A woman sitting at a desk, talking on an office phone.

While they’ve been around for a while, desk phones still meet many business needs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. If you’ve ever worked in an office environment, this saying really hits home — despite evolution in form, many offices leverage fundamental technology to perform key functions and meet business needs. In other words, old tools and tech are prevalent in offices around the world, for better or for worse.

Here’s a look at six still in use today:

1. Faithful Fax Machines

You read that right. The “beeeee-owwwwww-chkchkchkchkc” sound that haunts your nightmares isn’t gone from corporate culture, it just took on a new form to meet emerging demands. While original versions of the classic fax machine came with a limited capacity to connect and no one could ever quite remember whether the paper was supposed to go in upside-down, print-first, or with a cover page to satisfy the wrathful gods of document dissemination, new iterations elevate the execution but keep the core idea.

Electronic fax solutions let you easily scan or select a document from your computer, then send it to a fax-specific phone number or email address. Either way, the document shows up in email inboxes rather than producing reams of poorly toned paper. Better still? No busy signal. Ever.

2. Dutiful Desk Phones

Ah, the desk phone. Where would Hollywood films about corporate greed be without these unwieldy telecom tethers for protagonists and villains alike to shout at and violently slam down? Here’s the thing: While the form factor has changed slightly to reflect new aesthetic expectations, most companies still outfit the bulk of their workforces with standard desktop telephones. It makes sense: They’re cheap, convenient, and easy to manage. Better yet? New Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions make it easy for companies to shift from traditional copper telephone lines to digital alternatives, allowing them to easily add new lines, forward calls, and opt in mobile devices. Long live the desk phone!

3. Predictable Printers

Of course printers are still a thing. Despite pushes to eliminate paper in many offices, there’s always a need to have hard copies on hand. And honestly, some companies just love having rooms and rooms stacked with full-to-bursting file cabinets.

Basic office printing actually got its start in 1938 thanks to dry ink, static electricity, and flashes of light. Xerography (and eventually print juggernaut Xerox) was the result, and thus began the mad rush toward inkjet and laser printers used around the world. Today, high-speed, low-waste printers are the norm in most offices, but there’s also a real uptick in 3-D printing as this technology goes down in cost and has more viable uses than printing tiny boxes or random pieces of “art.” On the “that’s crazy” side of things, CNet noted that Dubai recently 3-D-printed an entire office building. Okay, guys, maybe settle down a bit?

4. Perennial “Post-Its”

In 1968, a chemist at 3M accidentally created a low-strength adhesive sticky enough to hold but weak enough to be repositioned multiple times. No one cared. However, a church choir member frustrated by too-slippery bookmarks changed everything. Today, Post-It® Brand Notes remain a huge part of office culture — beyond the classic canary-yellow squares, there are bigger versions, tiny tabs, and a host of Post-It paraphernalia. Do they really improve productivity and help meet business needs? Maybe! Are they everywhere? You bet!

5. Cameras and Calculators

No matter the office, no matter the business, you need a camera and a calculator. Pocket calculators are classic desk decorations, while cameras were typically kept by management for special occasions, such as the office holiday card or a bit piece in the local paper. And while film cameras (sorry, Kodak®) along with classic calculators have largely vanished from common culture, they’re not really gone. They’ve just taken on a new form: mobile devices. Every staff member now carries around a powerful computing device-and-camera in one, making it easier than ever to snap a photo or do the math while simultaneously sparking debate about the intersection of social discourse and business use. Speaking of which…

6. Mercurial Mobiles

According to Office Xpress®, the first business-related mobile phone call was made in 1973 from a Motorola® in New York City to Bell Labs in New Jersey. And for 30 years, mobile tech advanced largely outside the workplace — although thanks to the ’80s for those hilariously bad super-brick phones that C-suite executives in suspenders liked to shout into at fancy restaurants — until touch-screen smartphones went from science fiction to reality.

Now, companies are deep in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) deal, trying to figure out where personal and business mobile use collide and where they should stay separate. No matter the ultimate answer, mobile is here to stay, and for many companies, that means rolling smartphones into a solid VoIP plan rather than trying to manhandle mobile into something resembling corporate compliance.

If you have an office, you’re likely using old tech and tools to meet current business needs. Fortunately, there are ways to upgrade these tried-and-true pieces of tech to improve your efficiency — and up your coolness factor.

Ready to learn more about implementing new versions of time-tested tech? Touch base with a Vonage Business consultant.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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