October 18, 2023
Remember the screech of dial-up internet? Hold fond memories of arcade machines? In this list, we’re condensing down 30 pieces of revolutionary technology that have long past their sell-by-date.
In the ever-changing world of modern tech, it’s all too easy to forget about the gadgets that once ruled our lives.
From pagers and portable DVD players to floppy discs and Adobe Flash, we’re going to take a trip down memory lane and look at 30 of the inventions that paved the way for the innovations of today. Let’s get into the list.
Back in the 1980s, pagers were all the rage. These little devices used to vibrate to let you know someone was trying to get in touch. Plus, if you were really fancy, they even had a screen to let you know who’d tried to contact you. Of course, you couldn’t send anything back, so you’d have to find a now-obsolete phone booth and put in your now-obsolete currency to reach out to your friend.
Nowadays, the pager is primarily irrelevant due to the invention of smartphones. But, back then, it felt like you were holding the future in your hands. Oh, how little we knew!
2. Overhead projectors
Ah, the overhead projector—a staple of schools everywhere. The perfect way for a teacher to display a document to the whole class—until, naturally, a student in the front row discreetly blew the all-important worksheet off of the stand.
Despite its inherent flaws, the overhead projector was a classroom hallmark for over fifty years. Until, of course, the interactive whiteboard came along. Sadly, 3M, a company that made projectors for over five decades, discontinued manufacturing the products back in 2015. A big win for technological advancement, a monumental loss for naughty students.
3. Paper Maps
Left turn. I mean right. No, left, go left! Okay, just turn around.
Okay, we admit, this one isn’t a technology per se, but it was replaced by technology, so we’re counting it.
Remember when everyone had a paper map in their car? Relying on your passenger to keep up with directions as you frantically tried to navigate a new city was never fun.
Fortunately, with the invention of GPS navigation, all that changed. The paper map was relegated to the back of the glove box, and frustrated drivers were free to blame missed turns on their smartphones instead of the sheepish passenger giving them directions. Rejoice!
4. Laser Disc
Remember when movie night meant flipping gigantic shiny laser discs? These oversized DVD predecessors may have promised high-quality video, but they were incredibly clunky and prone to unwanted skipping.
In today’s age, modern streaming services have completely eliminated the need for any sort of disc drive. Ah, well. It’s probably for the better. Laser Discs and chill doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Once the workhorse of offices around the world, the typewriter is now a relic of the past, relegated to collectible status in favor of modern technology.
Gone are the days of rhythmic clacking and satisfying “dings” at the end of each line. Now we’re all about quiet keyboards and backspace-friendly typing.
6. Fax Machines
The fax machine was once a staple of office drama. The drama, of course, being toner mishaps and eardrum-bursting dial-up screeches.
Nowadays, however, the humble fax machine is no more, replaced by sleek email apps and cloud storage. Oh well—at least emails can’t get paper jams. Farewell, fax machines.
7. Telephone Booths
Remember when phone booths were more than a canvas for graffiti and a place to take shelter from the elements? If you grew up in the 90s, you just might.
Phone booths have been gradually fading into obscurity since the 2000s, and today, they’re completely obsolete. You can thank the rise of mobile phones for that. No one wants to use a coin-operated booth when they have their very own calling device tucked away in their jeans.
8. Video Home System (VHS)
Ah, VHS. These clunky cassettes brought us the classics, but they also took forever to rewind. Not the best quality when you were trying to watch the director’s cut extended edition of Blade Runner for the second time.
Fast forward to today, and VHS is no more. The world hasn’t struggled to find the rewind button ever since.
Most of us won’t remember Betamax, the earliest type of video cassette player. Those that do will likely have vivid memories of stuck tapes and mechanical failures.
The Betamax dominated the market for much of the 70s before being dethroned by VHS. Surprisingly, you could still buy blank Betamax cassette tapes right up until 2016. We’d hazard a guess the target market was relatively small.
We’re all familiar with Google, but how many people remember the original search feature?
Phonebooks were essential back in the 80s. Almost every house had one. Nowadays, the invention of the World Wide Web means the only time a phonebook sees the light of day is when a bodybuilder wants to prove they can rip one in half. Thanks, Google.
11. Floppy discs
Remember floppy discs? You could save a few documents on one—or, if you were really lucky, you could even squeeze in a single 8-bit game!
Amidst the modern world of USB drives and terabyte hard drives, the floppy disc is about as useful as a square wheel on a freeway. And yet, despite its iconic lack of memory, we’ll always hold our own nostalgic memories of the floppy disc dear to our hearts.
12. MiniDisc players
The MiniDisc had an incredibly short-lived time at the top. Many people may not even remember the whopping 1GB storage capacity and 45 hours of audio this nifty device had to offer (it was impressive at the time, we promise).
MiniDisc’s popularity came to an abrupt end when MP3 players hit the market. Sony finally put an end to the format in 2011.
13. MP3 players
The pocket-sized MP3 player once shocked the music world. It made our daily commutes tolerable and our workouts fun.
But then, the iPod was invented. And everyone realized it was way better. Much like MP3 eliminated the MiniDisc, Steve Jobs dethroned the humble MP3 player, relegating it to relic status.
Once the coolest kid on the block, the Walkman revolutionized personal music. Today, they feel as archaic as a black-and-white TV. We can thank Apple’s iPod for that.
15. Ancient phones
Once upon a time, in a world before Snapchat filters and push notifications, there existed a period when mobile phones could only make and receive calls and texts. Only the chosen, lucky few would have the luxury of playing games like Snake on their device.
Of course, we know how this story ends. The introduction of the smartphone put a quick end to old devices, and the world hasn’t looked back since.
16. The Gameboy
Back in 1989, Nintendo released a gaming console that took over the world. The Gameboy was one of the earliest handheld gaming systems, propelled to success by titles like Tetris and Pacman. Suddenly, consumers could fit entire arcade games in the palms of their hands.
Of course, we’re no strangers to advanced handheld consoles in the modern day. The popularity of the Gameboy couldn’t last forever, but it will always hold a place in our hearts.
Remember when your math teacher told you that you wouldn’t always have a calculator in your pocket?
Well, they were wrong. Smartphones have been helping people work out percentages for well over a decade now. Sadly, this means the standalone calculator is almost entirely obsolete.
18. Dial-up internet
Ah, dial-up. The only 90s tech to give the fax machine a run for its money in the obnoxious screeching department.
Dial-up used your telephone line to connect to the web. The trouble is, it did it so slowly you’d likely have to go to bed by the time you got around to doing anything meaningful.
Thankfully, high-speed broadband means we no longer have to worry about such inconveniences. What a time to be alive!
When Apple unveiled the iPod back in 2001, it felt like a new era for technology. Goodbye Walkman. Seeya later, MP3. The future had arrived!
With the benefit of hindsight, we now know the iPod’s time at the top was destined to be short-lived. The smartphone introduced music playback, and, much like the MP3 before it, the iPod faded into obscurity.
Once the juggernaut of home entertainment, the DVD has long since become a relic in the shadow of on-demand streaming.
Sure, you can still buy DVDs today, but their popularity is waning, reminding us that, in the ever-changing world of technology, yesterday’s number one can quickly become today’s B-side.
21. Slide Projectors
Does anyone remember the OG Powerpoint?
Slide projectors once transported us through vacation memories one click at a time. But today, in the age of slideshows and smartphone galleries, they’re largely confined to dusty attics and horror movie sets.
22. Portable DVD players
The humble portable DVD player was once the savior of road trips and long-haul flights. But in the age of tablets and streaming, their screens have long since gone black.
If you’ve ever watched an eighties music video, you’ve likely seen groups of people walking around with heavy boomboxes on their shoulders, listening to tunes.
No, this wasn’t just an unfortunate offshoot of eighties fashion sense. It was the only way to listen to music on the go. That is until MP3 players and Walkmans arrived.
24. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)
Back in the early 2000s, any businessman or woman who was worth their salt had a PDA. These handy little devices were the ultimate way to track essential meetings and manage deadlines. They could even send faxes. How futuristic!
As with most technologies on this list, the smartphone spelled the end of the humble PDA. There was little point in having a digital calendar when you had your own superior assistant in your pocket.
25. Cathode Ray Tubes
If you were born before the turn of the millennium, you may be familiar with cathode ray tubes, even if you haven’t heard the name before.
These bulky vacuum tubes were the beating heart of old-school televisions and pre-2000s pixelated gaming sessions. Sadly, in today’s sleek world of LEDs and flat screens, CRTs have faded into the annals of tech history.
26. Cassette tapes
When the cassette tape launched back in 1963, it completely changed the world. Suddenly, anyone could record and listen to music.
Every teenager who grew up in the 80s fondly remembers recording radio stations to access their favorite songs on repeat. Naturally, the world of instant streaming has relegated the cassette to a nostalgic memory.
27. Adobe Flash
Ah Adobe Flash. We loved you and loathed you. We needed you but wished we didn’t.
Adobe Flash was the go-to multimedia platform for videos, games, and animations from 1996 until 2010. Almost every application needed Flash, which was a problem, because Adobe Flash was riddled with issues.
It was slow, took up a lot of memory, and was particularly vulnerable to viruses. When better solutions arrived, the platform finally waned in popularity, eventually being discontinued in 2021. Thanks for the memories, Flash.
28. Wired landlines
Back when phones stood vigilantly on our office desks and kitchen counters, the wired landline was a lifeline to the outside world.
Nowadays, it’s a distant memory. Who’s to blame for that? Surprise, surprise. It’s the smartphone. Who would’ve guessed?
29. Phone keyboards
Remember the Blackberry? With the benefit of hindsight, putting an entire keyboard on a phone screen seems obvious. But back then, it revolutionized typing forever.
Of course, the Blackberry keyboard was made entirely obsolete by the arrival of touchscreen technology. But hey, it’s nice to pay respect. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.
30. Arcade machines
Nothing beats an arcade game. Countless hours spent throwing quarters into a machine, hoping to beat the elusive high score. The sensory overload of flashing lights and blaring sounds.
Sadly, in a world of computers and video game consoles, arcade machines aren’t as popular as they once were, but we like to think they hold a special place in many millennial hearts.
If creating this list has taught us anything, it’s that the smartphone changed everything.
Is there another emerging technology that will finally make the smartphone obsolete? Will our great, great, great grandchildren in the 22nd century be laughing at us for thinking it’s cool to queue for the latest iPhone? Tweet at us and let us know.
Shelley Cooke is a blogger and podcaster from Asheville, North Carolina (Go Oilers!). She’s passionate about technology and the role it plays in building communities.