often observed by various people that a technology, product, or system is "obsolete". Sometimes this is intended only as an observation; other times it has negative implications (where "obsolete" == "worthless"). Many FlameWar
s have been started over whether or not a given technology is indeed obsolete; often times different parties to such a debate have different meanings and significance attached to the term.
Hence, the ScaleOfObsolescence
. Different speakers, when they say something is "obsolete", may mean different points on this scale (or perhaps something else altogether; feel free to edit this). On the scale, obsolescence is measured numerically, with increasing numbers indicating increasing obsolescence. A few "suffix forms" indicate special cases. To determine the score of a given technology or product, find the statement which is the most true. (The word "technology" is used throughout; replace with "product", "system", "service", etc. as appropriate).
0: State of the art
: The technology represents the current state of the art, and is expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future. The technology itself may or may not be commercially viable--it itself may still be a subject of research and development. (The technology in question may ultimately fail to be developed or be commercially successful, or may remain a high-end or niche item). Example: Dye-sublimation printers
1: Best Available
: The technology represents the best which is available to users. Superior technologies may be under development; but none is yet a viable replacement (due to excessive cost or other limiting factors). Example: Blu-Ray
2: Best Mainstream Solution
: The technology represents the most cost-effective solution for mainstream users. Superior technologies are available, but due to cost or other considerations are limited to high-end, niche, or specialty applications. Example: DDR SDRAMs (RDRAM can provide higher performance but is much more expensive).
3: Low-end Solution
The technology has been displaced in many applications by a replacement technology which, while more expensive, is cost-effective for many applications. The technology itself is still commercially viable but is losing "market share", and is regarded by many as a lower-end solution. Example: DVDs
4: Legacy Solution
The technology has been displaced in most or all applications by a replacement technology; the old technology offers little or no advantages over the new. It is expected that the replacement technology will eventually replace the current technology completely. However, the current technology still has a large installed-base of users, and is supported in the marketplace. CRT monitors/televisions--mostly replaced in most applications by LCD and plasma displays
(Perhaps there ought to be a note regarding how CRTs are better in terms of color fidelity for some very rare applications. Regardless, CRTs are definitely a low-end solution for 'most' applications at this point, where their advantages are irrelevant.)
5: On the way out
: The technology is still found in the marketplace, but is widely regarded as an inferior solution, one often marketed at deep discounts. Everyone knows the technology will be eventually replaced, the technology is rapidly losing marketplace support. Example: VHS. For pre-recorded movies, replaced by DVD. For recording off of television, being replaced by TiVo and the like. For camcorders, long been replaced by smaller tape formats (both digital and analog).
6: Limited Use
: The technology has been displaced in most or all applications by the replacement technology; and other than in specialty applications, the technology is no longer commercially viable. The technology is rapidly being replaced in the marketplace. Example: Phonographs--used by DJs, music collectors, and certain audiophiles; but dead in the mainstream market.
7: Fully Replaced
The technology has almost completely been replaced in the marketplace; though uses of it still exist "in the wild". The technology enjoys virtually no commercial support; existing instances are not replaceable, except possibly in garage sales and the like. Example: Rotary-dial telephones, 8-track tapes
8: Museum Piece
: The technology is widely regarded as sufficiently primitive as to be unsuitable for any application; nobody uses the technology anymore unless for "historical" reasons. While the technology may not actually be displayed in museums, it probably could be. Younger persons may have never seen nor heard of the technology before. There may or may not be "nostalgia" for the technology. Example: 8-inch floppies, Victrolas, steam locomotives
Shall we have a WikiWeightedVote
on where various programming languages stand on the above scale? (And perhaps move it to a new page. Naming suggestions anyone?)
Bleeding Edge (Consensus 0 or 1)
Common (Consensus 2, 3, or 4)
Trailing Edge (Consensus 5, 6, 7, or 8)
ArcLanguage: 0 ?
SmallTalk: 1 5
HyperCard: 8 ?
As currently written, the scale assumes that as products obsolesce, their price goes down (due to increasingly desperate sellers and manufacturers). Many products follow a different path: As the market shrinks, low end producers quit. Only high end producers remain, selling to a shrinking niche that values the obsolete product over new alternatives. Some examples:
- Gold (formerly used for utensils and money; now used for jewelry, anti-corrosion coatings, and electrode tips)
- Silver (formerly used for utensils, money, and photography; now used for jewelry)
- AbapLanguage (absolute sales may be growing, but it is restricted to SAP's (rather expensive) products. Microsoft, Oracle, and others are squeezing ABAP's market from the bottom; SAP is now squeezing it from the side.)
- MicrosoftOffice and MicrosoftWindows may be on this path. As Microsoft adds misfeatures (such as ribbon bars), it loses market share. Similarly, PCs that run Windows are being supplanted by lower-end computing devices that run other operating systems.
Some obsolescing products start on the down-market path, and then switch to the up-market path. Some examples: