Almost every day, we see so-called "upgrades" to technologies that really don't need the extra attention. Plenty of everyday gadgets haven't changed much since they were introduced or invented, because, well, they work just fine the way they are. And trying to improve on something that's already at the top of the food chain is a) a waste of time and b) likely to just make it worse for the wear. Companies need to face facts: there are technologies (like these five) that are practically perfect just as they are.
The most recent example (also the one that got us cranking to begin with), Microsoft's pressure-sensitive keyboard, will perform different tasks based on how hard you press the keys, an interesting idea, but its necessity is surely debatable. Isn't the computer keyboard already at the top of its game? It, and the rest of this bunch, sure seem that way to us.
Established: 1900 (approx.)
How it got here: People have been getting away with "Oooh my, would you look at the time..." since 1900 (1600, if you count the pocket watch), when time-keeping gears got small enough to strap onto your wrist. The first electric watches came out in the '50s, and even digital watches have been around since 1970, when a Hamilton Watch Company prototype was developed a based off the digital clock in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Reinventing the Wheel: The process of making a wristwatch hasn't changed in decades, but some manufacturers are trying to make the watch more than just a timepiece by jamming in components that let you watch TV, listen to music, and make phone calls. Luxury watches, of course, have their place in the market, but "gadget-y" upgrades (with the possible exception of the calculator watch) struggle to catch on.
The QWERTY Keyboard
How it got here: Since typewriter inventor Christopher Sholes solidified the QWERTY keyboard in 1874, the design has undergone only the changes required to make it more functional, comfortable, and compact. Every computer system's primary interface has been a keyboard since their onset.
Reinventing the Wheel: We'll admit, some keyboard tweaks (like curved ergonomics, USB hubs and media keys) have been useful. Others, like Microsoft's pressure-sensitive keyboard, make us plead for the madness to stop. Even enthusiasts can't be convinced to buy keyboards like the famous Optimus Maximus, a keyboard with individual OLEDs under each key that can be customized to display whatever the user chooses. (The $1,600 price point surely didn't help, either.) Even virtual keyboards have a slim chance of edging out physical keys, since they're a nightmare for touch typists.
The "Desktop" Operating System
How it got here: It's no coincidence that the desktop-style operating system user interface came about once PCs were able to locally store applications and documents for quick access (ahem, shortcuts), instead of having to load floppy discs every time you need to access data or run a different app. The Mac OS desktop "Finder" debuted in 1984 (yes, like the commercial), and Windows 1.0 first shipped in late 1985.
Reinventing the Wheel: Experimental operating systems where the user interface is based on motion capture or brain waves appear all the time, but that's just the input device; they know better than to muck with the actual visual interface. Smart move. New Web-based operating systems and cloud computing could change the way we interact with our desktop, however: as more of our important data is kept in datacenters and away from our local computers, computer interfaces will also change to meet that demand.
The QWERTY keyboard was laid out to reduce jamming of mechanical typewriters. I use the Dvorak layout, although it may not matter as much as I'd hoped. ABCDEF might be the most sensible standard for new learners. Steve Roberts tried an 8 key chord keyboard without finding great gains in speed, but he did it for convenience, as a handlebar accessory. Training may be the key to faster typing on such layouts; the potential seems to be there.
The real beauty of chord systems is that they don't need a desk. They could allow one to type just by gripping a tablet, or a pair of mice. An easy facility with such interfaces could be a boon to any mobile design, eliminating fumbling and allowing one-hand operation.
On a standard keyboard, the thumbs are severely underutilized, and the frequent alternations of the right hand to the mouse or other keys could surely be better integrated.
1) The wristwatch died with the cell phone. It won't be improved, because it is obsolete. Stuff it with enough stuff, and it becomes a strap on TV or cell phone, NOT a wristwatch with toys.
2) QWERTY - Will likely stay around, just because it is what we are all taught to use. ABCDEFG isn't based on any specific order (other than dead alphbets - Greek to Roman being the last major shift). We chould just as easily change the alphbet song and the order of our files (particularly with the obsolescence of paper records). A single row chord keyboard is nice, and far more practicle an interface moving into the future, but is harder to learn (you can't print combinations on a chorded bar). I could see the chord being put into systems and the ciriculum of schools once hand free interfaces become common, making the off hand useful, since you would want to operate a mouse OR chord key with your off hand.
3) Desktop interface - other than moving off screen to mobile projection and hands free interface, I think the basic ideas of files, draging, and the like were Minority Report acutrate and will not change that much. (I'm sure my grandkids will be using Window 85 someday).
4) Thermos - I'm not sure that eventually chemical or electrical heating and cooling won't be economical in a thermos. One where you set the temp of the contents, and that temp was held. The only thing that really sets it back now is the potential for pressure build-up in a spill proof (read "air tight") container being heated.
5) Turntable? Really? Digital will replace organic sound recording for all by a few "purist." The only reason they are still used is scratching and nostalgia.
6) Incandescent. Again, may not be improved, but already obsolete.
incandescent is replaced by led
and led is replaced by oled.
The wristwatch is hardly dead. There is, I predict, far more variety of watches available than cel phones. I myself own 6, and I know a number of other watch 'aficionados'.
Unlike a cel phone a good watch will NOT kill brain cells, which is exactly what's happening with all of these cel phone addicts I see, such as those morons who just have to check their phones every five minutes while at the movie theater. Or the dimwits who talk LOUDER when entering an elevator, 'thinking' that will solve the reception problems.
I don't see the wristwatch totally going away, it will always be around, even if not exactly in what we would accept as attractive packaging. As Oakspar said, it may become essentially something else, like the mini receiver tuned to an atomic clock giving the accuracy to integrate a mini computer, which in turn gives rise to potentially endless specialty devices that we can use to measure and calibrate our worlds. Just like many of the things in our era, there will come a time when people can't imagine their wristwatch only telling time. I prefer to live in today and tomorrow, so I have my nice gold watch, and I like the most functional I can get for whatever I'm doing at that time in my work watch. When I worked at a refinery, a wristwatch that could read oxygen levels vs explosive gases would have been great. I can see a use for a wristwatch that nulls static. But it should always be a watch, in my opinion. Whatever newfangled gadget they throw in.