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Why Is 'Why Is This Still a Thing' Still a Thing?

Kaleigh Rogers

Kaleigh Rogers

The list of objects or systems that cause us to wonder “why is this still a thing?” is remarkably long.

There's a sort of tenet in journalism that if a reporter is curious about something, other people probably are too, so it's worth writing about. Curiosity (or nosiness, depending on the situation) is essential for any journalist who wishes to uncover very important stories, or not-so-important but still fascinating ones.

In my daily life, I regularly had friends and family members bemoan the seemingly outdated technology that surrounds us. "Why the hell is this still a thing?" was a common refrain, whether it be in reference to manual can openers, snail mail, or tampons. So much of our technology is advancing at a breakneck pace. You can't have a new smartphone for more than a year before it's outdated, and every day there are endless stories about the new gadgets and gizmos designed to (allegedly) improve our lives.

Yet dotted throughout this modern tech landscape are these anachronisms: lingering, often centuries-old pieces of technology that are still used with frequency and dependency. It's as though in our race to develop new technologies, we haven't bothered to update the ones we've already got. Surprisingly, searching online for the answers of why these technologies prevail is often fruitless. So I figured I would just go ahead and find out.

Over the last year, this column has dug into the history and explained the endurance of more than a dozen different technologies. What's most fascinating and pleasurable for me about these columns is that, so often, the conclusion is that this seemingly useless, outdated technology actually has a very good reason for standing the test of time. These things are still things because they're great, or unique, or because they do something that's very difficult to do in a way that's clever and efficient. It's given me a new appreciation for the tenacity of certain technologies. And the list of objects or systems that cause us to wonder "why is this still a thing?" is remarkably long, so we've still got a lot of research ahead of us.

So that's why Why Is This Still a Thing is still a thing, and we're starting out this year by reinvigorating the column. We'll be publishing new columns every week, and you can find them all right here. We're looking forward to diving into even more of the old, outdated, but oddly charming technology that surrounds us. If you're wondering why something is a thing and want us to find out, please send me an email: kaleigh.rogers@vice.com and we'll be happy to oblige.

Thanks for reading, thanks for being curious, and thanks for using things that maybe shouldn't still be things.