While doing literature review towards my Master's dissertation I noticed that many recent papers in my field (robotics/computer vision) frequently cite publications produced a decade or even more ago.
Now, that would not surprise me so much if those were, say, about fundamental algorithm which we still use (even if in modified and updated form). However, often the papers in question are of high-level systems designed to tackle a problem using technology available at the time. If the same problem were to be tackled in the present day, with current technology, the solution offered in such citation would make little sense.
It seems to me that referring to such work in a publication introduces very little (if any) value to the paper and mostly serves as a show-off-y way to generate more words and populate the reference list. And yet, it seems like nobody minds that, because the vast majority of the publications I've been reading have a number of obsolete / pointless references in them.
Is there something I'm missing there? What value, if any, is there in citing a clearly obsolete work? If it is really as pointless as it seems to me, what is the reason for the practice being commonplace in contemporary academic writing?