Back to: Making (up) News | Forward to: Remember to vote

Car boot sale

You know how it works: a car park operator throws open the gates one weekend morning, and for about £8-10 folks can hire a parking space and a paint table and stack it high with whatever stuff is cluttering up their attic, garden hut, or lock-up. Other folks turn up, wander round, and hopefully buy the stuff.

There's one up the road from my flat, and I occasionally go because (if you're a writer) it's an interesting way to get a look inside other people's homes — not what they have today, but what they valued some time ago, and have become willing to shed.

There are, of course, perennials: crates of beach reading bestsellers and self-improvement books, old clothing, baby baths and buggies and bottle sterilizers, and lots of brightly coloured plastic toys. Also antique spoon collections, ornamental brasswork, ancient suitcases, and unopened-but-faded boxes of DIY components such as cheap light fittings.

But I'm interested in the ephemera that changes.

Fifteen years ago (1996), you could find stereo turntables and the odd CD player. Audio cassettes were common but some VHS tapes were available. You could find Atari STFM and Amiga 500 home computers. PCs, where found, were typically 286s running DOS. (Typical age of off-loaded computers was around 5-10 years).

By five years ago (2006), stereo turntables, Amigas and STs had become rare. VHS players and colour TVs were common; PCs were typically tower 486 and pentium boxes running Windows 95 or 98. DVD disks were common but VHS tapes were commoner. Mobile phones were common (typically Nokia GSM models).

Today: laptops — typically Pentium III/IV, Celeron, and anything pre-Core Duo — were common, while desktop/tower PCs had become scarce. VHS tapes were scarce, DVDs predominating. Lots of tube TVs, no LCD or plasma TVs. Phones, weirdly, looked very similar (smartphones don't seem to sell via car boot sales yet). The only VHS players I spotted were oddities such as shop security recorders.

(Digression: I picked up a toy today: a Psion Series 5 PDA, almost spotless, in its original packaging, with manual. I paid about 3% of the original retail tab, back in 1998. This is the granddaddy of every Symbian device that's out there, a tiny and efficient pocket computer based on an ARM processor and powered by two AA cells, like a laptop in miniature. It cost me the price of a new trade paperback and I think I shall install Linux on it, just because I can.)

Anyway. What do you expect to see in car boot sales in 2016? And again, in 2021? And what don't you expect to see? Please explain your reasoning ...



Old clone bodies, grown with now-out-of-date designer genes.


You're being silly. Stop it. I'm trying to start a serious discussion about near-term items of cultural obsolescence ...


I'd argue the same things that are in current "boot sales":anything that depreciates in value very quickly or suddenly. Like your list for all of those five year trips- it's all the same thing. Electronics and pop-culture.

So instead of listing off the various bits of electronic wizardry and crap movies that are currently popular as future boot sale objects, let's turn the question to something more interesting: what objects that aren't currently notorious for rapid depreciation that are going to become such?

Sadly, I don't have a good answer to that question.


I wonder could you construct a formula for ascertaining this? It seems to me that the items most likely to end up in car boot sale are those that don't repay the hassle of storing them for the computational or informational value that they contain. So, smartphones, which are easy to store and have a high computational density, are likely to be kept; while tower PCs, which are a pain in the ass to move or store and are computationally low spec, get brought to sale. Similarly, the truckload of books you always find can be explained by the low informational density of a book relative to storage space. In this scenario, if you divide the computational value an object by its physical bulk and get a high number, you keep it; otherwise, you try to shift it onto someone else. (Naturally, this would have to be multiplied by an avarice coefficient to reflect the willingness of the owner to make the effort of sale.)

The prediction? Big 'dumb' TVs, DVD players (blu ray and otherwise), large single-purpose devices of any sort and any device that won't talk to other devices are likely to turn up. Equally, large music libraries (on CD) as well as anything (and I mean anything) that doesn't have a touchscreen interface.


One interesting thing about pop culture consumption being increasingly digital is that these sorts of sales should have less and less. It's a little harder to sell your Brittany Spears mp3 collection than a CD collection.


Lots of tablet computers and early-generation ebook readers, having been obsoleted by whatever comes next.


Now that is an interesting point. Even more-so when you take into account the rise of Netflix and subscription services. Then you also have things like Craigslist.

So now I wonder- how long before these things go the way of the dinosaur? Or mutate into something completely other. Like, for example, if in the absence of cheap ephemera that can be resold, people start making their own to sell? I'm seeing a Cory Doctorow novel in this premise.


In the 2020’s … “boot sale” you might find.

Most anything with a lithium battery, as cheap small biological derived energy storage becomes ubiquitous.

Many small appliances not mesh connected. The net has moved from central sever based, to a peer to peer mesh.

Lots of magnetic media storage device's. (nobody misses spinning hard drives).

Many bits and pieces of small industrial machines that are water intensive, Water use is the main limiting factor in any industrial process.


iPods, GPSs, cordless landline telephones, and anything else replaced by smart phones.


I think by 2021, there won't be any video or music media as downloadable content will be well entrenched.

More seriously I think there will be very little in the way of electronics. The sort of things you might expect - tablets, very smart phones, augmented-reality goggles, ebook readers - won't be re-sellable because on purchase they will have to be registered to a single user and only used by that user forever.

Obviously there will be options for unlocking and jailbreaking, just as network locked mobile phones are now, but whether that remains viable when everything is in the cloud remains to be seen.

BTW. Serious envy on the Psion 5. After all these years, I still haven't found anything as nice. Modern smartphones are theoretically more functional, but I still miss the old Psions.


Lots of peripherals. Things like external hard drives, most anything that required Bluetooth connections (especially keyboards, mice). These are the things that people tend to keep around at the moment because they're still useful with modern machines but with the advent of USB3.0 and more stuff skipping that entirely and using wireless/3G etc then I imagine a lot of peripherals will go, especially as external storage goes the way of the CD/DVD (people store in the cloud or on personal servers etc).

I imagine the number of DVDs will also grow significantly as people duplicate their entire movie collections online.

An odd one - cash wallets (maybe 2030) as more people use cards etc and these things become useless.


This morning I was at the French equivalent: the vide grenier. I've been to at least a dozen of these across the south of France in the last year, and there's not much to differentiate them.

Aside from the diningware kitsch and endless volumes of bandes dessinees, the technologically-sensitive items are typically VHS tapes and old DVD players. The French ( and many of the British expats in Dordoigneshire and beyond ) do not believe in discounting much for used goods, so will charge more for a used dusty entry-level DVD player with sellotape-bandaged remote than would cost one to buy a new noname brand of Blue-Ray player with endless media playback options and USB extensibility (and a year's warranty).

Cassette-based answering machines and other technological cousins from the 80s and 90s are likewise priced above replacement value.



The point about a car boot sale is that it short-circuits the postage problem. If you sell a gadget on eBay or Craigslist or GumTree, you may well pay for shipping -- not in money (the buyer pays) but in the opportunity cost of the time spent typing up the listing, adding photographs, sorting out payment, and finally in shipping it. If it takes you just two minutes for each step, then that's 8 minutes per item; multiply by a hundred and the cost is 800 minutes of your time, or 13 hours 20 minutes -- a working day and a half. But at a car boot sale, you can fill a few boxes with kipple, truck them to one spot, shift a bunch of items, and either take the remains home or take them to the waste recycling centre.

So I reckon car boot sales, like swap meets, aren't going to go away quietly.


Leaving aside the standard old toys, baby items, and outgrown clothing ... things you may never see go away... I think you'll see a lot of home goods that aren't "smart" -- i.e. a digital thermostat that won't tie into the house's WiFi network, plus old security system hardware that doesn't have a provision for the same. Old digital cameras. Collectibles from the last several decades... whatever replaces beanie babies, pokemon, and American Girls dolls that you'll find right now at your average sale. I'll also bet that as climate change accelerates, you'll see a lot more people giving away old windows and parts of houses that they've had to replace to stay ahead of heating/cooling costs. (I just gave away the 30 year old single pane aluminum windows that I replaced with dual-pane low-E jobs to someone who was going to use the windows for a greenhouse.)

I think there's two challenges and will be two big differences from the things that you see at the boot sales right now.

First, as stated, everything's gone to download -- so no more media like DVDs, records, magnetic tapes...

Second, manufacturers have gotten a LOT better at figuring out planned obsolescence. Smart phones have a difficult life. I'm still three months from the end of a contract with AT&T, and my iPhone 3GS is on it's last and final legs. It's destined for the dump (aka: electronics recycler) after I'm done with it. The plastic back is cracked and the dock connector is wonky. It, along with every other smart phone I've owned in the last five years, is DONE by the time my contract is up. On the other hand, my Handspring/Palm Visor still worked last year when I finally threw it out.


By 2016, I suspect you'll start to see Blu-Ray disks and lower-quality flat-screen TVs, as well as some of the lower-end computers sold today.

You'll see fewer tube TVs than today, as these devices will start to burn out. Digital converter boxes will start to appear, at least in areas (like where my parents live) where they don't seem to work very well, and people have given up on receiving television signals over the air.

I don't think you'll see many mobile phones. I agree with Katzke: these devices aren't usually designed to last longer than the standard two-year contract predominant in the U.S.

By 2021, we'll see the higher-end computers sold today. We'll start to see any TV that doesn't have a built-in way to stream Internet content. Likewise, the set-top boxes for streaming (e.g. Roku) will start to appear, as they are replaced by the built-in functionality of new TVs.


Jim Smith @ 10: I think by 2021, there won't be any video or music media as downloadable content will be well entrenched.

That's the conventional wisdom, yes, but I disagree. Sometimes things take an unexpected turn. As a case in point, there was an article in this week's RADIO TIMES of all places talking about the resurgence in vinyl sales:

"Last year, according to figures from the UK Charts Company, sales of vinyl rose by more than five per cent. In the same period British CD sales fell by a fifth. Over in America, vinyl sales reached almost three million last year. That's an increase of a million on the previous year."

Nor, according to the article, are these just old farts either. No, this trend seems to be being fueled by the young and artists such as Lady Gaga and the like are responding by putting out limited edition cuts that are only available on vinyl. No idea where this trend will end, but all these people need record players, and in time they will want to upgrade. It will be interesting to see the effect on car boot sales of the future.


I'm not saying physical media won't exist (although they will be very much a minority interest), I'm saying they won't be on sale at car boot sales. Car boot sales don't really represent collectors they are much more mainstream.


Given we could expect to see a flattening of the Moore's law curve at around 22nm and a lag before spintronics, or carbon nanotube transistors pick up the slack (in 3-D as single atom transistors are about as small as you can go..), we can expect a small/large collapse in the current electronics upgrade frenzy. The subsequent crash could send economies into tailspins as whats the point of buying the next better gadget when the hardware specs don't change?

Call it the equivalent of "Peak Oil" where all the easy advancement has been done and we await the next great revolution in tech to progress again.

In such a market one of several things could happen: (1) everyone holds onto their gadget until it breaks

(2) since few buy new gear companies have gone out of business and that "old" tech never loses value so never makes it to the swap meets. The ability to make 22nm lithography's is long gone as no one can afford the fab cost given the small new sales.

(3) 3d printers allow most of old gear or toys to be printed out so swap meets switch to trading 3d designs if they happen at all (online meets perhaps). 3d printing would kill off a certain percentage of gear traded in swap_meet/boot sales.

(4) rare earths and metals used in LCD and portable gear has such great value that nothing using the "old" electronics technology gets traded/sold... its all mined for materials.

The above was just a collapse of Moore's law (temporary or not) that triggers a change in the gear you see at boot sales/swap meets. What about the modern dark age caused by lack of data transfer off old tech into the new? Given how hard it is to find 5 1/4" floppy drives (let alone 8") to read all that stuff saved in the recent dim past. One could extrapolate out and say much of our vast digital eco system could turn worthless as DRM formats/companies go under, Flash media ages, cdrom/dvd become unreadable, etc... at a certain age the value in old flash or dvd is worthless for trade/sale.


Also the figures quotes are a bit selective. The 20% decline in CDs is nothing to do with a rise in vinyl sales. The decline is largely due to the switch to digital, although IIRC overall music sales fell slightly in the UK last year. A 5% rise is OK, but it is 5% of not very much.

Similarly, 3 million US vinyl sales sounds impressive, but how many CD sales and digital downloads were there in the US last year.

Vinyl is currently a very small proportion of the market and has been declining for years. Any current increase is likely to be a blip.


It's a bit sad to think of progress in this way. It makes me realise how much things will stay the same: cheap china ornaments, nearly new clothes. Perhaps there will be a glut of filing cabinets and bookshelves as we shift from paper. Maybe early generation 3d printers will start to appear in these sales. It might become cheap to print out the parts for a printer, but lots of progress will be needed before they're easy to assemble.


Near term: Incandescent light bulbs. (bulky, but valuable) Netbooks (fad item) IKEA kipple (desire for more cozy items to reflect lack of financial security)

Further out: Framed pictures (thin film displays will be large enough and cheap enough to replace static images)


"Perhaps there will be a glut of filing cabinets and bookshelves as we shift from paper."

That's been predicted every decade of my life.

I'm no longer sure it'll happen in my lifetime at all.


Since I always reformulate questions, I'd look at it this way: Where are the developing choke points for lithium (for batteries) and rare earths (for touch-screen displays, et multiple cetera), and which ones are the most recyclable?

If we see a coincidence of shortages of particular elements plus easy recyclability of items containing them, those items are going to be rare in boot sales.

Conversely, if we start seeing things like, oh, micro-generators powered by ethanol replacing exotic element batteries, we may see a plethora of items powered by exotic, hard-to-find batteries.

I'd also add that anything with "... cartridge printer (3-D printer, tissue printer, etc) will reliably turn up at these sales. I expect an explosion in this technology over the next decade, and the also-rans will get the boot.

Switching gears, one item I do expect to see coming out of car boots is memorabilia bought by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Expect to see, oh, Iraqi jambiyas, khyber knives, opium paraphernalia, and other things that will make work for the Bobbies. Actually, that's happening now.


Do magazines turn up much? I might expect fewer of them as more people get such information sources online.


Various commenters: PHONES ONLY LAST TWO YEARS?

You what?

Mine is ancient, now over 5 years old, and I only bought that because I fell onto the previous one and trashed it..... I really don't like touch-screen tech. It is far too vulnerable to surface damage, and I prefer (at present) specific tools - so I carry a digital camera and a separate 'phone. I don't doubt I'll switch, but when the tech matures, which it hasn't at the moment. There are far too many (operational) kludges in a lot of current kit.

Also, like alot of people, I point-blank refuse to have a "contract" phone, I use PAYG, as do a lot of folks.

Now, how does all of this feed into the offloadable low-price tech sales of 5-10 years time?


I'm beginning to wonder about how general economic conditions affect what we here on the wrong side of the pond call garage sales.

On the one hand, people in trouble will want to raise cash. On the other hand, those same people might be inclined to hold on to what they have, particularly things like clothing and electronics. On the gripping hand, will used merchandise stores, which do very good business in hard times, offer quicker payoffs which might well hurt boot/garage sales and flea markets?


Books - I'm already taking my physical books to the book exchange as I upgrade to digital copies when publishers make them available.

Now I'm wondering what I'll do with my book shelves!

I'll probably do the same with DVDs as I switch to digital ... that's what happened to my CD collection.


Loads and loads of Apple product. But that's probably just my wishful thinking, hoping that they fall out of favor soon.

Game consoles, when all gaming moves to the cloud (I mean the actual frame rendering). It is my understanding that this is the industry's ultimate solution to the piracy problem, so they have a vested interest in making this happen. This might happen within five years or less - the total disappearance of the console, that is. The service is already available today in some areas around the world.

I second the poster who mentioned incandescent light bulbs. These babies are gonna get rare at some point.


In the Netherlands we just had a country-wide jumble sale for Queen's day, nice timing!

I would suspect that a lot of 'i'-prefixed things will be appearing over the next years as 'the twice the size, half the price' trend/law marches on.


Guess I wasn't playing by the rules.... 2016 and 2021 and explain your logic:

Going back to the logic of a collapse of Moore's law:

22nm lithography for cpu cores widespread in 2012 GPU cores still around 40nm now, but making the jump to lower nodes.. Say 2014 GPU's hit 22nm (aggressive timeline)

ARM cores + associated logic for a SOC (system on a chip) will take a bit longer to hit 22nm, taking a stab at 2015.

If problems arise preventing or delaying lower nodes (18nm or less) we would start seeing that by 2014. I suspect there would be slack to take up for ASIC's and the like that might keep fabs busy out to 2017 or 2018. But starting in 2018 there could be a dropoff in the demand for 22nm node production that will damage the perennial upgrade cycle if we have no smaller node production to move to. Based on that logic the market would have crashed between 2018 and 2021 on electronics.

Explaining the "mining old electronics" statement needs no more than a glance at recent headlines concerning China taking their current rare earth production for themselves first. At a certain cost per ounce it becomes extremely worthwhile to recycle electronics versus keep. Replace TV adverts on "We buy your old GOLD!" with "We buy your old electronics! Top money per ounce!"

With luck and continued research this will not happen.. but at some point the endless march of miniaturization will slow. Electronic castoffs value tends to be set by the perceived value of old versus new, with an endless cycle of faster cheaper ensuring a large supply of gadgets useful to someone.

Recently a cousin called me asking about the value of a $200 laptop at a pawnshop. I pointed out Walmart had one with better specs at $300 and wasn't a hacked version of Windoze If the gadget upgrade cycle ever falters this would no longer hold true.. but would that laptop have ever made it to the pawnshop if it was still valued by the original owner? (nothing better out there) Or if the rare earths within it were valued more...


Let's see: ephemera...

Shonky window boxes and other food growing bric-a-brac. (Price of food stays high.)

Off-brand health equipment for the elderly - wrist and ankle supporters, inflatable cushions, decorated walking sticks, patent nostrums and shoes, adjustable spectacles and dentures, that kind of thing. (Aging of the population.)

Off-brand smartphones. (Bootleg factories in Shenzen-Guangzhou.)

Used appliances, besides those mentioned: old espresso makers, dehumidifiers, portable air conditioners, home gyms. (Aging; general impoverishment due to selfishness of elites; resultant crowding in homes.)

Small petrol-engined equipment (not so much on the middle of Edinburgh, of course) -- lawnmowers, leafblowers, etc, and parts for same: spark plugs, filters... (Oil is going to stay expensive.)


If you want a real eye opener go to your local recycling center (rubbish tip). I was there to dump an old 21" CRT monitor. The place was full of CRT monitors, most probably working fine. Ditto white goods of a better quality that the ones in my kitchen. All destined to be ground up into small particles. And no, you cannot take anything away.

Other stuff I have got rid of via FreeCycle, including (recently) a wide carriage dot matrix printer and a high quality HiFi seperates system (minus speakers)


If it's the same car boot sale that I'm thinking of (which I believe it is, since we have the same MP), then it's quite a venue. Being in an underground car park, if you squint hard enough you could be in some sort of post-apocalyptic barter market.

There's also some really weird shit on sale - I remember with disbelief the mulleted gentleman in a stripy shirt proudly sitting behind a crate filled to the brim with a complete collection of 'Erotic Female Mud and Jelly Wrestling Championships' on VHS. 'All Five Years Worth!' the label on the box declared.

I think we're going to see a lot of hard drives and digital cameras - I saw a 10Mp point and shoot on sale in my local Tesco in a blister pack for £20 the other day, so it can't be long before commoditisation and relentless increases in flash memory see low and mid-level cameras and big external harddrives becoming passe. Terabyte hard drive? Psssh, why would I need one with an actual spinning platter when I've got this Petabyte SSD? In my phone?


I wonder what would stay/be created for people like me. My hands tremor so both a mouse and a touch pad are almost impossible to use. Now I have painful arthritis, too, which makes me even more glad for my multi-button programmable trackball. In fact, when Kensington stopped making them, I bought a backup.


Boardgames (they came back 7 or 8 years ago and sales are beginning to fade) Books (I expect this moment as I collect them : anticipating the oil peak and the and of cheap energy, I want to be sure to read in my old days...) especially cookbooks, fitness books :within 10 years cancer will be beaten for good and our vision of health will change. Everything made in plastic (again, oil peak : a lot of stuff are made of "corn-plastic"but they wont last and by consequence wont be sold in 2031 ...) Posters, paintings photographs : sooner or later (IMO 10 years max) walls will be coverd with optic fiber wallpaper.


Ooh, I'll play!

Beige-ing boot sale items:

*DVD players/DVD's *Clunky Sony 3D glasses *Innumerable i-accessories (cases, sleeves, chargers, etc.) *Early ebook readers *Early netbooks *Any device that does only one thing (mp3 players, dumbphones and proto-smartphones, portable DVD players, etc) *MICE. *PS2/Xbox/Wii consoles and their controllers *Insulin pumps, glucose meters, and related accessories

Why they're there:

There's been a massive trend toward devices that multi-task. Nobody likes carrying multiple items when one can do a good enough job. Also, new consoles are due from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. The general trend there has been to change the controller, either to novelize it (looking at you, Guitar Hero) or to dispense with it altogether (i.e. the Kinect). When the PS3 came to market, the presence of yet another DualShock was generally taken as a disappointment. The Wiimote has its own issues. So I think that in five years, those old controllers will be gone. Ditto current 3D glasses for at-home use; they're still too big and once people have hipster-thin models (assuming 3D is still a viable trend) they'll dispose of older, heavier models.


Let's see, car boot sale of 2016 or 2021?

I'd suggest anything they have which is of value and they might be able to get a few quid (or a chicken) for, to eek out their existence in a collapsed society - post-peak.

2021 might have them selling off their children.

Oh, and it won't be a car boot they are selling out of.

It's easy to assume the future is an extrapolation of the past and that the external circumstances stay the same. However, we know the financial fault lines were only papered over, the money is not there for another bail out, and oil is already over the level that puts economies into recession, even in good times. The next step down will be a sizeable one.

Russia shows the reality of what happens to the little man when you get significant upheavals.

Oh, and royal commemorative mugs. What with the royal family getting their heads cut off in the civil uprising - there won't be much call for them...


"to eek out their existence in a collapsed society - post-peak."

I can't tell if that's a typo or not :P


Video cameras are probably going to show up frequently -- You can view Cisco's shot-to-the-head of Flip as the first salvo. Video cams are going to be in everything, the way that voice recorders are now (phones, media players, pens).

Still cameras too may get replaced, as higher-end still+HD Vid becomes cheaper... but once it hits HD quality at the $199 price tag, I can't see a reason to upgrade beyond that. But by 5 years, anything that isn't 15MPix+HD Video goes in the garage sale bin. So one more generation, and then there's not much reason to buy another and sell the old one.

The scary thing is that with the rise of e-books, subscription video and audio... I won't be able to find cheap used music and books much longer.


Brain-controlled devices are being developed (and starting to be used) for severely paralyzed people. It might be a while before they're common for people who "merely" have hand tremors.


A different metric than computational and informational density is convenience. A good case can be made in that big shifts occur when a format becomes demonstrably more convenient to use rather than more powerful. CD trumped vinyl due to its much greater ease of use but SACD and DVD-Audio never had any real success. MP3's universal adoption hasn't really been challenged by higher quality formats yet.

In that vein, I'll hazard a guess that anything without wireless sync and charging will show up in boot sales pretty soon. There may be a class of devices not in the boot sales which are "dishwasher safe" (air dry of course).

There will be plenty of tablets at boot sales. The commodification of tablets will most likely be much faster than previous tech with


The best way to predict the weather tomorrow is to say it will be like today. Same way everything is likely to be. not to say things will not get a lot worse, but it will be a lot like today.


If oil and other commodities really become expensive by 2021, what you won't see in boot sales will be things like battery re-chargers.


Recycling should be re-using. That's a better use but the powers seem to go nuts over the idea. I once got a lot of parts from one. All at once they moved and told me they had a contract with the people they made pay to get rid of their stuff, to trash it. Not let anybody pay for it.


BY the gripping hand, they keep talking about moving away from paper. The few loners I know who work with paper tell me that they used to buy a box of typing paper when they needed it. Now with the wonders of computers and copiers, they look for sales to buy cases. Thats cases not case. What we get is not alway what they saw we will get.


2016: Maybe some value add modding of older systems; PS3/XBOX 360s for cheap, hacked with big HDs and lots of games installed. laptops that are current now. One thing I've been looking for in my (rare) forays into flea markets and the like is big HDs chock full of pirate media; 2TB units with thousands of movies on them... Maybe they're behind the counter somewhere. Would expect those to be about by 2016 more. Similarly with kindles and other e-readers full of books.

2021: I'm afraid to guess. I would be interested to see what sort of bio hardware goes consumer by then, likely microfluidics diagnostics stuff. But that's likely to be ink jet printer style marketing with all the profits from (semi)disposable cartridges, not much percentage in reselling the unit the cartridge plugs into. Or full disposable like a pregnancy test.


Too good a pun to miss...

BY the gripping hand, they keep talking about moving away from paper. The few loners I know who work with paper tell me that they used to buy a box of typing paper when they needed it.

Different strokes - the folks I know go through cases of the stuff. Luckily it's for scratch paper, so we just raid the recycling bins.

I highly doubt that a stylus+screen setup will be replacing that any time soon.


Lordy, you're optimistic about the next decade. I'm going to hazard we'll be figuring out new ways to treat cancer well into the next century, and people will still elect to keep their paintings over turning their walls into monitors.


Here in my part of Melbourne it's Heavy Rubbish Collection Week, where you put out things for the tip. Of course, people go up and down the street skimming. Notable, though, that Cathode TVs, of whatever immensity, go unclaimed. It's flat or nothing. Nobody will pick up cassette tapes, either.
But someone has gone down the road cutting off the cord of every electrical device. For the copper. Rare earths be damned.


I agree with Ian Smith that you guys are far too optimistic. I'm thinking .22 LR ammo, homemade candles, breeding pairs of rabbits or guinea pigs (for meat), medical and chemistry texts, tubeless bicycle wheels, etc...


Here in Boston, the MIT flea market has undergone a sad deterioration. In the mid-90s, it used to be about twice as big, with lots of obscure computers from the 70s and 80s, antiquated test and lab equipment, often stuff you really wouldn't see anywhere else. Today, it is almost entirely consumer electronics and cheap tools, along with one or two vendors with tables and tables of commonplace electronic and mechanical parts. Hardly anything exotic.

Still, I go every time, walk around and think, why did people make all this stuff? What was it all for? This was advanced shit, some of it. There were engineers who made it their work day in and day out for years. And now it's worthless junk. And, relatedly, as someone who tries to make stuff, what should I make that won't be worthless in a few years? Hard to see how throwing your years away in an office park working on some new accessory for the holiday season is a worthwhile use of time.

So in a way I'm glad these things are dwindling. Perhaps we as a society are learning that it's better not to make so much crap? Or at least, now that we have the internet, that we don't have to physically make the crap, we can just shuffle it around cyberspace? Perhaps, as much as I don't enjoy most other people, we'll see a more community- rather than consumer-based culture?

The other more pragmatic side of it is that in the 90s, computers were much more expensive and there were people who still didn't have one or could reasonably hope to find an upgrade for their IBM XT at a flea market. Conversely, there were people who could reasonably hope to get $100 for their 386 running Windows 3.1. Today, computers are cheaper and Moore's law has leveled off. So I suspect that a lot of people who used to scour flea markets probably just go to Wal-Mart nowadays. Which also means that people who want to get rid of their old computers probably just throw them away.


I think we're always going to see a market for random personal electronics. Tech refreshes seem to be pretty well entrenched into the consumer/production cycle. At least until we reach a point where all electronics are locked down into some form of single-user non-transferable license (gods preserve us if that day comes).

I agree with everyone who says that read-only physical media will go away. Writable Physical storage media on the other hand will still stick around. I expect to see people with buckets of memory cards that are just slightly too small to be useful but cheap and plentiful enough to not want to toss out (think finding a box of one-gig memory cards today). I know I've managed to collect probably a dozen without even really trying.

We've got emulators down pretty well for older tech but current gen-tech still seems elusive so I think we'll still see stuff like second-hand PS3's floating around pretty heavily.


"Peak Windows": 2016?


An item I have not yet seen mentioned, which I think will show up in 10-20 years: 3D-TVs. It's a dead-end technology. Picture quality isn't so great (half the colours only), extra glasses are cumbersome, and what does it really add to the viewing experience? Most movies just look plain better in 2D, because it's so much easier to make them. I believe it's a short-lived fad.

Obviously PS3s/Xbox360 as soon as the next generation arrives. And a lot more games than right now, because gaming has gone mainstream.


But read-only artifacts are very fault tolerant and do not require power. I would love to have smart walls and surfaces*, but I require some degree of fault tolerance and convenient energy footprint. I replaced my bluetooth mouse because I was fed up with having to recharge it.

and I have an ereader that I am in love with, but I still keep physical books. So, other people like me might be discarding books that aren't rare or beautiful. or easily available at a library.

*for example, it would be cool if I could sit down at a table then something I wear or have will activate the surface as my display and touch screen. I wouldn't need to carry around bulky netbooks. hmm, or maybe I would since looking down is not ergonomic for some tasks and maybe there wouldn't be a handy wall or tilted surface near by. hah, it could be like airports where people congregate near power outlets, except for ergonomic geometry. business travelers here, readers there...


I think electrical items may fade from car boots. The electrical's one carries around now (phone, mp3, satnav) are so cheap that buying an out of date one won't be competitive.

In both 2016 and 2021 I'd expect to see DVDs. People assemble huge collections and selling them off for a couple of quid each can make a bit of money. Whilst downloading is very popular I doubt it will stop DVD sales by 2016, by 2021 though perhaps we will have replaced DVDs but we still have VHS hanging around now so...

Books might make a big rise as novelties. Perhaps not by 2016 but by 2021 kindle et al could have a much more massive market share over books.


Loads and loads of Apple product. But that's probably just my wishful thinking, hoping that they fall out of favor soon.

That's as likely as "loads and loads of Microsoft product ... hoping they fall out of favor soon".

(IOW, you'll get the first part of your wish, but not the second. There's already loads of MS product at car boot sales! But it's not because they've fallen out of favour; rather, folks tend to upgrade their PCs eventually. Given Apple's surge in sales over the past few years, there's enough of the stuff out there to be visible at car boot sales in 5-10 years time.)

Game consoles, when all gaming moves to the cloud (I mean the actual frame rendering).

Game consoles (including XBox360s) were visible at the boot sale yesterday. But gaming isn't going to move to the cloud until we've got the broadband capacity to deliver those fully-rendered frames to the user in real time with full quality of service. This is a much harder problem than serving HD movies on demand, because if you're a cableco you can cache VOD content near the edge of the network, even in kerbside boxes at street level -- multiple folks will watch the same programming. But game frames are almost guaranteed to be unique to each viewer; caching doesn't work.

So you have to upgrade the backhaul (or run game servers on kerbside boxes on every street and hope nobody works out how to hack them). The telcos will not be enthusiastic about installing an extra order of magnitude more bandwidth just to satisfy the games industry -- it's not as if the gamers will pay for it.

As the alternative model for monetizing games is to give them away for free and sell advertising, and widespread copying is an asset in this scenario, that would appear to be the cheap answer to the problem.


I don't know if you remember a con in Edinburgh, in I think in 99. We met and you were playing with, again i think, a psion 5 which either had just been released, or had been announced and you were reviewing it.

I was amazed at its capabilities, I still think its one of the best designs ever.

The other thing I remember from that con was being surprised to discover that you had actually written some fiction and you gave me a ftp access. I had known you were writer, I read your column's when I could afford to, but not a writer of fiction.


within 10 years cancer will be beaten for good and our vision of health will change

I hope that's not a prediction; because if so, it's wildly optimistic.

(For purely personal reasons -- too damn much cancer in my immediate family -- I wish it wasn't. But cancer isn't so much a disease as a label we apply to the common symptom of about five different general families of cellular malfunction, with hundreds of sub-types. We're going to be much better at treating cancer in ten years, but "beaten for good" may not happen within my lifetime.)

Paintings, photos, etc are already ubiquitous at car boot sales, but they're not going to be obsolete for the simple reason that they're aesthetic craft objects: cinema didn't make theatre obsolete, TV hasn't killed cinema, and so on.


planned obsolescence may run into euro and and especially British law. In europe an item is expected to have a serviceable lifetime. An iphone 3gs might be out of its 1 year warranty but you can still take it back to the retailer and demand a repair or refund based (with allowances for wear and tear) the retailer then does the same to the manufacturer.

how does apple like the idea of paying out say 30% of the retail cost of an iphone to its resellers for each of its phones it not built properly?

An additional euro cost that is winging its way towards manufactures who wish to trade in europe is recycling costs. They have to be able to show that item can be taken apart and recycled. This is leading towards cradle to cradle recycling.

What this btw might mean for boot sales is that: if an enhanced weee directive comes in; and it becomes harder to simply dispose of your old higher value items; then these items might start showing up on freecycle and boot sales. Where the trickle down costs of getting rid of the items will have to be born by those least able to pay.

A sort of Reaganomics of recycling

Game consoles (including XBox360s) were visible at the boot sale yesterday. But gaming isn't going to move to the cloud until we've got the broadband capacity to deliver those fully-rendered frames to the user in real time with full quality of service. This is a much harder problem

You also need to get those frames back to the gamer in near zero time, and that is going to be really, really hard. World of Warcraft works because it splits the workload between the client machines and the servers - the clients predict what is going to happen when an avatar aims a blow (for example), but the server has to adjudicate (to stop clients that have either been interfered with, or that just don't have fully up-to-date info) whether it does actually land.

WoW still works as a game pretty well with a lag of 150+ milliseconds. But your gamer is really not going to accept that much extra lag in the generation of rendered frames.


really annoyed that I couldn't come for queens day (to avoid British royalty day) but Britain refuses to sign shenigen which means I must find my pisspot to leave. besides I running low on chip sause and ack you have them on bread, their made from chocolate and i buy the good stuff from albert heijn, and apparently i'm low on borrel-nuts. Also I can swap my crates of club-mate for full ones. completely off the point I know but...


Car tyres. If gas-driven cars are still common by then, most people will want lighter tyres that are more energy efficient.

Half-built diy 3d-printers that got out of date before they were finished and unopened kits for the same.

All kinds of monitors as goggle/contactlens huds will be common and projectors will be used at home.


the price of oil afaik has stayed pretty much in lock step with general prices over the years. oil price goes up, inflation goes up.

Also remember that in the UK I am paying 1.42 a litre for diesel, so crudely speaking that's about $8.50 a gallon. But when i first bought my car I was paying $4.25 back when oil was $30 a barrel. Our societies ability to survive high commodity prices can be quite good. Our ability to survive poor governance less so.


Wii Fit balance boards & controllers and Guitar Hero guitars.


Personally I think in the next few years there are going to be loads of CDs in car boot sales. Most likely due to a new and improved format emerging that trounces the old compact disk.

Maybe World Of Warcraft accounts? A new game comes out that beats the bajeezus out of the aging and creaking warhorse. Players in their droves attempt to sell their accounts, complete with items, gold and guild memberships. (Just as an aside, I sold my old EverQuest account on ebay a few years ago. I got a grand sum of £35 for it....)

Harlan Ellison books. Upon the death of the grand old man, The Last Dangerous Vision gets released. Interest in his work peaks for a year or so and then wanes leaving a dearth of first editions being sold in car boot sales. Great for me as a collector. :D


KItchen gear -- the current fad for elaborate home cooking will alas run its course in a few years.

Game consoles -- the game industry folks I've talked to pretty much all agree that the free-standing console as a concept doesn't have more than another six or seven years in it.

Hardcover fiction -- it wouldn't be a large public sale without crates of hardcover fiction priced at "all you can carry for $4", of course, but moreover on current trajectory that's also the market that ebooks are going to stomp first. In ten years they'll be making bookshelves that don't even fit hardcovers.

CDs, DVDs, BluRRys -- by the hundreds, by the thousands. And priced dirt cheap with nobody buying them, either.

Old Luggage -- changes in airline baggage policy are drastically changing the size and shape of luggage that make sense. Anything larger than a maximum-permitted-carryon is going to be yard-sale fodder.

The old laptops will still be around. I'll disagree with the crowd about old LCDs -- I suspect many people will run them until they fail. It's possible that 3D printing will flood the market for small, unidentifiable knickknacks (is that a souvenir? or possibly some sort of candle holder?).

changes in airline baggage policy are drastically changing the size and shape of luggage that make sense. Anything larger than a maximum-permitted-carryon is going to be yard-sale fodder

We'll buy them

(We use trains. And cars. And ferries. And almost anything but planes, due to security theatre.)


I suspect that the age at which computers are seen as yard-sale material will continue to lessen, not necessarily because the rate of improvement is accelerating but because of planned obsolescence. In 2006 multi-core 64bit systems were on the consumer market; it's not as though that is to blame for the stuff being sold being limited to stuff prior to the P4 (which is fairly arbitrary -- first generation P4s are slower than the P3s that were being manufactured at the same time, for reasons that belong in another thread). But, in 2006 the P4 was seen as a decent machine still, while the P3 largely was not. Today, anything with a single core is considered to be underpowered (regardless of any actual benchmark -- this is purely cultural and, I imagine, based on marketing). So, in 2026, I'd expect to see a lot of machines manufactured in 2024 or 2025 being sold at low prices because their owners are convinced that they are useless.

If consumer 3d printing becomes big (which I'm not convinced of -- there will be some degree of resistance from industry, current 3d printers are fairly flaky, and the people who are excited about 3d printers now are the same kind of people who were excited about 'linux on the desktop' in 2001), there may be a lot more of the DIY odds and ends, some of it merely faulty (somebody printed out the wrong part or mis-printed the right part, or printed a part they downloaded that was faulty) and some of it things from the consumer-plastics era that will look a little strange because designs will have changed due to very different market pressures (if you are printing a single part as a homeowner, you aren't nearly as concerned about optimal material use as a company that puts out billions of them and wants to save a penny on each).

I suspect that a lot of mp3 players will be there in 2026. Those iPod-type devices (both real iPods and clones) that still function or sort-of-function will rapidly be hitting the point wherein they are seen as too slow or too bulky or having not enough space. Again, I don't think this will be because people's music collections will grow -- I think there will be a shift into putting things that take up more space onto players, which will increase the demand for players with more space. We've seen this already with mp3 players that play video.

I don't know if this is true of car boot sales, but (although a better US analog is the yard sale) the analog of the flea market indicates that there are other processes that cause anachronistic shifts in merchandise. In flea markets, there are people who buy out and sell whole estates (which, although fairly hit or miss, nearly guarantees that you won't go broke entirely since no auction value for an estate approaches the full value of each individual item). This means that every once in a while you'll get a blast from the past: the estate from a guy who died in the early nineties gets sold and his complete collection of Playboy from the 1960-1970s has to be sold off. I'm not sure how much the analogous situation (a death in the family followed by the redistribution of the deceased's material possessions) affects the stuff being sold in this kind of situation.


katzke: Your iphone collapsing into junk at the end of it's cycle isn't "planned obsolescence". That's just "selling junk".

Planned obsolescence is when the specs of your product are cycled, lacking an upgrade path so you're under pressure from the design to buy a new version even though the old version functions perfectly well.

What you're talking about is the "GM" strategy for car sales -- the cars weren't "obsolete" after two years, they were just poorly designed junk that collapsed on you after two years. In that case, the market corrected by eventually collapsing the US car production industry.

Smart phones may be different, given that smartphones are to a larger degree than automobiles purely status symbols with fairly little practical value; for a small part of the population exceptions exist, but most of us don't need to be fully networked except as a social status symbol that we are economically capable of it. So selling garbage for exorbitant prices may actually work with the market -- by buying a piece of junk that must be replaced after two years because it is no longer functional (even though it is in fact NOT obsolete), you are definitely signalling higher status economically versus someone who'd search for a product with a longer lifespan for the same price.

That may also explain GM's economic trajectory, from the 50s and 60s were cars were still primarily status symbols, to the 80s and 90s when they became economically necessary across a large swathe of the world.


I'm very surprised that so many commentators think books and CDs/DVDs will appear by the bucket loads as a result of electronic replacements.

I would have thought the reverse. If people do switch away from physical media, there will be a better market through the used stores, and so these items will not be sold via the flea market/garage sale approach as they are more valuable to the dealers.

If you rip your CDs and DVDs, not only should you need them to prove legality, but they are pretty compact storage to ensure that the ripped ones do not get lost due to decay (assuming you store them properly).

In the US, the drive to DRM and insert advertising into everything is so strong that I think that eventually any electronic media will have intrusive advertising and that without unpolluted physical media, it will become harder to have unrestricted, transferable collections of books, music and movies.


...a Psion Series 5 PDA, almost spotless, in its original packaging, with manual...It cost me the price of a new trade paperback and I think I shall install Linux on it, just because I can.

Amazing find, in the original packaging! And Linux, just because you can...

I've been doing similar with every second-hand computing device that falls into my grasp. Mostly old desktops and laptops, though.

I suspect in 10 years, I'll have a couple of extra (yard-sale or Craig's List) tablet PCs which will be rooted/updated/customized for my purposes.

My own observation (on 'yard-sales' or 'garage-sales', as they are done on this side of The Pond) is that one-generation-out-of-date electronics tend to show up on Craig's List and eBay, and two-generations-out-of-date electronics tend to show up in yard-sales.

Currently, bread-machines have passed their peak as yard-sale items. About 10 years ago, they were a hot fad. Within a couple of years, I could predictably find working bread machines for $10 at yard sales. (Made one portion of my college-student food-budget very cheap. The machine was cheap, flour and sugar sold at rates that make ingredients for 5-10 loaves roughly the cost of 1 loaf from the same store. The other sundries of ingredients were effectively once-a-year purchases, or were multi-use items like butter. Sandwiches for lunch every day was much cheaper than buying cafeteria food...the only downside was a cumulative hour-a-week of labor for managing the bread-making and sandwich-making.)

I wonder if home-beer-brewing kits will run through the same cycle. (Now, there's an idea for a resourceful college student...)

Beyond that, I don't have many predictions. Possibly a large number of scan/fax accessories for computers will be yard-sale ready in 2016. Maybe even the first generation of print/scan/fax machines. As others have said, probably a number of first-generation 3D printers.


Actually, I'm willing to bet the opposite, that we'll see more local, physical storage.

Why? It's the same reason everyone hates freeways and airports. They were convenient until everybody started using them. Now they're expensive choke-points and people find alternatives as often as they can.

I'm just old enough to have used a dumb terminal to access a mainframe. To me, the cloud looks very familiar, and very old-fashioned.

There's a maximum capacity to "cloud" storage, and it's governed by energy. The server farms that run the cloud draw the energy of a fair-sized city, and keeping them powered up isn't easy. Google's already in the solar research business, and I'm sure others aren't pursuing similar ideas. Other companies put their server farms right next to hydroelectric plants, and Iceland was talking about using geothermal power, as if we wanted to store precious data on top of an unstable volcanic hotspot.

We already saw a number of services go off-line last week when Amazon's storage facility crashed. This will become routine within the next 10 years.

The internet is merely retracing the evolution of the automobile road system, just faster. Roads were horrible in the first few decades of the 20th Century and became incredibly useful after WWII. By 1955, LA had sig alerts, and the traffic jam has now become a world-wide phenomenon.

I predict the internet will do the same thing, especially once Moore's Law fails.

The net result is that devices that require "non-physical" storage will show up in boot sales, if they aren't just recycled for their lithium batteries and indium screens.


Most computers these days are powerful enough for most people. A new machine today will probably still be in use by its original owner in five years, or perhaps a junior member of that person's family. Netbooks will be one notable exception to that rule; if their flimsy plastics survive the next five years, they'll be stacked like cordwood (some clever young person will go around snapping up old Eee PCs to wire them together into the world's most adorable Beowulf cluster). If there's some interesting new capability that today's computers can't support, all bets are off.

Smartphones are undergoing a very fast maturation process right now, and people are going to pass them along to their nephews more quickly, who in turn will outgrow them quickly, so in five years I expect to see plenty of iPhones and Androids.

CRTs will be almost impossible to get rid of—very few people will buy them, and people may even be obliged to pay to get rid of them.


I agree with your point about local storage. You appear to be saying that local physical storage will mean more items that eventually end up in the various markets, rather than the mechanism of rapid obsolescence of the media. I think I would agree with that. We'll know too within 10 years, as your prediction implies a steady or growing supply, whilst the obsolescence model indicates a pulse of supply that will decline.


Just thought of lighting fixtures; I expect the standard incandescent fixtures are going to be getting replaced by LED/CF/Other purpose built units that aren't backwards compatible. So the old stuff will end up on sale for cheap.


Personally I think that we'll see the paperless office about the same time as the paperless toilet. Filing just doesn't stop. My own job experimented with archiving files to read-only media to get around the legal requirements for retaining records in an unchangeable format but had to retain paper as well.

Stuff in boot sales? Look in your pocket, on your desk and in your carry bag/briefcase. Look in your living room and home office. It will all end up in a sale one day soon.

I suspect that a lot of mp3 players will be there in 2026. Those iPod-type devices (both real iPods and clones) that still function or sort-of-function will rapidly be hitting the point wherein they are seen as too slow or too bulky or having not enough space.

There's that and the fact that once the novelty of carrying ten! thousand! hits! around wears off, you notice that, well, all your favorite sounds just don't sound that good. I understand that this is partly a mixing choice at the studio, but that's also because the mp3 format just isn't that good.

There was actually a weekend segment on this one on our local NPR affiliate not too many months ago, possibly on "All Things Considered".


MP3 at 64kbps sounds crap -- fm radio grade. At 128kbps it's a bit like FM radio: still crap. At 360kbps VBR it's a whole lot better. And then there are alternatives like AAC or lossless formats like FLAC.

Given that a CD is around 0.5Gb, a hard disk iPod today can hold about 3000-4000 tracks with lossless (CD quality) rips. We should be there with solid state iPods within another 18-36 months. Mushrooming storage obviates the need for crap codecs, in other words.

On the other hand, studios mixing for loudness is a pernicious disease of the modern recording industry. But it's one that can be corrected: sooner or later I expect music to be distributed as raw recordings with the studio mix as metadata to modulate/edit the recordings. It'll take up w-a-y more space, but think of the remix opportunities ... this won't come from the big music studios, but there are already some signs of bands and indies doing this sort of thing (distributing raw recordings for the fans to remix).


I have not filled out a paper form in the office in ... hm, at least five years. (I may have signed something from HR when I transferred between departments.)

All my tax and benefit stuff is done online; even all of the NDAs I have to sign (after the first one, as part of joining the company) have been online. When I get new equipment, I don't physically sign for it -- I just click a link in email saying that, yes, I received it.

Heck, even the package delivery has now moved over to having me write my signature (using a finger) on an iPad.

There's still lots of paper being used, don't get me wrong. But mostly what I use paper for these days is printing out directions, or for trying to draw out code and data paths.


8 and 16 terabyte external drives. The cloud has gotten reliable enough that nobody bothers with backups locally any more (nor will they until the cloud-provider EMP wars start a few years later :)


Huh. Considering how much equipment is just junked or left in a closet, destined for a boot sale, I'd imagine the flea markets of the future would have piles and piles of perfectly good, respectably powered (or at least very numerous) devices that could serve as the basis for a number of things.

Lots of unemployed techs with time on their hands could lead to some very interesting developments.


"Peak Windows" -- with any luck they will continue to misfire with their Win7 phone and Win8 tablet efforts.

With the shift to mobile a good percentage could drop their home PC's for smartphone/tablets, so there could be a bump of unwanted PC's hitting the resale market. That would be short term during the next 4-5 years.

Longer term I see the smartphone form factor gutting the dinosaur PC form factor. Though many will point to editing, gaming, etc as reasons to keep the PC.. we are very early in the evolution of these mobile platforms. Another 2-3 years and with a docking station and say Thunderbolt external storage (or even video/keyboard/etc over this link) we're talking everything you currently do with that giant power sucking tower. Without Windoze if we get lucky...

The "App" market is another area where Windows doesn't compete yet, and the price points are disruptive to the Redmond company even if they do eventually. Maybe all those DVD's of Word/Excel/PPT will hit the resale market as a $2.00 app replaces them (or cloud apps replace them)

So yes this could be the "Peak Windows" end-times. Its certainly past time for the Win-tel hegemony of forced mediocrity (hardware and software both) to end. Innovation and creativity have been crushed long enough. Its time to see other ideas and approaches tried in the market.

That said there should be a counterweight to the Apple juggernaut, hopefully Android continues to be one. Gonna be a lot of tablet attempts hit the resale market as Apple competitors try to hit gold..

I'm almost tempted by the Nook's price point and Android support (easy to root also). But another HW cycle needs to pass before out-of-box functionality is better than playing with Linux on it..


I think we will see little or nothing in the way of cultural output, i.e., books, movies, music, etc. no matter the format.

First of course is the ever-growing digital trend. Second, the piracy gestapo continue to push back the edge of what, in the U.S. at least, is considered the "first sale" doctrine. I envision enforcers with baseball bats court orders showing up to boot sales and shutting them down, or shotgunning "pre-settlement" letters to the buyers and sellers at these events a la RIAA, hipster trend-setters that they were in this arena.


Tube TVs will be gone: no digital signal in the UK. Local car boots have had a major boost in small portables in the last few weeks now they need an addon digibox to show anything.

..and old games consoles may be a problem when there's no cheap legacy hardware to display them on.

But I'm a fan of Mysterious Old Scientific Junk myself, and I hope to see more in coming years. Though the percentage with bakelite knobs will certainly decrease, I have great hopes that the items will get ever more mysterious. (more mysterious than, say, butter moisture testers, spectroscopes, pyrometers, 1940s era pH meters....)


There'll be lots and lots of e-readers. You don't really think that the ones you have now won't be obsolete by then, do you?

Once again those with techie tendencies (almost everyone, these days) has been lured onto the consumer escalator. We've seen it with music - vinyl/cassette/8-track/cd/download, with film - 16mm/video/dvd, we've seen it with mobiles, with computers. It's how tech companies stay alive.

Every time we're told it's the bees-knees, the latest must-have - until the next one. And do you think that the wonderful, shiny, all new readers with lots of added features will be compatible with the e-books you download now? Yeah. Sure. 'Course they will. After all, why would they want you to spend more money?

Glad I've got bookshelves full of books - which I'm not going to get rid of.

  • Google Phones and Tablets, once everyone finally realizes that, "Hey, privacy is kinda important" after an enraged mob descended on the Google compound in '13 and razed it to the ground.
  • "Royal Wedding" Collectable USB Drives and Prince William Divorce Dart-Boards
  • Home-Printed E-Readers with 3 days of usage left.
  • Sara Palin bobble-heads and Obama-Ears
  • Marty McFly's "Back to the Future II" self-adjusting Jackets and Sneakers (cheap knock-offs manufactured by Alabaman refugees in Old/New/Old Detroit.)
  • Re-Manufactered 'lectric Car-Cell battries.
  • "Dead Terrorist Day" Ben-Ladin pinatas.
  • 89:

    There are several categories of artifacts one finds at car boot sales (the US equivalent is "garage sales," held at people's homes rather than parking lots):

    • Clothes that are several years out of style. Styles seem to be changing slower nowadays, so I don't think we're seeing much of that recently, nor will we in the next 10 years.

    • Personal items that, for whatever reason, aren't useful any more or don't have a personal connection with the owner. This can include clothes for children who have outgrown them, cheaply made and cheaply priced furniture, souvenirs that have lost their emotional value.

    • Obsolete personal technology that's about 7 years out of date.

    As for the last category, another way to phrase your question is: What was hot three years ago (that's what we'll see at boot sales in 2016). What WILL be hot in three years (that's what we'll see in 2021):

    • For the boot sales in 2016, we can expect to see iPhone 3G and original iPhones, maybe a couple of first-gen Android phones, netbooks (netbooks seem to have turned out to be a fad -- people want a larger screen size and they'll pay, say, US$700 for it rather than US$500 or less for units that are too big to fit in a pocket and too small to be REALLY useful as standalone notebooks), various other notebook computers and desktops that were hot three years ago. We'll see a couple of first-generation MacBook Airs, and we'll marvel about how expensive they were when new, how cheap they are now.

    • For the boot sales in 2021, I think desktops will be pretty rare. They're dying out, being replaced by notebook computers. Over the course of the early part of the decade, we'll see spinning disks in notebooks replaced by Flash memory, so that'll make it even harder to sell the older notebooks. Every boot sale will have a plethora of smartphones and dumbphones, sold for dirt cheap, maybe by weight or multiple phones for a few pounds sterling (as an American I don't know how to make that currency mark on my keyboard - I expect it's above the 4 on yours, Charlie).

    I don't expect we'll see anything in the boot sales of 2021 that a time traveler from 2011 would find miraculous -- although we WOULD see miraculous things sold new at retail. Bill Gates called it: We overestimate what's possible in five years, and underestimate what's possible in 10. So, in five years, computer technology will be recognizably related to today's, only somewhat smaller and faster and in some cases less expensive (though not in all cases -- sometimes devices don't get less expensive, they just get more powerful). And the garage-sale tech of 10 yars out will be the same as the new tech five years (or so) out.

    However, in 10 years, the new things will be REALLY different.


    MP3 at 64kbps sounds crap -- fm radio grade. At 128kbps it's a bit like FM radio: still crap. At 360kbps VBR it's a whole lot better. And then there are alternatives like AAC or lossless formats like FLAC.

    Given that a CD is around 0.5Gb, a hard disk iPod today can hold about 3000-4000 tracks with lossless (CD quality) rips. We should be there with solid state iPods within another 18-36 months. Mushrooming storage obviates the need for crap codecs, in other words.

    Yes, but mushrooming computational power obviates the need for huge storage, if the combination of a high-fidelity model and its input is much more compact than the resulting output. Slightly off-topic, since this wouldn't be at car boot sales, but I wouldn't be totally surprised if by 2021 state of the art in high-fidelity audio would be less like FLAC and more like MIDI, with a file including a physical model of the singer(s)/instrument(s) and venue in question --determined from the actual recording (with 100's or 1000's of channels) using mathematical inverse methods-- along with the stimuli (cross-referenced with motion capture) that cause that model to produce the recorded sound. The same methods would be useful for remastering old recordings. Whether studios would actually release such models to the public is a different question.

    This is only part speculation: mixed numerical-experimental methods, relying on increasingly sophisticated --often physics-based-- simulations and mathematical methods, are increasingly replacing pure measurements in all sorts of fields.


    2016: A bucket full of USB flash drives, marked 3 for $1 (from 256Gb to 2Tb).

    a glut of DVDs, some cheep blue ray discs.

    2021: The dregs of Blue ray discs.

    external hard drives ranging from 2-10Tb.


    it would have to be items that have recently had a paradigm shift in design - but that arent utterly useless ( like CRTs)

    anything that has just upgraded an integer ipad. iphone etc theres a newer one out, the ottaku dont want the old one

    just came back from Edinburgh- now a whisky drinker.. damn those alcohol pushing scots bar-folk!


    I forgot about one big category for garage sales: Media. In any garage sale since 1950, you'd see audio media, starting with records, then adding cassettes, 8-tracks, and CDs. Starting 1980, you'd see video: Beta briefly, then VHS, then DVD and Blu-Ray.

    Before 1920-1950 or so, all you'd have is books ... and by 2021, we'll once again be back to only paper books. Physical media is fading away, replaced by downloadable media, and maybe by 2016 and definitely by 2021, all the physical media, even CDs and Blu-Ray DVDs, will have passed through the garage sale pipeline.

    Paper books, on the other hand, are going to hang on for at least a generation -- and maybe forever. Pretty much all my reading is electronic these days. I stopped reading newspapers and magazines years ago and the iPad, a year ago, pretty much killed off my reading paper books. But that's not gong to be true for a lot of people.


    The best way to predict the weather tomorrow is to say it will be like today.

    That is HIGHLY dependent on where you live. I'd say it's only a 50/50 rule for where I live. if that.


    OK, OK. I know this is like saying nothing will ever replace a good horse. But books will here forever. You can sit how you want to, the pages are often bigger they don't need power and you can sit on or drop them. Or burn them for heat. Newer is not always better, no matter what the paid buzz says.


    I don't think this cloud-storage nonsense is going to catch on.

    Somebody upthread mentioned how it's just the old mainframe/dumb-terminal paradigm, updated. More recently, here in the U.S., there was a mania in corporate IT shops for locked-down desktops (essentially, dumb terminals implemented on budget PCs) that kept all their apps and data on the corporate servers where the IT gurus could "manage them properly." That mostly failed due to inflexibility and the fact that users purely hated it.

    Cloud storage is proving to have enormous issues with data privacy and security, not to mention that you're trusting somebody's corporate infrastructure with your precious data, which they might just decide to kill/dump/eat. (See, e.g., people who keep getting their Flickr/Facebook accounts deleted or locked without recourse.) Yes, there are technical and legal approaches to solving these problems, but why bother? As storage costs continue to plummet, it's probably easier just to store all of your data on all of your devices and let them all sync with each other silently in the background when you and your devices are in range of your home wifi network.

    For as long as people have been using "free" blogging services, I've been preaching the gospel that "anything worth doing on the internet is worth doing on your own server that you control." (I include in that maxim the use of commodity rented servers managed by others, for the non-techie among us; as long as you've got your backups, you can hop from one to another with ease.)

    Social networking sites have put a huge dent in my maxim because nobody has come up with a good distributed protocol (yet). But cloud storage doesn't strike me as offering enough benefits (ease of data sharing, everything available on every device, etc) to outweigh the risks of having your data out there and vulnerable to corporate whim and silent subpoenas.

    But, that said, I don't think the cloud storage fad is close to peaking in the next couple of years. So I think there will be a ton of devices showing up at boot sales eventually that look useful, but in fact are worthless without access to the proprietary cloud storage services they were designed around, which no longer will exist.


    30 years or so ago, a up the road Federal Weather Man said that weather in a 40 mile radius of where I live is the hardest place in the States to predict the weather. And tomorrow is likely to be like today. Likely, there may be anything, but we know what may be coming in a day. Usually.


    Well it took me a few minutes to figure out you were not selling a device to immobilize a car.

    As to EU implied warranties, who decides the useful life. Cars with timing belts really need to have them replaced at about 100,000 miles or you run the risk of cratering the engine. Did the EU decide that 100,000 miles is OK for a car engine but 2 or 3 years not OK for a smart phone?

    I was at the local ham radio swap meet a week ago. I'm 56 and I swear I dropped the average age by a year or two when I walked in. Basically these have been running for decades all over the US and about 20 years ago morphed from almost all radio gear to about 70/30 computer/radio. But I suspect they will die off soon as the hams all age out and die. What I saw there was a LOT of 5 to 10 year old computer gear going for 5% or less of retail when new. Some folks had out signs that said "make an offer, we'll take it".

    Anyway, I guess you're asking what will be the fondue set of the next decade or two.

    Gas lawn mowers and other 2 cycle gas yard devices. I suspect they will go out of favor or illegal except for the higher end where you are basically buying low end farm equipment. I was told a few years ago that consumer 2 cycle stuff was designed to work for 50 starts. Which if you think about it is 2 to 4 years for the average consumer. And since these things cost 1/3 of what they did 10 years ago you're paying the same per year. But by 2021 I suspect that most gas yard stuff will be outlawed or the rules will be such that it no longer makes sense to build it.

    Wallwart power that doesn't auto turn on and off depending on if there's a load.

    Socket and wrenches as it may be illegal to do much work on your automobile. And if we've moved to mostly electric or hybrid most of us will be unable to work on the stuff.

    Copper plumbing tools. But this might happen in 5 years. PEX is taking over for the good.

    Large vacuum cleaners as Rumba and it's kin take over.

    Water sprinklers that spray into the air as water becomes too expensive to waste so much to evaporation.

    12 volt cigarette lighter power plugs as cars will switch over to USB power and likely 48 volt or similar for internal wiring. 10 years ago I was told this would be common by now by an automotive engineer but he obviously didn't understand the inertia of the market place. But it seems more and more likely at some point in the not too distant future. 12 volts as a car standard requires a huge amount of copper for all the lights and dodads on a car these days. This incurs both a cost and weight penalty.

    Thunderbolt cables. We'll have moved on to whatever is new about then. VGA has had a 25 year run but is finally dieing of old age. Who here doesn't have a pile of VGA cables lying about.


    "Rare earths be damned."

    With Nd metal at around $300/kg wholesale, and rising, that is a big mistake. On the downside, I have 9kg of 99.9% pure Nd if someone wants to make me a reasonable offer.


    Uh, why?


    Interesting thing about computers, of the PC variety. In the early days it was cheaper to put your own together. Then Dell etc arrived and it was cheaper to buy a complete unit. Sometime over the past few years it has reverted back to the former situation again. I always put my own together. Most notably, I make sure it has a good PSU rather than the crap shipped by box shifters.


    Charlie, take a look at this:

    "In the study, researchers found that MSNs circulate in the bloodstream for extended periods of time and accumulate predominantly in tumors. The tumor accumulation could be further improved by attaching a targeting moiety to MSNs, the researchers said.

    The treatment of mice with camptothecin-loaded MSNs led to shrinkage and regression of xenograft tumors. By the end of the treatment, the mice were essentially tumor free, and acute and long-term toxicity of MSNs to the mice was negligible. Mice with breast cancer were used in this study, but the researchers have recently obtained similar results using mice with human pancreatic cancer..."

    However, I am pessimistic about a cure for cancer within 10 years because even if it existed now it would not get past the testing and regulation stages to actual patients within that period. BTW, I think cancer will be "cured" by brute force nanotech like the above, not by understanding the deep mechanisms and devising incredibly clever bio interventions.


    Why do I have 9kg of Nd, or why do I want to sell it? Anyway, the latter question has an obvious answer. As for the former, my hobby used to be weird science projects. Needless to say, it never flew:-( Ditto my attempted replication of the Woodward Drive that featured in the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Project. Somewhere I have a slab of Barium Titanate and a rod of Terfenol-D...


    Why would you have it?

    Have you tried craigslist? :)


    It is a mistake to think of an ebook as a replacement for a book. Obviously a book has many advantages.

    I have a Pandigital Novel that is augmented with a 32 GB SDHC flash card and has had its internal 1 GB microSD card replaced with an 8 GB unit. I have something like 250 books on it and will have more than a thousand soon enough. It is not an ebook, it is an elibrary. Its main weakness is the fact that the software can't conveniently organize that many books for easy access.

    I would also like to move up to something with a 10 inch screen to make it easier to read the scanned books I download from Google books.

    I think most ereaders will die before they end up in garage sales.


    I don't think the PC is obsolete for 2 reasons: 1-Monitors if you have a couple of big-ass monitors(like me), they are stationary anyway so having a PC is no drag. 2-Dust after 6 months my laptop had so much dust buildup inside that it was significantly slowed and almost all laptops are a total bitch to clean, you have to pretty much disassemble them. With an PC, you just pop off the side cover, blow some air and you're good. Tablets are sealed,but that's because they can get away with it due to low power consumption, but any device with an air intake suffers from this issue.


    I a little surprised no-one has mentioned electric bikes. After 5-10 years you can't get new batteries any more, but you still have a good electric bike. Sure, it cost $2000 and it's going to fetch $100 at the car boot sale, but that beats nothing (and it's too good to throw out). These days you see manual bicycles at every sale, and I don't think that will change. But electric bicycles are still at the level of "a good tinkerer can fix that", even if it just means converting a complex power-boosting controller to a simple throttle or switch, it's do-able. And as carbon-based fuels get more expensive, the attraction of 400WH per 50 km round trip is only going to increase. So yes, more electric bicycles.


    Like I said books will be here forever. But not the paper or binding they use now. I still read old brown SF books. But the pages of my (the non neo-con ones I can stand) Baen books fall out. The paper is still white but..


    If cancer beaten the US's FDA will test it for 10 years before it's tested on humans. Penicillin kills apes. It would never get to humans today over here.


    If only I had access to a car. I've been putting off Ebaying several redundant items myself. Not least, a load of Amiga gear, games, A500 expanded to 1 MB and an A1200.

    Anyway, Future boot sales. I expect. Digital cameras, DVD players, DVD media, MP3 players Apple or otherwise, supercieded tablet devices, novelty electronic toys, celdom used or boxed kitchen ware. (Don't see that changing in the near future.) In fact, a lot of similar items we see today. Outgrown kids stuff. Hard copy books and so on.


    If centrally-managed data in big organisations was a fad, it's been a long-lived fad. Office desktops are seriously locked-down because users are not technically ept about keeping them working, securing data from outside intrusion, making backups etc. whereas the folks in the aircon room are, theoretically, capable of keeping the office running by doing all the shit (and not doing some of the stupid shit) the users don't need to.

    I've worked the pointy end of IT support and faced situations such as dealing with a user who broke the rules, kept vital data on their take-home laptop and then when the HD failed demanded we somehow pull a miracle out of our butts and restore the data he deliberately kept out of the office backup cycle. Unfortunately for us said idiot was from Mahogany Row and we had to put up with his wittering about this for months rather than pointing him at his line manager for re-education.

    I'm amused that you start the next paragraph by saying cloud computing is insecure and finish it by describing your future view of personal devices syncing via wireless connection, probably the most insecure method of transferring data since the invention of billboards and megaphones.

    It's easy to secure your own data before you feed it into a cloud by pre-encrypting it; I've not investigated it myself but I'd be amazed if there were not already programs and tools for end-users to easily achieve this already. Running code and producing results on a cloud is more difficult to do securely though.


    Likewise, except that mine is more like 8 years old. It does everything I need of it (telephone, occasional SMS, occasional record pics of things like vehicle crashes), and still has more or less the original battery life. I'm sure it "does" other stuff too, but since I don't even try and play games or web browse on sonething so clearly not designed for the task...


    I'm not so convinced about down-load video.

    Even so, I'd reckon on seeing digiboxes that don't have a built-in PVR, and maybe DVD players that don't upscale.


    "Content" of any kind. Why would you ever "throw out" MP3s in any visible way? You'd either delete them or just not listen to them.

    People with big storage already have the "weird crap in the attic" problem - I know someone who got into serious trouble with the law for just this reason. The police seized his computers for unrelated reasons (of which he was never charged) and then discovered something which hadn't been illegal when he acquired it, or last accessed it, but now very much is.

    In 2016, how many cars will have a large three box or 5-door hatch (i.e. much the same as most minivans/MPVs/SUVs except for scale) design? Seems to be a precondition of car-boot sales that auto styling has to provide for a big car boot.

    A lot of people have a weird attitude to value when it comes to electronics. Yes, why not dig out that last-chicken-in-the-shop 17" "laptop" you bought in 2004 that was so shit even then PC World gave you a WLAN dongle (yes) out of pity, barely-running unpatched pre-SP2 Windows XP, because "you wanted one to use in the living room - you know, while watching TV" and save a whole hundred pounds? I mean, the battery has been fried for years so you can't go more than three feet from a power socket, it runs so hot you can't put it on your lap, and it weighs more than the desktop PC upstairs. But it's not you who's going to fix the thing..


    I'm also not sure we'll see the complete disappearance of desktop computers in the home, in the near future. Perhaps once again, they'll become the preserve of geeks or hobbiests. People who like tinkering, replacing drives, having a large box you can physically get components in and out of. For my own part, I use an ATX formfactor PC for recording music on to. A DAW. Other music equipment is of the rackmount or desktop boxes with buttons and nobs on variety. So having another box, running very cool with sevarl fans and sitting on the desk I'd be using anyway as it also holds monitor speakers, not really a problem. And it makes upgrading components a lot easier. Mind you I tend to use things til they break or are so far behind the curve, they're rendered useless. Still have my old P4 tower PC for general use. Too slow to upgrade the Windows OS. Probably have a go with Ubuntu at some point before eventually retiring it. in the BladeRunner sense...


    On the other hand, studios mixing for loudness is a pernicious disease of the modern recording industry

    In the aftermath of the bursting of the telecom bubble, I found a year's employment working on embedded software in a high-end hi-fi manufacturer.

    It was interesting to discover that it's not as simple as "mixing for loudness". In reality, it used to be "mixing so that it sounds acceptable when played on the single two-inch speaker in a small portable FM radio", or these days "mixing so that it sounds good on a pair of MP3 headphones". This typically means boosting the bass somewhat.

    The company induction involved <1 day of procedures stuff, and then the remainder of the two days playing with company products - i.e. progressively more expensive kit, until the point where we had £100k of hi-fi in the demo room.

    It was heartbreaking to bring in my favourite tracks, to discover that it sounded like hissy rubbish when played through an "ultimate" hi-fi. A pox on recording studios, I tell you... the firm's approach to this was to create its own record label.

    One benefit was being actively encouraged to test the products while working on them. I was listening to stuff through (probably) the world's best CD player - at £25k a pop. The other benefit was, of course, staff discount at about 75% on the company products :)


    Given we could expect to see a flattening of the Moore's law curve at around 22nm and a lag before spintronics, or carbon nanotube transistors pick up the slack (in 3-D as single atom transistors are about as small as you can go..), we can expect a small/large collapse in the current electronics upgrade frenzy. The subsequent crash could send economies into tailspins as whats the point of buying the next better gadget when the hardware specs don't change?

    Or we could see more use of programmable logic, rather than "cast in stone" ASICs. Given that the respin price on a 28nm ASIC is running into eight figures, it's hard to spread the price across anything other than a mass-market product.

    You might see more like this; a 28nm dual-core ARM with surrounding programmable logic...

    So now, your "hardware specs" are increasingly written in software - the same physical platform can support different "circuitry". FPGAs are a common approach when tackling software-defined radio.


    Ooops, forgot about the XML. The hanging sentence above should read:

    The company induction involved "less than" 1 day of procedures stuff, and then the remainder of the two days playing with company products - i.e. progressively more expensive kit, until the point where we had £100k of hi-fi in the demo room.


    My company makes a media server and digital speakers (£5k each). And yes, 128k mp3 might sound OK on earbuds but is utter crap when played on a decent system. Even 256k you can still hear a significant difference. Currently the bane of my life is all the DRM shit associated with BluRay. The only people it seriously inconveniences are people with genuine discs that they want to put on their media server. So, what actually happens is that (allegedly!) our customers wait until the pirate version is available via torrent in .avi or .mkv and they save that version. Quite often it is difficult to tell the ripped from the original given a quality rip. It then follows that the habit they (allegedly) get into is not actually buying the BluRay disc at all.

    So, expect to see BluRay players at the sales.


    "Given that a CD is around 0.5Gb, a hard disk iPod today can hold about 3000-4000 tracks with lossless (CD quality) rips."

    But very few portable or car-based devices offer playback of anything encoded over 320k unless stored as a wave file. Many of the new portable radios and boomboxes that now offer USB playback don't support storage over 2GB (something buried at the bottom of the manual if acknowledged at all).


    The days when music has to be compressed are nearly over. It will not be long (2020?) before TB flash costs under a tenner. That's 2000 CDs worth


    "Maybe all those DVD's of Word/Excel/PPT will hit the resale market as a $2.00 app replaces them (or cloud apps replace them)"

    I will rely on cloud apps some years after I can reliably get telephone and wifi signal, or get SMS messages delivered reliably and in the order I sent them. Since that doesn't even work in the heart of a city like London today, I'm not rushing to replace anything.


    Not so sure about the Apple stuff. Isn't it all supposed to break after the warranty runs out. I realize this is true for other products as well but with the average laptop you can at least swap out the battery or some other little stuff. Last I checked, opening Apple product and tinkering by the user were a lot lower on Steve Jobs like-list than with other tech.

    I maybe wrong though. In that case I would like to be corrected by someone who isn't too religious about the whole Mac PC thing or doesn't wish for a hot wax job by his Steveness... ;)


    And having said that, one might expect those TB flash drives being sold at car boot sales to actually have 2000 CDs loaded...


    Home printers. With ink cartridge prices soaring and a smart phone in everyone's pocket, everyday people will stop bothering to print documents. Businesses will continue putting words on thinly-sliced dead trees, of course; the paperless office will always be another decade in the future.


    There's some of this going on with big name bands already -- though notably mostly the ones that managed to leave the record industry system. Nine Inch Nails (before he dissolved that name) did this. So, I think you're spot on with that. NIN demonstrated that it's possible for free distribution of large chunks of raw unmixed tracks to be profitable (by having a contest and selling the 'best' remixes -- I'm not sure how or if the people making these remixes were paid). While NIN is in the sweet spot for this kind of thing, I'm sure there are other groups for which it would be profitable (Radiohead comes to mind -- rabid and fairly creative core fanbase, lots of existing covers and remixes, a large discography).

    I have yet to see a currently-signed band do this. I imagine that it seems fairly risky to many record companies: encourage both piracy and derivative works in the hopes that it will boost sales somehow. (That said, the encourage-derivative-works-to-boost-sales thing is the reason the doujinshi market in Japan is considered kosher: only the hardcore fans are investing time and money in doujinshi, and so encouraging a black market for enormously expensive and largely poor-quality tie-in merchandise amongst people who already buy the official tie-ins tends not to affect profits negatively. This sort of thing depends on rabidly dedicated fanbases, though: the Firefly franchise might benefit from it, but not the Stephen King franchise.)


    There's a 1993-vintage PowerBook in the room next to my office that worked just fine when I last powered it up, modulo the dead NiCd battery; iPods aren't built that way, the the pro kit just keeps on giving.


    Thanks for making me discover the term "car boot sales" and its reality in the UK. I've had parts of vacations and even driven around the place, discovering lots of fun stuff but the car boot sales were still unknown.

    In Canada garage sales are pretty much like in Australia or in the US (if I am to judge by the comments above) but they are unlike UK boot sales because there are more of the big items you can't easily place in the back end of a car. Lots of furniture.

    In the last ten years I've seen solid wood furniture gradually disappear from the garage sales. It's very rare that I see actual solid wood. I mostly see a veneer of solid wood on top of plywood or fiberboard.

    In ten years from now I expect that I won't be seeing veneer at all, only plastic surfaces (imitating wood or not) on fiberboard or another cheaper material. In twenty years from now all that discarded furniture will be made of plastic.

    I'm already seeing this happen with the lawn furniture. There are tons being discarded in a regular fashion because you can't easily paint plastic lawn furniture like you used to do with wooden lawn furniture. Also, the plastic furniture is usually built to strict minimalist tolerances. It's less sturdy than wood furniture.


    As it happens, I went through a local (rural West Virginia) flea market last weekend, not so much to buy but to see what was for sale.

    My prediction: 3d-printers, sans the expensive feedstock cartridges. Lots of stuff made with 3d printers that is on the edge, or even blatently over the edge of the law in regards to copyright/patent law. Probably someone set up with a 3-D printer running off whatever it is that people want made.

    Drug paraphernalia (always popular at these things) seems a likely bet. Old media, today it's videotapes, tomorrow DVDs, possibly even blu-ray and other hard formats replaced by cloud and electronic copies. Old tools, the quality and age of which is visibly declining today, in the future to include the latest junk and cheap imports as well as the aforementioned 3-D printed stuff.

    And, of course, wherever the poorer segments of humanity gather to trade stuff, children's clothing, toys, half-worn-out sports equipment, the previous generation's glasses and dishes, and whatever else they think might bring a buck or two. I don't see that changing anytime soon.


    I took a non-working scanner/printer (inkjet) to the tip this morning. It gave me a sick feeling when I threw it in a skip and heard the flatbed glass smash. All those precision optics, stepper motor, electronics, sensors... destroyed because it was not economical to fix it.


    I don't think we'll see 3D printers in boot sales in 2016. I think we'll only start seeing them move into the general consumer household, like PCs in 1980.

    I'm skeptical we'll see them in 2021 (but then I fall back on that Bill Gates quote - we grossly underestimate how much technological change we'll see in 10 years).


    You never see a memory of any kind lose over here. TV news shows how evil hackers get into them and rob you. You can offer to give them their hard drive to keep as backup. But they want it all in small pieces.


    I took a non-working scanner/printer (inkjet) to the tip this morning.

    Over here in the US you can trade in printers for $50 toward a new HP printer. I thought you had to prove it worked but at Staples theY just wanted it to NOT LOOK broken and have a power cord attached.

    Supposedly HP recycles the bits as is reasonably possible.


    Considering you can buy new HP printers for $50 that's quite the bargain. I'd try it if I owned a printer...


    2016: smartphones and tablets, but not iPhones, iPads or indeed any Apple devices. These will be e-waste because of non user-serviceable batteries and components. The current lifespan of batteries, means 4-5 years is unlikely with these gadgets.

    If I make one prediction for the next 3-4 years is that the tablet fad will die back. 2-3 years later Kinect style interaction and true cloud computing will take off. You won't need to carry a smartphone or tablet, computers will just recognise you when your near them, and log you in to your cloud services ChromeOS-style. All the seeds of this are there, it just takes someone to put these together.


    "In ten years from now I expect that I won't be seeing veneer at all, only plastic surfaces (imitating wood or not) on fiberboard or another cheaper material. In twenty years from now all that discarded furniture will be made of plastic.

    Sounds as though your locality is following the progression that is well advanced in the UK. In which case expect to see less furniture of any type. Foil wrapped composition core furniture (flatpack and assembled) originally had a design life of seven years and robust enough to withstand being moved within your home. Cost cutting makes that a fond memory for many and the only destination is the tip or compost heap.


    In the 60's I was trained by the US ARMY to fix a computer that was programmed with a punched paper tape. In fact it worked and they were still using it up to the 80's I think. By then the ones who won the competitions, all had a Texas Instrument that they did the numbers on and had everything set by the time the paper stopped. There is no such thing as time shock! But it's hard to keep up. My grandmother was raised in a sodie dug out and saw wagon trains headed for California She saw the moon landings well before she died. When I get worried I think about how far we have come in such a short time. Heck with my eyes before the 20's, the only job I could have held was cleaning out spittoons. This is getting sweet but IT'S NOT SO BAD REALLY.


    "when played on the single two-inch speaker in a small portable FM radio" I read that when when Sony was getting into good sound they made a best they could system and set it up at open show. The public could set the sound up any way they wanted and the settings were saved. Almost everybody made it sound like what they were used to. A am car radio. And there was nothing wrong with that. They knew only what they knew.


    My grandmother was raised in a sodie dug out and saw wagon trains headed for California She saw the moon landings well before she died.

    Yep. My grandfather was born in 1885. Died in 1982. Was too old for WWI. Went from tallow candles to the moon landing and computers in small businesses. I have a hard time imagining the changes in his life. My memories are from about 1960 onward. And we had central heat, TV, a "modern" kitchen, etc... So all I've seen except for computers is mostly improvements.


    @ 102 et al "Cancer" is a whole family of diseases, with separate, distinvt causes, and therefore, separate distinct cures or treatments....

    @ 116 "Loudness" Well, yes. It's a persistent fault. My otherwise-excellent local pub does live Jazz on Sunday evenings - and the "players" seem to think that amplification-to-just-below-feedback-howl is the way to go. I prefer music I can HEAR, but that can still be where either one person (admittedly helped by the "house" acoustics) OR a large chorus can have every word they utter heard claerly before a live audience of 1500+, un-amplified. [ "oh, what joy, in freer air the breath and the light to have, the sun upon our chests - the prison was like a grave - oh what joy!" ]

    Computing "stuff" generally ..... Very hard to say, especially as a lots of people seem to want stuff I don't even understand why they want it, like shoot-en-up games. I find the refusal to recycle peripherals and PC's VERY hard to understand. I thought the drive was to make all of this re-cyclable and re-usable - like refigerators, and for the same reasosns - the actual materials inside the goods. Erm.


    I find the refusal to recycle peripherals and PC's VERY hard to understand.

    Home owners of such stuff have two issues that I've seen a lot.

  • They don't know how to make sure their finances and other information is really erased.

  • They are of a generation where you FIXED things. And they keep hoping that someone will figure out how to fix it for $10 or so. Being from that generation I have to fight the urge to hold on to stuff that has no value and try real hard to not buy things that will turn to junk in a few years.

  • 142:

    2016: Current fad electronic devices. ipods. ipads. iphones. kindles. books.

    Many plasma TVs from < 2013.

    Many many things with harddrives (motherboards on 95% of laptops will have SSDS on board by then).

    2021: Massive numbers of current TVs ("ooh, 60" Sony only GBP 35"). Almost all clamshell (traditional) laptops.

    Projection and flexible epaper displays will be prevalent. Flexible epaper laptops have a rollup screen you pull up and down like a rollup blind.

    Everything that had a harddrive.


    This post on mobile devices and basslines is relevant. Shorter: bass isn't subject to Moore's law and therefore is affected by something like Baumol's cost disease* - it gets relatively more expensive because it doesn't get the benefit of productivity gains in electronics. There's no substitute for large lumps of matter and air that take up a lot of storage space and need transporting.

    *Labour-intensive services tend to get relatively more expensive because they don't get the productivity gains typical of capital-intensive manufacturing. Cars cost much less than they did in 1914, but you still need as many violinists to make up an orchestra.

    144: 141 bullet (2) - "Fixing stuff" has been hit economically by the "triple whammy" of qualified techs demanding £Lots per hour for the job, so we see labour rates of maybe £100/hr, rapidly falling "like for like" prices (15 Years Ago £300 would buy a brand name 20" 4x3 mono tele with teletext, 10 YA it bought a 25" 16x9 with NICAM stereo and text, 5YA it bought a 32" 16x9 CRT with stereo + text, and now it buys a 32" 16x9 LED with built-in digital "Free"view decoder, better contrast and speakers, stereo, text, and still an analogue tuner (which I've not been able to test).

    High price for qualified techs, check. Falling price of consumer goods, check.

    What's the third leg of the triple whammy?

    Regards Luke


    Oops! I got interupted partway through! and SNAFUed as a result. (1) Was cost of repairs. (2) Was falling like for like prices. (3) Was improving specs for a given price point.


    SPAM again.


    We're having a really bad spam attack this morning (about fifty in twelve hours). Measures have been taken to hopefully automate the spam-junking process.


    "My grandfather was born in 1885. Died in 1982. Was too old for WWI. Went from tallow candles to the moon landing and computers in small businesses. I have a hard time imagining the changes in his life."

    My grandfather had a similar story.

    I disagree with our Esteemed Blog Host and Mr. Paul Krugman about the rate of change in society slowing in the past half-century as compared with the half-century before it. We have seen deeply profound changes in the US/UK society in the past 50 years, just as deep and profound as the half-century before.

    But where I agree with the E.B.H.and Mr. K (and where I think they went astray), is that those changes have not been technological. They've been social.

    A time traveler from 1910 to 1960 would be bewildered by phones, television, radio, cars and the fast pace of city life. That's if he had TIME to be bewildered before he was hit by a car (horseless carriages were easier to dodge in 1910). There's a good chance the time traveler from 1910 came from a place that was unelectrified -- much of the developed world was still unelectrified by then -- that's not the case in 1960.

    A time traveler from 1960 would be fine with the technology of 2011. "This is a phone. It's like the phones you know except you dial it with buttons instead of a dial, and it's mobile like a walkie-talkie, fits in your pocket. This is a personal computer, and it connects to the Internet. I can't explain those things in a minute, but you can take a class at the library. And you can drive yourself to the class, too -- cars haven't changed all that much."

    However, that time traveler from 1960 is going to go out in public and see mixed-race couples, same-sex couples, and a black president of the United States. He's going to watch the TV news (TVs are pretty much the same, just bigger and in color and it'll probably take him about 15 minutes to figure out the controls), and hear that the USSR is dead, Eastern Europe is now second-rate powers, and the Middle East and Asia are now first-rate powers. Our man from 1960 didn't even really think of Arabs and Asians as human. And that's assuming he's white, heterosexual, and a man at all.

    2016: Current fad electronic devices. ipods. ipads. iphones. kindles. books. Many plasma TVs from

    What's the state of the art on LCD vs plasma screen TV's these days? I went with the plasma option when I bought a new set about five or six years ago because - I admit it - I watch sports from time to time and even the better LCD models had pixel artifacts that made the ball look like a comet when it had any appreciable motion.

    I'm not in the market for a new TV yet (the old one lasted almost fifteen years and multiple doggie/kid collisions), but I am curious as to whether or not the contemporary low end LCD is equal to or better than a higher end plasma from 2004.


    Given that current batteries have a limited lifetime, the answers depend very much on whether governments impose a common battery types.


    I'm a time-traveller from 1958.

    That's a bit too young to be your man from 1960, but it was that year we finally got a telephone. We did have a television by 1963, because I remember the Kennedy Funeral and Totters Lane.


    Technically, Apple gets grumpy if you crack open the shell and start messing around inside, but only as a deterrent for people who don't know what they're doing and just want to see what the guts of their fancy new computer look like. Given the form factor of a lot of Apple gear, there's a good chance that you could not be able to put it back together without the aid of a certified tech.


    Powerbooks and iMacs have slots you can open to swap out airport cards and memory, so it's not like it's a completely sealed box. Even minis aren't hard to egt into, just delicate.

    I bought a refurbished Mini back in '05 (last of the G4 series, right before they switched over to Intel chips). It was advertised as not having an airport card installed but you could still order one and install it yourself or have the tech at the local Apple store do it. I ordered the airport card and decided to do it myself. The instructions for opening the shell on the mini actually call for use of a putty knife or similar such object to pry open the case. Once inside I had no problem installing the airport card. Except that the antenna wire was missing. Not just missing, I soon discovered, but non existent. This mini somehow left the factory sans airport antenna. which is why it was "refurbished".

    So, another trip to the apple store (actually an off brand Mac Store, not one of the shiny white corporate box shops) and they were happy to order an airport antenna for me. It came in a week later and before long I had the mini up and running on the home wireless network. 6 years later, it still works good as new.


    Mitch, good point. (Someone claimed that the Singularity happened around 1900 +/- 20 years, and that isn't all that unreasonable. I can explain my life to someone from 1930.) Most of the technological advancements in the next ten years are pretty predictable; it's the applications of them and the social movements that will take us by surprise.

    At the car boot sales, I'll expect fad electronics (a cardboard box of dead iPads, frex; old cameras; MP3 players that are just too small), and media outdated in form and/or content (those best seller hardbacks again, right next to DVDs; old electronic picture frames, eventually).

    The first generation of 3D printers won't be so obsolete in ten years that they're cluttering up the boot sales; maybe in 15 - but they'll get there.

    Farther in the future things will get odder; I'd like to imagine finding novelties like the technological quirks of yesteryear. Ancient Roombas that won't even talk to you, 3D printers with personality quirks, the non-upgraded iNeko...


    Someone claimed that the Singularity happened around 1900 +/- 20 years, and that isn't all that unreasonable.

    Thomas Pynchon said civilization detonated in 1918 and did so with such force that we haven't exhausted the momentum of the explosion. We're still being propelled through the air and haven't hit the ground. Yet.


    WW1 ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Communism


    My city has a special drop-off at the transfer station on a Saturday about eight months of the year (and before noon, argh). Look down and you'll see they take scanners. (I took dead cellphone batteries last time I went.) The electrical stuff is taken apart by folks who get the money from selling & reusing as much as possible and then what's left is disposed of properly.

    You don't have events like that over there?


    Isn't the current political map of the Middle East a result of World War I? In that case, WWI is still being fought.


    I've read that after WW-1 Churchill drew straight lines on a big map. No matter who lived where. A tribe that had been at war for a hundred years found it self cut in two with a small part under the people that really hated them. So most off what's still going on over there is from nobody telling Churchill not to drink and redraw maps for people he did not really think of as human. But he was only a man of his times.


    "Thomas Pynchon said civilization detonated in 1918 and did so with such force that we haven't exhausted the momentum of the explosion. We're still being propelled through the air and haven't hit the ground. Yet."

    I really like that.

    As far as I can tell, he didn't refer to the chaotic borders - part of the incredibly devastating impact of colonialism on all countries that suffered it.

    1918 as a date refers to something else. My grandfather was born in 1899. He lived through a phase of total chaos (in Germany) and came out on the other side in a land of wild dreams and unimaginable opportunities. Never before was there such a heavy competition between crazy ideas, political concepts, religions. He ended up in a weird branch of occultism, his brother in astrology, his sister in Steiner's theosophy. Some Germans became nazis, other communists.

    German Jews were partially fanatically nationalistic (in the sense of German-Prussian militarism, check "Jüdischer Frontkämpferbund"), at the same time the perfect opposite - zionism - was also extremely popular. The possible reason is, that everybody respected in society nodded agreement in the days leading up to the war (someone mentioned the social democrats in 1914 already). And obviously they were all wrong. Unimaginably wrong.

    After the war, it dawned to many, many people (quite simultaneously), that there is no such thing as a natural or universal order. Freedom, emptyness, everything up for grabs, tomorrow you might be dead and nobody else has a real plan either...


    My city has a special drop-off at the transfer station on a Saturday about eight months of the year (and before noon, argh). Look down and you'll see they take scanners. (I took dead cellphone batteries last time I went.) The electrical stuff is taken apart by folks who get the money from selling & reusing as much as possible and then what's left is disposed of properly. You don't have events like that over there?

    My county went to a 6 days a week drop off once the lines for the Saturday drop off got to be an hour long and someone realized that meant a lot of nasty stuff we going into the regular trash to be buried. Now you can show up with most anything except weapons grade stuff in quantity.


    Yes. The aftermath of WWI/WWII/Cold was big turning points in though process of many.

    My mother in law is German. She married a US army junior officer in the 50s. My father is a Kentucky boy who flew over Europe in WWII as a gunner on B-24s. At my wedding rehearsal dinner they got to talking and both remembered an air raid they had in common. Very weird conversation to those of us watching them.

    Things like that don't happen as much anymore. :)

    Yes a lot of Apple and other's stuff will be unusable 5 to 10 years after it is built. Both due to batteries which replaceable or not will likely not have been made for years and for using NAND memory that has "worn out".

    Toss in the mix GPS units for which either no one is making any map updates or the servers that they use to get the maps in real time no longer support their formats or maybe are not even running.

    I can't see governments dictating battery sizes. If they do we'll loose a lot of the momentum that had gotten us smart phones from Apple and every one else. Each year batteries become denser and smaller which gives us neater toys.


    D. Brown @ 159 You read wrongly then. Churchill, though back in a minoir government role had no connection with Brit Foreign policy in the aftermath od WWI. Try "Sykes-Picot" treaty" instead ..... And, of course, as long as islamic "Kalifah" militants are still around we are still figting WWII, and for the same reasons.

    jboss @ 160: "After the war, it dawned to many, many people (quite simultaneously), that there is no such thing as a natural or universal order." Well, they were and are wrong - the laws of Physics still work. What you and they mean were the supposedly "natural "laws as to how SOCIETIES worked. Which is a slightly different kettle of bananas ....


    This sort of fits into the car boot sale discussion.

    Old warehouse being gutted for a new use. A clients phone cables were going into said warehouse then back across the alley into clients space. So phone company has to come out and move things.

    Anyway while were were figuring out what was real and what was ancient history I discovered some interesting abandoned gear. A rectifier unit sized about 10" x 10" by 8". It looks to be pre 1970s at least. But I'm thinking it's from the early sixties as it has no tubes and what looks to be a large semiconductor with a circular heat fins about a center pole. So I'm guessing this thing is an early use of semiconductors. Anyway I grabbed it as an antique and will try and track down what it is. Along with a 25 pair wiring block where the individual wires in the bundle have cloth as insulation plus the wire guides are made from wood.


    Oh gush, so sorry!

    It should read "social order" of course. The inherent nihilism of not believing in the laws of gravity and bananas is as yet still beyond me...


    jboss @ 165 Not as far out as you thought, in a funny way. Because of the vast social changes, and the vague beginnings of a popular understanding that Newtonian Physics was not the whole answer - i.e. 20 years after Special Relativity, and the years of the Slovay conferences ... A lot of half-educated "arty" types claimed to "think" that science was breaking down as well. Which resulted in some very very silly ideas indeed - and this sort of semi-mystical bollocks is, unfortunately, still with us.

    Anyway while were were figuring out what was real and what was ancient history I discovered some interesting abandoned gear. A rectifier unit sized about 10" x 10" by 8". It looks to be pre 1970s at least.

    Another blast from the past: tube testers. In my part of the country a lot of places had them, the Ben Franklin stores as well as specialty shops like Radio Shack. And - of course - the output was all analogue except for two lights, a green one for definitely "good", a red one for the indisputably bad.


    lets remember that good paper lasts hundreds of years. I read that gold dvds are good for 20 or 30, maybe. Finding anything thats good paper...


    THOSE TUBE TESTERS THAT WE WERE AT SO MUCH. I found out in the 90's that they showed bad when the tubes were still good. Then they sold you new ones out of the bottom of the tester. Before you think about those good old days the way i keep doing. those TVs were made so cheap that one or two tubes would be used when more was needed to keep them from burning out. NEVER HEARD OF APPLE DOING THAT.


    "Churchill, though back in a minoir government role had no connection with Brit Foreign policy in the aftermath od WWI." This bloody yank will take it at your word. its not a place I've looked into. But as I remember we did not print it.


    I was setting a new office in a old building. Chasing a problem I pried my way into the next floor. It was full of old office tools like a lot Cylinder Dictaphones and there cabinets. They all looked good and he could not stand to get rid of them. Thinking I guess thing about how much they cost. I wanted one.


    Seen the news about the 15 pound/$25 computer on a USB stick? If this works out, it's likely to make a lot of computer stuff obsolete more quickly than I would have guessed.

    Something lasting longer than I would have expected: at a church rummage sale today, there were two manual typewriters.


    Charlie, have you seen OnLive? I think it's US-Only at the moment, but it is indeed full-fledged games hosted in the cloud, with many of the big-name games available. It is a real boon to people who are casual gamers or folks who do not want to run a windows box or game console. Life is so much better when you do not need to waste hard drive space and install random garbage to get games to work, especially when you only want to play a free demo of the game.

    Performance is very good if you are only a few hops from their servers. It is the most impressive internet technology I've seen in the past ten years. It works well enough for first-person shooters, where latency is the most critical.

    (Plus, by starting in the US, they've already worked through some of the worst first-world home internet connection quality issues, so going to asia and europe should be easy)


    I've been taking old electronics directly to be recycled these days. Who want to buy old stuff when new stuff is so good and not that expensive?


    My grandmother (born IIRC 1893) told me that at the outbreak of WW1 people were going through the streets and beating Dachshunds to death because they were "German" dogs. It takes real weapons grade stupidity to think like that.


    There was and may still a place that remade manual typewriters in town. in the outside world you may lack power. a newspaper story said they got orders from around the world. I bet every body's forms are type sized. I've got one and I am keeping it.


    Up the road from me was a old union man I spent a lot of time with plotting. One day he was really mad. Next door to him was what was left of a old farm with a barn. As a good German he just had to cut the field. Looking in the a wall less part of the barn he saw a barrel with hazard markings on it. It was cyanide. The owner was collecting old circuit board and were going to separate the gold to pay for the son's missary year. I made him feel better by telling him that cyanide gas was lighter than air and may not have killed that many people. The kick is nobody wanted to take care of it, or believe it maybe.


    "Psst, buddy, you want to buy a dead cloud?"

    Bruce Sterling's Dead Media beat last week covered dead clouds, and he wondered:

    "Can the dead ones be skinned and turned into cloudleather handbags?"

    He's a nut, but he's our nut.



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 1, 2011 5:54 PM.

    Making (up) News was the previous entry in this blog.

    Remember to vote is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

    Search this blog