There are two definitions of the 16th century word, derived from the Latin obsoletus. The first reads, "No longer in use or no longer useful." Like the 8-track (say, what?) or the Floppy Disk (which I declared dead in February 2007). "No longer current," the second definition goes. "Old-fashioned."
To be clear, the HuffPostTech slideshow 12 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade, which has spread online since we posted it Saturday, functions wholly as described by the second definition.
Yes, encyclopedias are around. A small cabinet in my grandmother's living room is still populated by a stack of Britannicas. But they're decidedly old-fashioned. Yes, due to a still-lingering digital divide, some households still rely on dial-up Internet. But dial-up, for the majority of us online denizens, is so 2000, back when signing on to AOL was accompanied by that screeching, dissonant, digital squeal.
And, yes, CDs are still being sold by the millions -- just ask Susan Boyle and Taylor Swift, the best-selling artists of the year. But both have greatly benefited, it must be said, from the rise of social media. Can you imagine Boyle, the first true megastar of online video, without YouTube? Was it any surprise that when Swift finally got to accept her Moonman at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, she thanked her fans on MySpace and Twitter? (Celebs, please take note!) But just as the future of news has little to do with the future of print newspapers, the future of music is not tied to the future of CDs. For the record, Apple's iTunes was declared the number one music retailer in the U.S. for the first half of 2009, representing 25 percent of unit sales. The market research firm NPD predicts that digital download sales will equal CD sales by the end of 2010.
Technology only spins forward, continually rendering what were once digital necessities to the growing tech junk pile. But what's defined as technologically obsolete is not the same for my 16-year-old cousin Christianne Laroya, who lives by text messaging, as it is for my 30-year-old aunt Jen Batuyong, who refuses to text. And though "hand-written letters" is included in our list of the 12 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade, the Christmas gifts I gave to Christianne and Jen were accompanied by hand-written cards. Texts may be easier, e-mails simpler, but a hand-written note, obsolete and old-fashioned as it is, signals just how lasting and special our relationships are.
So what do you define as obsolete?