Karthik VenkateshJanuary 15, 2022 14:02:32 IST
When products die
Goldeneye (1995), Pierce Brosnan’s first appearance as James Bond, features a climactic scene in a disused park in Moscow littered with fallen statues dating back to the days of the Soviet Union. Busts and statues of communist leaders and symbolic representations of worker power (all bearing the proverbial hammer and sickle) are scattered as Bond confronts his nemesis. The previous Bond film, License to Kill, was released in 1989 before the momentous events of that year marked the end of the Soviet Empire. The statues at Goldeneye were a reminder to the viewer of the changing world where the ghosts of the past still haunted.
Imagine then a similar park populated by obsolete products. In your mind, what products do you see lying around? Audio cassette players and cassettes? pager? phone directories? Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)? the Telegraph?
The Imminent Death of the Vintage Blackberry
On January 4, 2022, one more product was added to the bandwagon. The imminent death of the Blackberry is not an exaggeration. True, he hasn’t kicked the bucket yet. But with the company’s announcement that it was disabling support for its operating system and associated services, it’s likely that many older Blackberries have either stopped working or are coming soon. The Blackberries that will continue to work are those that use the Android operating system.
The history of Research in Motion, the company that gave rise to Blackberry, dates back to 1996 when it introduced a two-way pager, the [email protected] Pager 900. The first BlackBerry device, the 850, was introduced in 1999 as a two-way pager. pager in Munich, Germany. The BlackBerry name was coined by the marketing company Lexicon Branding. The name was chosen due to the similarity of the keyboard buttons with the drupes that make up the blackberry fruit.
In 2002, the Blackberry smartphone was released. Throughout that decade, as better and better versions of the phone hit the market, the Blackberry took the market by storm. In 2009, it controlled a 20 percent market share of the smartphone market. But with Apple and Samsung making a concerted bid for world domination, Blackberry’s offerings soon began to fall by the wayside. By 2013, the company was looking to be acquired. His good days are in the past. Corporate rejigs and other such stunts kept things going and the vintage Blackberry continued to enjoy a niche following…until January 4th!
the legendary telegraph
On July 14, 2013, the world’s last telegram was sent from a telegraph station, somewhere in India. On May 24, 1844, the age of the telegraph had dawned with the transmission of the message: ‘What has God done!’ between Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland. Developed by Samuel Morse, it soon revolutionized communication. By 1851, more than 50 telegraph companies were operating in the US.
In India, the first experimental electric telegraph line was started between Calcutta and Diamond Harbor in 1850. The construction of telegraph lines connecting Calcutta (then Calcutta) and Peshawar in the north; Agra, Mumbai (then Bombay), and Chennai (then Madras) in the south; Ootacamund (Ooty) and Bangalore, began in November 1853. William O’Shaughnessy, an Irish physician, was instrumental in its development.
A few years later, he proved almost invaluable in saving the Empire. On May 11, 1857, a message sent from Delhi to Ambala and then to Lahore conveyed the news of the mutiny at Meerut. It was the beginning of what was later called the “Sepoy Mutiny” by the British and the “First War of Indian Independence” by the Indians. The telegram prompted the British to move quickly to retake Delhi and ultimately crush the uprising.
Legend has it that a captured mutineer, being led to the gallows, pointed to a telegraph line and shouted: ‘There is the precise rope that strangles us!’
In memory of the events of that fateful May, a Telegraph Memorial was unveiled in front of the new British Telegraph Office in another part of Delhi on 19 April 1902 “to commemorate the loyal and dedicated services of the British Telegraph Office staff”. Delhi in the Eventful May 11, 1857′ A 20-foot-high gray granite obelisk, its inscription includes the words of Robert Montgomery, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab: “The electric telegraph has saved India.”
A monument to a product, nothing less! A poster for posterity.
The disappearance of landmarks.
Allow yourself to go back to the 90s or even the 2000s. Imagine the streets back then. Three things that were ubiquitous at the time have all but disappeared now. The ‘one hour photo lab’, the STD/ISD PCO and the video rental shop.
The photo lab dates back to the days when roll film cameras were the order of the day. Photography was a deliberate and thoughtful activity, the results of which were only known when the roll of film was ‘developed’. Today, the smartphone has made photography an instant gratification activity. Posing, examining, resting in a loop is de rigueur. The camera phone wiped out roll film, the analog cameras that used them, and the photo lab in one fell swoop.
The STD/ISD PCO began to emerge when the first telecommunications revolution, started by Sam Pitroda and C-DoT, began to show visible results in the late 1980s. As phone connections became more readily available, the ‘std post’ began to pop up across the country. These were often attached to grocery stores, copiers, and other neighborhood landmarks. One showed up, made the call, and then walked out. They were a godsend in a country where, for decades, a personal phone connection was a status symbol.
As the second telecommunications revolution unfolded and the mobile phone became a ubiquitous product, the STD booth became an anomaly. The mobile phone is also largely responsible for the disappearance of telephone directories and the yellow pages, which died silently, without warning.
As for the video rental store, the growth of cable television and, more recently, streaming platforms, affected them.
The strange STD booth or video store still survives, perhaps, ghosts from the not too distant past!
On your way out?
Even as we speak, other products are also in their last stages. Consider the printed roadmaps that were contained in most automobile dashboards and used by many to navigate the city. Digital maps have now taken over this function. Printed waybills are on the fast track to becoming historical relics.
The fax machine is also moving quickly in the direction above. Email and scanners have greatly eroded their use. Similarly, multi-volume encyclopedia sets have been superseded by online versions.
However, all the deaths and disappearances may not necessarily be for the better. The gradual disappearance of neighborhood libraries and bookstores should concern everyone. Book stores, libraries and their well-stocked shelves were once gateways to other worlds and possibilities. The joy caused by the discovery of books and writers on the shelves of stores or libraries is perhaps unparalleled. “Paradise is a library, not a garden,” Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges once said.
Correlation is not necessarily causation, of course. But still, consider that the gradual erosion of the reading habit over the past two decades has been accompanied by a growing illiberal streak around the world and the disconcerting rise of strong men (yes, mostly men!) . Food for thought?
While products are passed down, their memories often live on, often in interesting ways. The telegraph as a technology is really dead, but the name lives on. Many newspapers around the world continue to use it. Why Telegram is even the name of a digital messaging app.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same). At least more or less.