We live in an era of accelerating technological change, and with it, accelerated rates of obsolescence. Here are 22 antiquated technologies that are actually quite young — and which people thought would be around for much longer than they were.
1. Folding Maps
The advent of GPS has all but killed the humble printed map. Just make sure you have one of these handy for after the apocalypse. Image: Paper Pastries.
2. Dial-up Modems
Remember this sound?
Thanks to e-cigarettes, the conventional cigarette is, for all intents and purposes, obsolete. Because — let’s face it — it only ever served as a nicotine delivery device.
“Culturally speaking, I think it will be the most disruptive technology of the next five years,” says Jayar LaFontaine, a Foresight Strategist at Idea Couture. “Traditional tobacco companies, Valley start ups, pharmaceuticals — everyone is looking to vapour technologies. As Frank Underwood once said in House of Cards, ‘It’s addiction without the consequences.'”
4. Print Media
Though paper and printing technology are over 1,000 years old, the mass production of printed books dates back to the nineteenth century. And the printed newspapers and magazines of that “modern” era are now passe. With the Internet at our fingertips, we no longer have any use for phone books, print catalogues, and encyclopedias, either.
The death of print media like newspapers goes beyond affecting how you read about today’s events. Classified ads, long a method for people to connect up or advertise items for sale, have died out with newspapers.
5. All Sorts of Data Storage Media
Many formats that were once ubiquitous have now gone the way of the dodo, such as floppy disks (including 20cm, 5 1/4-inch, and 3 1/2-inch), zip disks, and jaz disks. A strong case can be made that CDs and even DVDs are also done. Image: Wikimedia commons.
6. All Sorts of Graphical and Video Media Storage
We once ridiculed the demise of Sony’s Betamax video cassette format, but VHS has also gone to dead format heaven, as have clunky laser disks. Other deceased formats include analogue slides (along with slide projectors and hand-held slide viewers) and analogue film (including photo developing, film splicing, disposable film cameras — and Kodak, for that matter — photo albums, and flash cubes).
As graphic designer Benjamin Moogk told me, “It took some time for CMOS sensors to exceed the ability of chemical film, but we’re here. Digital was convenient for a long time, but was limited in dynamic range. Clipping in the highlights and shadows was common. I remember the first Hot Docs where digital movies outnumbered those shot on 16mm. Just look at how the iPhone is killing the point and shoot market for cameras.” Image: Roman Samokhin/Shutterstock.
7. All Sorts of Audio Players and Media Storage
As noted, CDs (including portable CD players) and DVDs are basically dead, but so are 1/4 inch cassette tapes (strangely, my 16-year-old son thinks these are cool, but he’s struggling to understand why he can only listen to Side B when he’s reached the end of Side A), walkmans, vinyl records (except as novelty items and for DJs… ok, maybe vinyl is not so obsolete). The DAT (digital audio tape) is also done. And, of course, the old-fashioned record is dead and buried.
This situation has affected a lot more than the items you use to record media. An entire industry devoted to record stores and videocassette/DVD rentals has fallen apart as older media storage formats have become obsolete.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.
8. Various Computer Ports
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) has certainly lived up to its name, eliminating ports for such external devices as printers, mice, and keyboards (e.g. RS-232 & PS/2 ports).
9. Pulse Telephone Networks and Rotary Phones
This telecommunications signalling technology was first made irrelevant in 1963 following Bell’s dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) technology, and then later with the introduction of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Image: BrAt82/Shutterstock.
Fixed home phones that use a solid medium telephone line, such as a metal wire or fibre optic cable, are still used by over a billion subscribers. But both you and I know it ain’t meant to last.
11. Answering Machines
Pretty standard in all mobile phones now.
12. Cathode Ray Tube Televisions
The introduction of plasma and LED screens finally put an end to these ridiculously deep television sets. But they’re not completely useless.
13. Dedicated MP3 Players
Like so many items on this list, it’s not so much that these technologies have become obsolete as they have evolved or become integrated within other technologies. The MP3 player, which is now standard on any mobile device, is a prime example.
14. Dedicated Wristwatches
Yes, wristwatches still exist today, but their ability to tell time is now secondary to their primary functions, like GPS and biometrics.
15. Public Pay Phones
Can’t find one? I’m sure the person next to you has a mobile phone.
16. Phones That Allow Neck Cradling
Old phones were awesome because you could actually cradle them in the crook of your neck, leaving both of your hands free — and you didn’t have to put the person you’re talking to on annoying speaker phone.
Absolutely, totally dead, dead, dead.
18. Analogue Radio Transmissions
Radio as we not isn’t going anywhere just yet in Australia, but will likely more fully switch to digital radio transmissions and face competition with streaming audio and podcasts.
19. NTSC Broadcasting for Television
And thank goodness for that. Long live high-definition television! Today, most countries have switched to newer digital television standards.
They were also called beepers, but they’re now referred to as relics of the past.
21. Traditional Design Tools
Thanks to CAD/CAM (Computer aided design and computer aided machining), desktop computer design applications, and robotic manufacturing, we can now say goodbye to ink, brushes, gouache, rule pens, drafting tables, and rub-down letters.
22. Dot Matrix Printers
Can’t say I miss these — particularly when they jammed.