Saying Goodbye To Old Technology — And A Legendary NYC Repair Shop : All Tech Considered Why are we parting with BlackBerry Classic and VCR — but not fax or QWERTY keyboard? We ask you to nominate outdated tech for phase-out and visit Tekserve, the closing cult Mac store in Manhattan.
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Saying Goodbye To Old Technology — And A Legendary NYC Repair Shop

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Saying Goodbye To Old Technology — And A Legendary NYC Repair Shop

Saying Goodbye To Old Technology — And A Legendary NYC Repair Shop

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We are gathered here today on All Tech Considered to note the passing of two dear friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Let us lay to rest the VCR. This month the Japanese company that's considered to be the last VCR maker in the world is ceasing production.

SHAPIRO: And BlackBerry is discontinuing the classic model with a physical keyboard that made it famous. It was once called the CrackBerry because its users were such addicts.

CORNISH: We've read lots of odes and eulogies to them in recent weeks.

SHAPIRO: And this one is ours. Rest in peace, dear friends.

CORNISH: Harvard professor Calestous Juma has a theory about why it's so hard to say goodbye to technology that's past its prime. Professor Juma, welcome to the program.

CALESTOUS JUMA: Thank you so much for having me.

CORNISH: Why do people resist new technologies?

JUMA: People tend to resist new technologies if they perceive that they might lose something that they value, whether it's power or whether it's income or, in some cases, whether it's just identity where they associate themselves with a particular technology. And if it's - there's a threat that it might disappear, the feeling is that they might in fact lose something that they value.

CORNISH: Do you have an example?

JUMA: One example is we constantly adopt or buy new iPhones because they add something to what we do, but when you introduce, say, robots in the workplace, you get anxiety because of people being concerned that it might to displace what they already have or their jobs or their sources of income.

CORNISH: I heard that you had trouble letting go of your BlackBerry.

JUMA: I didn't want to give it up partly because I was so emotionally attached to the device. But upon reflection, I was thinking about all the device for me represented the global networks that I had, contained all of my addresses. So the idea that I was switching to something else created a certain level of anxiety in me to a point where I stalled for quite a while until it just broke. When it broke, then I was ready to switch to a smartphone.

CORNISH: But up until then, it was a symbol of something, something that you had accomplished.

JUMA: Yeah. To me it symbolized my efforts to collect addresses (laughter).

CORNISH: Most of the time, do these technologies fade away? Are they unceremoniously dumped? What happens?

JUMA: Technologies historically have been eliminated a lot more slowly because of the pace of change. This is not going to be the case in the future because the technologies are now advancing extremely fast, so we are going to be starting to see technological displacement occurring much faster than we've done in the past.

CORNISH: Now, what technology do you think we've held on to for too long?

JUMA: I think the typewriter keyboard for me is the one that is most amazing. The typewriter keyboard is actually quite inefficient. The keys were designed specifically to slow down the speed of typing because the early typewriters are not that efficient. But it has become very difficult to change the keyboard and adopt a different setup.

CORNISH: And with this, you're referring to the QWERTY system, where it's not in alphabetical order or anything like that.

JUMA: Exactly because there are more efficient ways of arranging the letters. It should have died long time ago. It should have died in the '40s. I think that's really symbolic of the staying power in some cases of bad ideas.

CORNISH: Harvard professor Calestous Juma, thank you so much for speaking with us.

JUMA: Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: Calestous Juma is the author of "Innovation And Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies."

SHAPIRO: We went on Facebook to ask you about the technology that you think should be put to rest. Your overwhelming response...

(SOUNDBITE OF INCOMING FAX)

SHAPIRO: The fax machine.

CORNISH: The fax machine.

SHAPIRO: One listener, Stephen Harvey, says the fax machine, quote, "might as well be a screeching, dial-up carrier pigeon."

CORNISH: And here's Erica Lacher, a veterinarian in Gainesville, Fla.

ERICA LACHER: I think the fax machine should stop being made. I ask myself every day, why must I still have one? I simply can't get some companies to communicate with me any other way. It drives me crazy because I have to pay for an extra phone line. I have to pay for the faxes. I have to pay for my staff to get us off junk fax lists. It's just ridiculous. I hate that stupid thing.

CORNISH: Other things that you'd like to say goodbye to - the dot matrix printer, the multi-disc CD changer and voicemail.

SHAPIRO: Here's something that is disappearing - independent computer repair shops. Manhattan is saying goodbye to one that has something of a cult following. Tekserve has rescued Apple device owners for nearly 30 years well before the first official Apple store opened in New York City. Today the shop closes its doors for good, a victim of high rents and retail competition. Here's reporter Jon Kalish.

JON KALISH, BYLINE: Step into Tekserve and marvel at the antique radios, microphones and electrical meters lining the walls. In the back of the spacious store, every model of the Mac that was made is displayed, and you can still buy a bottle of coke for a nickel from a 1950s vending machine. Tekserve was started by two radio engineers in 1987. That's 14 years before the first Apple store opened. David Lerner is one of the co-founders.

DAVID LERNER: For a long time, we were a Mac destination in New York, and as Apple started opening their stores, which - they're temples really. You know, there are six within - what? - 2 miles of us now. It's more convenient to go closer.

KALISH: The Apple stores may be more convenient, but Tekserve co-founder Dick Demenus is no fan of their uncluttered, spotless decor.

DICK DEMENUS: Everything is forward looking. It's all new. It's all clean. There's no hint of history. I want to respect those who came before.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Blue ticket 53...

KALISH: Customers take a decidedly analog deli-counter ticket and wait for their number to be displayed on old Macs kept alive from the 1980s. One of the owners once hacked an iMac installing a second monitor on its base. Asher Rapkin worked at the store when the two-headed iMac was put on display.

ASHER RAPKIN: It was just awesome. And this is so much of why I think people would come in because while you were sitting there, stressed out, waiting to find out if your term paper was going to get saved, you could play with a two-headed iMac.

KALISH: Tekserve was so well-known in New York that it had a cameo on the hit TV show "Sex And The City." When Carrie Bradshaw's PowerBook crashed, she brought it here.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEX AND THE CITY")

SARAH JESSICA PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) I was just typing, and then there was a mean, little man who popped up. And he had Xs where his eyes should be.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) That's a sad Mac. You should've told me that before.

KALISH: The techs here have been known to discover problems and fixes for Macs before Apple does. The store's diverse workforce includes white-haired baby boomers, tattooed millennials, women techs. Deb Travis has worked here for 20 years. She says many of her co-workers were touring musicians.

DEB TRAVIS: People who would go off for two or three months and then come back. That was one of the big perks of working here. Most of the people who worked here had other things they were doing.

KALISH: Other perks include health insurance and free lunch for the store's hundred or so employees. Many say it's the best place they ever worked. For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish in New York.

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