Microfilm, mainframes, and other things that just won't go away

By Steve Weissman posted 02-05-2013 10:50


One of the nice things about having tracked the use of process and information technology for so many years is that my contempt for gaudy headlines and showy marketeering is something that I have come by honestly. There is plenty of revolutionary talk that I do believe in, such as the buzz surrounding BYOD and other mobile content-related developments. But I have little patience for claims that this, that, or the other technology is "dead" just because those tools don't fit the claimant's current particular convenience.

Take, for instance, the microfilm scanner. Many speakers at events dedicated to capture or imaging today will have you believe that no one uses film anymore, and that it’s a waste time even to talk about it. But there are plenty of libraries ranging in scope from your local branch to your National Archives that rely on the technology every day. Their challenge is deciding whether and when the information the rolls of film contain needs to be digitized so it can be stored, shared, and used like so-called "regular" content can.

The same is true for the mainframe computer. To be sure, Big Iron has been replaced by Big Data as a topic of general interest in most information management circles, but large operations like banks and government agencies rely on mainframes to a degree that would probably flabbergast a promoter of a smartphone or tablet.

Want more? Okay, how about the fax! Sure, we may not see as many of the standalone machines as we used to, but even a quick online search will show you just how much activity there is in this arena, be it called computer-based fax, fax services, fax over IP, or other such descriptor.

My point is this: any time you hear or read about someone or some company claiming that a particular technology you still find valuable is not long for this earth, be sure you question their motive for saying so. Chances are, they want you to throw out what you have and put in what they're selling. It may be that you do need to think about a migration strategy, but don't rush to judgment just because some so-called expert says you have to.

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