Four Products That Are Going Extinct


Some 66 million years ago, land-based dinosaurs ceased to exist.

In what is known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, roughly three-quarters of plant and animal life on Earth went extinct. It is widely believed that the cause of the event was a massive asteroid throwing the Earth’s environment out of balance. Sunlight became sparse. An endless impact winter rendered the Earth cold and inhospitable.

And yet, in this silent winter, this frigid moment trapped between eons: not all was lost.

From the cold emerged new kinds of life. Undergoing adaptive radiations, unseen species sprung forth, defying the cataclysm and seeking to fill old niches with new forms. Primates, whales, fish, horses: all new life forged in disaster, bestowed as they were with strange purpose and stranger reflections. Them, us, you, me: we are all children of extinction. Our lives have been made possible by an impossible winter and we owe our existence to the sacrifices made by the inhabitants of a thin layer of sediment called the K-Pg boundary.

Just as new species have been built upon what came before, so do new products often owe their existence to the extinction of their predecessors. Without the typewriter, what would our modern keyboard be? And without the phonograph, would we have compact discs and MP3s?

Richard Fortey said, “Without death there is little innovation. Extinction — death of a species — is part and parcel of evolutionary change. In the absence of this kind of extinction new developments would not prosper.” For technology, science… life to move forward, it is often necessary that some part of it be rendered obsolete.

So, from the untimely death of magnet clad plastics to the death of an office icon, here is a list of four products marching — bravely, foolishly — towards their own extinction.

Credit Cards

As of 2012, over 1.5 billion credit cards were in circulation in the United States. Over 71% of the population carried at least one card with them. With statistics like that, it’s difficult to envision a world where we don’t open our wallets, reach for a little plastic card and swipe it to pay our debts.

Contactless payments — payments made via cell phone — are predicted to reach $22 billion by 2015. The increasing popularity of these payments is expected to chip away at the monopoly that credit cards once had on swift, easy payments. In fact, the methodology for contactless payments is largely identical to that of credit cards: the consumer simply waves their phone in front of a reader and the payment appears on their credit statement just as if they had used their card.

Another threat to the credit card’s throne is Coin. Coin is a device linked to a consumer’s cell phone that behaves like all of the credit cards they would carry if they didn’t have Coin. Rather than carrying 4 credit cards, a consumer programs their Coin with their credit cards’ information. Afterwards, Coin is able to cycle through the user’s cards and function exactly as if it were one of the original cards.