Analog television, which we used to call just "television" before all this digital stuff landed on our doorsteps, is nearing extinction. In fact, the exact day of its demise has already been announced: 17 February 2009, after which all the old-style transmitters will be shut down and the spectrum space reallocated. (In the digital TV world, only channels 7 to 51 will still be in use; low-band VHF channels 2 through 6 and the upper section of the UHF band will be designated for non-TV use.) I have two television sets, one of which is capable of handling the digital signals on its own. What happens to the other one depends on what the cable company decides to do.
What's unusual about this, of course, is that official death date. Elsewhere, a lot of technologies and business models hang on despite being pretty much dead in the water. Just to name a few:
Long-distance telephone service.
Detroit's plethora of dealers.
The average Chevrolet dealer sells 583 cars a year. Ford dealers sell 631 vehicles a year on average, while Dodge dealers sell 375 on average, according to J.D. Power and Associates Power Information Network. All three are sharply down from previous years. By contrast, the average Toyota dealer sold 1,685 vehicles, while Honda dealers closed 1,289 sales on average last year.
This problem is not easily solved. State franchise laws make it nearly impossible for an automaker to dismiss a dealer: when GM shelved the Oldsmobile name, they had to pay off the Olds dealers to the tune of about $1 billion, erasing much of the savings from killing Olds in the first place. (Disclosure: Both my children drive Oldsmobiles.) The Chrysler Group has made noises about terminating the franchises of lower-performing dealerships, but it seems unlikely that they'll be able to do so without paying the dealers to go away. The fact is, though, the dealers don't make money on new cars: their income stream comes from service and used-car sales. Maybe the solution lies in reducing the dealerships to service depots, but how many people do you know who'll buy a car without actually driving it? (I did, once, although admittedly I had that day driven another one of the same model with the same powertrain, so it's not like I was flying blind.)
What's left of the record industry.
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Copyright © 2007 by Charles G. Hill