Gizmos & Gadgets: Disappearing Technology

Given the technology-driven world we live in, it’s enough of a challenge to just stay abreast of the many new technologies that seem to be appearing in our daily lives – and the devices that use them.  From medicine to entertainment to even the overload of information currently available at your fingertips, the pace of new continues unabated.

This column is NOT about what’s new, but a nod to the now former automotive accessories, devices and equipment that aided us during our travels in the daily dispatch.  While no means a comprehensive list, it might help to jog your memory about life from days gone by.

Entertainment – AM radio, AM/FM radio, 8-track cassette players, automotive cassette decks and automotive multi-CD players.  For the most part, the playing of music in a vehicle has evolved.  We interact with a touch screen. Knobs and switches relative to tuning a radio station or tuning up the sound are gone.  Chances are that you will plug in your iPod or smartphone and start your playlist, or just use a streaming service like Pandora.

Vehicle Hardware – External key door locks, keyed trunk lock, keyed ignition start, hand crank windows, wing/vent side windows, fresh air vents, floor mounted headlight dimmer switch, front bench seating, manual heating/air conditioning controls, manually controlled side-view mirrors, and analog gauges and instruments.  The dropping cost of the electrical bits and pieces coupled with the automaker’s constant pressure to build for less at higher quality has resulted in the disappearance of much of these items.  The move of air conditioning from a costly option to standard equipment did much to eliminate the entire manual fresh air venting system in the typical vehicle.  While vehicles still display what looks like “analog” gauges and displays, they are actually digital in application – sensors and wiring have largely replaced the electrical mechanical aspects – and have improved the accuracy of the information.  The digitized odometer has pretty much eliminated odometer fraud – which was rampant with the older mechanical system.

Mechanical Systems – Ignition points, carburetors, Freon, hydraulic brakes, drum brakes, 6-volt batteries, manual locking front hubs (4WD), bias ply tires, studded snow tires, manual engine choke, belt-driven engine cooling, sealed beam headlights, full size spare tires, vacuum pressure control, steel engine hoods/trunk lids and bumper jacks.  Improving technology combined with tightening emissions and fuel economy standards have resulted in much of these items going by the wayside.  Weight reduction, more precise control, and of course cost per unit are some of the reasons for the gradual disappearance of these items.

Technology on the Cusp – CD players, manual transmissions, gearshift levers, manual vehicle control (steering wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal), internal combustion engines, and steel bodied vehicles.  Technology marches on with the impending introduction of both the semi-autonomous and fully-autonomous vehicles in the next several years.  By the year 2025, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) for the vehicles sold in the United States by the world’s automakers will be just more than double than it is now (from about 25 mpg to just over 54 mpg).  These two trends will change vehicles in dramatic ways – with more of the current technology falling by the wayside.   Only time will tell.

Ken Chester, Jr. is President & CEO of Motor News Media Corporation – an automotive news service founded in 1989 as The AutoBuyer Plus Corporation. Featured on numerous television and radio programs, viewers, listeners and readers alike relate to Ken's friendly manner and wealth of information about the many vehicles currently for sale in today's complex automotive marketplace.

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