Techathlon podcast: Gadget lifespans, the home version, and summer vacation

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We're headed into a summer break to work on some big projects, but you can play your own version of Techathlon at home!Techathlon

Everything around you is deteriorating. It sounds sad, but it’s just the way of our wonderful universe. In fact, the computer or smartphone you’re using to read this is slowly breaking down as we speak. This fact applies to humans, too, and the rigors of the Techathlon can really wear us out. So, we’re taking a short summer break to get brain massages, eat lots of almonds, and dip our heads into buckets of ice.

But, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to live without your favorite tech-based gameshow podcast. In fact, I’ve put together a game that I’m including in this article so you can play your own episode of Techathlon at home.

Here’s how to do it:

Everything around you is deteriorating. It sounds sad, but it’s just the way of our wonderful universe. In fact, the computer or smartphone you’re using to read this is slowly breaking down as we speak. This fact applies to humans, too, as the rigors of the Techathlon podcast can really wear us out. So, we’re taking a short summer break to get brain massages, eat lots of almonds, and dip our heads into buckets of ice.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to live without your favorite tech-based gameshow podcast. In fact, I’ve put together a game that I’m including in this article so you can play your own episode of Techathlon—our trivia-meets-tech-news competitive gabfest at home.

Here’s how to do it:

Gather up three friends and force them into a small recording studio and arrange them so they have to make awkward, competitive eye contact. Then, ask these questions—the answers are below—and secretly resent the person who wins as we do with Rob every week.

It’s easy and fun. Here’s the game. The answer key is at the bottom.

This week’s game keeps with our deterioration theme. You think saving pictures and other files to a hard drive or some other digital storage will keep them forever— but that’s not the case. In fact, if you saved your files to writeable DVDs back in the early 2000s, they may already have decayed. Here are some trivia questions about the crushing toll time takes on our digital existence.

  1. You probably use a hard drive to back up your stuff and that makes sense. Spinning drives aren't as fast or reliable as solid state drives, but they're a lot cheaper, especially if your storage needs are in terabyte territory. But, hard drives are fallible and crashes can be traumatic. Online backup company Back Blaze did a study in which it kept 25,000 hard drives spinning consistently over the course of four years. In its findings, roughly what percent of drives had failed by the four-year mark?

A. 5 percent

B. 20 percent

C. 40 percent

  1. Compared to the shiny, scratch-prone surfaces of DVDs, VHS tapes seemed nearly indestructible. I had a copy of Braveheart holding up one part of my desk in college. But, despite their jeep-like appearance, VHS tapes don't last forever. The magnetic tape inside can lose its magnetism over time. In fact, some researchers call this the "magnetic media crisis." While old tapes may still work, the average cassette degrades hard over time. According to research from the Council on Library and Information Resources, how long can you reasonably expect VHS tapes to last?

A. 20 years

B. 50 years

C. 80 years

  1. When we were kids, NES games broke all the time. Sometimes they got crud jammed inside that you couldn't blow out with your child-sized lungs. Sometimes you smashed your copy of Contra in anger after dying for the 100th time in a row. It turns out, however, that video game cartridges often contain a battery that's responsible for letting users save and load games. It's relatively easy to replace, but if it goes on you, you could lose hours of gaming. Does that battery typically last:

A. 10 years

B. 20 years

C. 30 years

  1. Most people look at photos on various screens here in 2019, but printing out a photo is still one of the best methods of preserving an image for a long period of time. Photographers typically refer to high-quality prints as "archival," which means they expect them to last up to 100 years. New printing tech, however, has eclipsed that number. Epson has a line of HDX ink and dedicated photo printing paper that promises to last longer than anything else around. How long does Epson say prints will endure?

A. 200 years

B. 400 years

C. 1000 years

  1. Solid state drives (SSDs) store data on memory without the need for moving parts. That means fewer things to break, but it's not a perfect system. While SSDs typically survive just fine over time, they degrade as you read from and write to them. There's a somewhat famous endurance test online for SSDs, in which a site called Tech Report continuously ran large quantities of data to and from the drives until they failed. It took more than 2 petabytes of transferring to kill the longest-lasting drives. How much data killed the most fragile unit in the test?

A. 500 terabytes

B. 700 terabytes

C. 1.5 petabytes

  1. The Zip drive is one of tech's great historical punchlines. These goofy-looking disks held hundreds of megabytes, which was a lot back in the day. However, the disks had a fatal flaw known as the "click of death." When a disk failed, the drive would try repeatedly to read the corrupted disk, which required the mechanical arm inside to snap back into place, which produced an audible click. I once saw my roommate throw a table across our dorm room because this happened to him while working on a project. The initial zip disks came with a lifetime warranty, which was obviously a bad idea for the flawed product. Later versions came with an updated warranty fit more in line with the product's actual expected lifespan. Was it:

A. 1 year B. 5 years C. 10 years

See? Wasn’t that fun? We’ll be back in August with new episodes of Techathlon.

Answer key: 1-B, 2-A, 3-A, 4-B, 5-B, 6-B