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Do Tools Ever 'Die?'

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the situation-is-immortal dept.

Hardware 615

An anonymous reader writes "NPR recently ran a debate between two commenters regarding the perpetual lifespan of tools... in other words, that no tool ever goes completely out of use. This debate wasn't focused just on mechanical tools based on simple machines, but included electronics as well (vinyl record players, for example). Did you know you can still buy 8-inch floppy drives online? NPR is looking for examples of tools that have gone entirely out of use... any ideas, Slashdot?"

cancel ×

615 comments

oblig (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068714)

Jon Katz?

first posts? (-1)

n1ckml007 (683046) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068724)

I'm still using them.

Flint axes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068726)

Well, it's been a long time since I've seen a flint axe in use...

Re:Flint axes (2)

Veldcath (591080) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068826)

Still being made and used by historical buffs (I've talked with a guy who was actively making stone tools to show how it was done), and a pair of anthropologists go around demonstrating how stone knives could be very good at taking apart animals that hunters had brought down. All that stuff is still being made and used, if only to show how it was made and used.

Re:Flint axes (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068946)

Even if the "flint" ax was no longer in use axes are and I think that would disqualify it.

The Internet in anti-government actions (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069018)

The Internet died in Egypt last week. Also much of its credibility for use in anti government actions.

Re:The Internet in anti-government actions (4, Insightful)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069118)

Censorship is a very usefull tool, one of the most ancient too. It can make other tools useless! And this is how you make a offtopic message "ontopic".

How sillilly obvious (4, Insightful)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068728)

How many times have we read about NASA tapes and such from early missions where the hardware to read them has long since disappeared, and no one is even sure what format the tapes are in?

Re:How sillilly obvious (4, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068776)

TFA is about cherishing biases of our memory... We don't remember, we are hardly aware of those types of artifacts which disappeared.

Libraries (2)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068984)

Libraries have this problem building faster and faster. Instead of just books, they have rapidly growing archives of media in oddball, forgotten formats and rooms full of old equipment to read it.

Re:How sillilly obvious (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068998)

Well, I can name a few tools that aren't used any more:

The enigma machine
the Grand Arcanum (various alchemical processes intended to produce the Philosopher's stone)
The Inca "knots tied in a rope" document format.
Ancient Egyptian stone drill bits.
Greek Fire (though arguably Napalm is a modern equivalent)
The ancient Babylonian legal code (Hamorabi I think)
Vacume tubes
Any of a number of calendars from civilizations that didn't make it to the 20th century.
Aristotle/Arcamedies model of the Universe
The 4 Humors

Re:How sillilly obvious (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069110)

> Vacume tubes

As long as you don't count microwave ovens and high-power commercial radio transmitters, just to name two really obvious uses that aren't going away anytime soon...

Re:How sillilly obvious (2)

gfreeman (456642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069150)

Vacume tubes

Still being manufactured, still in use - especially in the music industry.

Re:How sillilly obvious (1)

men0s (1413347) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068866)

So the answer in this case would still be no. If someone were to find the hardware (aka tool) to read the NASA tapes, it would be put to use.

Tools only die (or become obsolete, rather) if the use for them no longer exist. So once they found the hardware, read the NASA tapes, threw the data onto some modern spinning platters, what of the tape reader? Do they keep it around in case more tapes are found? Do they moth-ball it in some museum storage warehouse? Or do they just salvage working parts and melt the rest?

Also, tool and die in the title, cute =)

Re:How sillilly obvious (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068880)

I was going to ask about the tools used to make the space shuttle, but this is the same idea.

Self-selection (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068892)

How many times have we read about NASA tapes...

Therein lies the problem. Any invention that we have heard of or read about is probably because somewhere, somehow it is still in use. Unless you happen to be a historian specializing in weird inventions you probably have never heard of inventions which are no longer made or used.

kdawson? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068730)

I'm pretty sure he's still sucking in oxygen

Obvious one: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068736)

Slashdot editors.

Hitler died (2, Funny)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068738)

Hitler Died, He was a tool.

Re:Hitler died (1)

PsychoElf (571371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069082)

Flamebait? Really? For who, neo-nazis?

Re:Hitler died (1)

PsychoElf (571371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069142)

Thank you for modding gp Funny! Whoever modded it flamebait should be shot.

Re:Hitler died (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35069164)

My parents are Nazis you insensitive clod

Tools for Encryption (3, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068748)

Aside from learning venues (which you could argue every tool has to offer), there's a whole range of tools of encryption that no longer function as they were intended when they were created. From Rome's Scytale [wikipedia.org] to Germany's Enigma Machine [wikipedia.org] , none of those tools are useful today on account of how easily they are cracked.

Re:Tools for Encryption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35069038)

Aside from learning venues (which you could argue every tool has to offer), there's a whole range of hand tools of encryption that no longer function as they were intended when they were created. From Rome's Scytale, to Germany's Enigma Machine, hammers with broken handles, to a dull ax, none of those tools are useful today on account of how easily they are cracked. broken.

Modem? (1)

DuoDreamer (1229170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068754)

Acoustically coupled modems.

Re:Modem? (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068786)

The TDD machines for deaf people to use are very similar to a "coupled' modem set up...

Re:Modem? (1)

Paintballparrot (1504383) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068828)

2 years ago when I was working at a convenience store we were still using them to order cigarettes.

Re:Modem? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068920)

Heck, I doubt anyone is using a modem in K56flex or VFast mode.

Re:Modem? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069050)

Perhaps only every month or so. Our second oldest incoming pool will sometimes negotiate K56Flex connections, if something about the X2 fails.

It's multi-protocol. Even remembers Multitech's bastard Unix method, which shall be forever unnamed.

Re:Modem? (1)

Misch (158807) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068934)

Home pacemaker evaluation kits also have something similar to an acoustic modem. A little more forgiving than acoustic modems (One can use a modern cordless phone and just lay it down over the connection points.)

Re:Modem? (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068962)

Very probably being used in Egypt as I type - when ADSL is taken down you need an old school modem, and I bet at least one person has had to dig out the old rubber cup version.

example of a tool no longer in use: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068762)

Tools used by Incas for ritual human sacrifices.

Re:example of a tool no longer in use: (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069012)

Haven't read the latest US manual on terrorist information extraction have you?

Of course tools die... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068778)

and for anyone who doubts that, I have two words: Harbor Freight [harborfreight.com] .

Re:Of course tools die... (2)

alta (1263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068976)

Are you commenting on how this place is where good tools go to die...

Or how they sell such crappy tools, that they will inevitably die.

I've bought a good many tools from harbor freight, and yes, I know what you're talking about. Everything is crap, so only buy things you'll rarely use or they can't hardly screw up.

Bad tools to get at Harbor Freight:
cordless drill
sawsall
anything electrical
anything precision

Good tools to get at harbor freight
hex wrenches
rubber hammer
traffic cones
C clamp

George W Bush. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068782)

Someone was gonna say it, might as well be an anonymous coward.

I know I couple that SHOULD (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068790)

Here are some Tools [vh1.com] that need to receive a Darwin award [google.com] .

Radioactive tools (5, Interesting)

rednip (186217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068794)

Some time ago radiation wasn't well understood, and a number of tools were built to take advantage of it for personal use. The radioactive shoe sizer came to mind right off the bat, but a searching for it I found a number of tools that were certainly ill advised. http://www.thingamababy.com/baby/2006/05/fun_with_radiat.html [thingamababy.com] http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/offbeat-news/10-radioactive-products-that-people-actually-used/1388 [environmen...affiti.com]

Re:Radioactive tools (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069064)

Holy crap, that stuff is sick... somebody call NPR because those things are definitely the nail in this topic's coffin.

Lost technologies (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068796)

I'm guessing that technologies used in the past to accomplish feats that are difficult to replicate in modern times would be a fruitful area to find examples. Sadly, identifying the tool itself would not be possible since they are "lost". Examples that come to mind: tools used to build the pyramids.

This probably isn't what TFA really is after, though.

You'd be hard put to find a dump rake still in use (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068802)

n/t

Re:You'd be hard put to find a dump rake still in (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069148)

I am quite confident that at least some of the Amish still use them.

stone cold dead tool (1)

dgdriscoll (1399661) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068812)

button hooks for high button shoes. Anyone still using one?

Re:stone cold dead tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068876)

button hooks for high button shoes. Anyone still using one?

I was going to name button hooks too, until I Googled them and found that they're still being made and used (for handicapped people for instance). Just the high-button shoes have gone out of style.

Maybe they are right (1)

bigredradio (631970) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068814)

First thing that came to mind was a party line. But from wikipedia -

"One example of a community linked by party line is in Big Santa Anita Canyon high in the mountains above Los Angeles, near Sierra Madre, California, where 81 cabins, a group camp and a pack station all communicate by magneto-type crank phones. One ring is for the pack station, two rings for the camp and three rings means all cabins pick up."

/. News Network (1)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068816)

This just in - people still make vinyl records, and people buy them because (they think) vinyl records sound better than any other recording medium.

Also, all those 386 processors that are still in active use need to be replaced occasionally.

Re:/. News Network (0)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068940)

At least our tax dollars aren't funding stupid slashdot stories. :/

Vinyl, yeah - but 8-track tapes are dead (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068986)

Unlike vinyl, nobody ever really loved 8-track.

Re:/. News Network (4, Interesting)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069000)

People also buy vinyl because it is easier to mix with. You have direct physical control over the movement of the disc and therefore the speed of the music which gives you more control for beat-matching and makes scratching possible/easier. Obviously, it has it's disadvantages. Your bags are heavier, vinyl can get damaged, it takes longer to find a piece of vinyl than search a digital disk etc. but as a tool for this specific job, many still (rightly, in my opinion) consider it superior.

Re:/. News Network (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069136)

This just in - people still make vinyl records, and people buy them because (they think) vinyl records sound better than any other recording medium.

Also, all those 386 processors that are still in active use need to be replaced occasionally.

Have any of those people compared vinyl to super audio CD's (SACD)? I agree that vinyl can carry details that conventional CDs lack (at the expense of dynamic range and some distortion), but I always understood SACD to be the best of both words: the low amplitude detail of vinyl (which adds warmth, spacial definition, detail, and good blending of orchestral instruments (especially in classical music)), and the clarity, low noise floor, dynamic range, and consistency of CDs. Has anyone seriously claimed vinyl sounds better than SACD (assuming good playback equipment, of course)?

Analog Cell Phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068818)

Do analog cell phones still work?

Re:Analog Cell Phone (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069048)

I doubt it counts. Cell phones haven't gone out of use, just the method of data transmission.

Cotton fishing lines (3, Interesting)

XanC (644172) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068820)

I heard someplace that the quickest ever total replacement of a technology was cotton fishing lines. Cotton lines must be replaced every season. When nylon came out, it was cheaper than cotton, and lasted forever. Is there any use for cotton fishing lines anymore?

Re:Cotton fishing lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068994)

Maybe they should use them for sea and ocean fishing if they wear down?

Re:Cotton fishing lines (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069054)

I bet it works as dental floss.

(No idea, nor do I care to bother to look, what dental floss actually is made from.)

Re:Cotton fishing lines (2)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069092)

Nice try [scottscoar...club.co.uk] .

It would be something I might use to teach a kid handline fishing. Nylon can be rough on your hands, though cotton will also burn. And it's biodegradable, so when they hook a good-sized bass, if they let it go the line won't entangle generations of fish. Hopefully.

Re:Cotton fishing lines (3, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069124)

considering the continued harm to marine organisms that drifting nylon nets and lines do, there is a case to be made to bring cotton lines back. or rather, some sort of synthetic substance that is as strong as nylon, for awhile, but then degrades in the environment

Mercury-based medicines? (1)

Theatetus (521747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068830)

Not sure if that counts as a "tool", but I really don't think anyone uses them anymore. The Blue Pill and the Corrosive Sublimate are pretty much gone.

Re:Mercury-based medicines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35069074)

Homepaths still use mercury [amazon.com] . Of course, they dilute it to the point that they're basically just selling water.

Very easy answer (5, Informative)

HappyCycling (565803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068838)

The shoe-fitting fluoroscope.

Basically a box that you put your feet into where x-rays are fired upon your feet and you can look into the viewing ports on the top and see the bones in your feet for the purpose of getting correctly sized shoes.

It was used during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and was subsequently discontinued after employees experienced radiation burns from the constant exposure.

http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/shoefittingfluor/shoe.htm [orau.org]

Re:Very easy answer (2)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068922)

You could probably lump a lot of asbestos and lead products under that pattern also (at least in the US). Sometimes it takes a while to get a safety clue.

Tools that have gone entirely out of use (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068842)

Anti-war protesters since Obama was elected?

Need some time (4, Funny)

Lev13than (581686) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068844)

Too easy - I just took a bunch of pictures of obsolete technology to include in my response (and to make it authentic I shot it on film). Now, if you can please hold on a bit I just need to send the roll off to get processed into Kodachrome slides. Shouldn't take more than a few days, so please check back.

cassette to 8 track adapter. (1)

w3rdna (253598) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068854)

cassette to 8 track adapter.
http://technabob.com/blog/2008/04/08/betamax-to-hd-dvd-converter/8track_cassette_adapter/
I bought one of these for my Grandparents once.

At least one tool has gone entirely out of use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068858)

Digg.

You must be young... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068862)

I mean, If you live long enough, you will know which tools are no longer used.

usless tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068868)

NPR is a "tool" that should be tossed out. It's as useless as tits on a bullfrog.

Okay... (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068870)

NPR is looking for examples of tools that have gone entirely out of use... any ideas?

NPR ;-)

Dead tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068882)

Paglo's rogue scanner is apparently dead since it requires their server and it isn't responding.

The rack (1)

omfgnosis (963606) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068900)

I am sure (and afraid) I'll be corrected, but I'm sure I haven't heard of any modern usage of the rack [wikipedia.org] .

Re:The rack (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068956)

Unless you check Cheney's basement

Re:The rack (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068978)

I'm sure there are chiropractors that are interested in it.

Re:The rack (2)

Minwee (522556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068988)

Perhaps you're just not reading the right personal ads.

Re:The rack (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069014)

You clearly haven't been to any BDSM dungeon parties recently. To be fair, neither have I, but I can't imagine there's nobody using them any more.

Antikythera mechanism or Henges (2)

EMB Numbers (934125) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068904)

The Antikythera mechanism is a 'tool; that is no longer in use. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism [wikipedia.org]

How about Henges ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henge [wikipedia.org]

Stonehenge? (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068916)

Does anyone actually use Stonehenge for its intended purposes?

Re:Stonehenge? (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069016)

You mean making it 10" tall and putting it on a stage?

Yes, I'm pretty sure that happened at least once.

Tools (1)

mattwrock (1630159) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068918)

I wanted to say Bill Gates, but since he "curing" polio, I will go with Larry Ellison

Corey Haim (0)

Kookus (653170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068930)

I think he's dead.

ofcourse they die (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35068950)

michael jackson died on June 25, 2009

Dead writing tools. (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068966)

Papyrus for writing (as opposed to other uses). You can still buy it as a souvenir in Egypt, but paper superseded it for any other form of writing. Coming to think of it, I haven't seen many clay tablets used lately. Note that parchment is not quite dead - it is still used by Jews for Torah Scrolls [wikipedia.org] .

If we include software as well as hardware, Hieroglyphs [wikipedia.org] and Cuniform [wikipedia.org] are not in use anymore. Neither are a bunch of ancient languages - people still use Latin, ancient Greek, and Hebrew - but most languages used at that time have been abandoned by all except scholars.

Re:Dead writing tools. (3, Informative)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069146)

The point of the NPR article (which I listened to this morning) was hese tools were still being produced and used, even if only by hobbyists etc.

Papyrus qualifies. Still being made and used.

Newspapers - how hard was that? (1)

HiredMan (5546) | more than 3 years ago | (#35068982)

Newspapers... well for reading anyway. I guess people may still use them for "proof of life" photos and ransom notes, but not reading.

The tools used to build StoneHenge (3, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069002)

Someone already mentioned the pyramids. The key thing about tools we no longer make is that we lose the NAMES for around the time we lose the tool. Because once we stop making them, we stop talking about them. Here is another example, from less than 200 years The original 'phonograph' used a wax cylinder instead of a vinyl LP disk. They had a 'mechanism' that would shave the cylinders, erasing the current recording and allowing you craft a new one. We don't make this tool anymore and no longer even have a name for it, siumply because we would NEVER under any circumstances, shave an existing 200 year old musical cylinder.

Consumer media (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069008)

Dead and buried:

Elcaset - giant higher quality analog cassettes
DCC - digital cassettes backwards-compatible with analog cassettes.
D-VHS - digital home movie format killed by DVD, though it carried a higher quality picture

vanilla ice = useless tool (1)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069034)

BURN!

All because you can buy it doesn't mean it's used (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069046)

All because you can buy 8" floppy drives doesn't mean they are used. Some people just like to buy old things. Since the 8" floppy was introduced in 1971 it still has a way to go before it is considered a bona fide antique.

Paper tape (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069062)

I have not seen paper tape used in a long time.

Punch Cards? (1)

slashgimp (513115) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069072)

These guys are neat for what they still sell and service, in addition to punch cards and hardware the process them:
http://www.cardamation.com/ [cardamation.com]

Space Shuttle (1)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069080)

The most complex mechanical tool ever built is being decommissioned.

I doubt it will serve much use except in museums after that.

Marriage (3, Funny)

bigpistol (1311191) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069084)

My tool hasn't been in use since I got married.

If you need an example (3, Informative)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069094)

Just look at the textile industry. There are lot of odd tools they used from the early 1900s that today, we honestly have no idea what they are even used for. That doesn't even include the mountains of wood bobbins, loom repair devices, etc.

Greek fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35069096)

we cant make it...

Planned life cycle (1)

mapuche (41699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069114)

I do animation/video post-production. A couple of years ago Adobe Premiere 5.5 (bought circa 2000) stop working, then a message appeared: "this version is too old, please update".

the stones. (3, Funny)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069122)

I saw a documentary about stone-age families. Apparently they used baby wooly mammoths to wash their dishes, and adult wooly mammoths to shower themselves. The woolly mammoth is quite extinct, so it is unlikely that it is still in use.

Manual Typewriter (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069126)

Well, I work with the most cutting edge technology in my day job but in the evenings when I go to write fiction, I use a 1917 manual typewriter. It works today as well as it did in 1917, which is perfectly. Granted, I eventually have to type it into my computer for further rewriting but nothing beats the manual typewriter for writing fiction. A computer just does not serve the task as well.

classic outdated tool (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069140)

Buggy whips- no, wait, my dominatrix has a whole set of those. Never mind.

MS Access ... (1)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069158)

... Now that should die!
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