9 Obsolete Gadgets You Can Still Buy Brand New For Some Reason

Today, we wirelessly sync our powerful, dual-core smartphones to our pencil-thin laptops, then go home and stream just about any album or movie conceivable to our TV in HD. So why are people still selling dead tech from the past?

What follows is only part of the menu -- there are floppy disks, rear-projection TVs, shrink-wrapped cables for just about every vanished port, as if years of advancement hadn't happened. Is there really a market for these things? Are there just warehouses full of them? Is it easier to wait for someone to buy a crate of laser discs than to throw them into a landfill? Any possible answer is frightening, and yet here we are:

1. Dial-up modems

Do you need a 56k modem? No? You've had broadband for a decade? But what about a US Robotics USR5686G V.92 Serial Controller Faxmodem 56Kbps RS-232 (Serial Port) V.92, V.90, V.34+, V.34, V.32bis, V.32, V.22bis, V.22, V.23, V.21, Bell 103, and Bell 212A V.42/MNP 2-4 error correction, V.44 & V.42 bis/MNP 5 compression? Do you remember what any of those things mean, or did you ever know in the first place? Of course the answer to all of these things is no, and yet NewEgg will still sell you this hot piece of the 1990s for $US82. On the other hand, it has a five-star rating (based on one review) and looks so stupidly out of date that's actually kind of cool.

2. Six-year-old Celeron processors

If you're looking for an affordable way to play Half-Life 2, you could pick up this Intel Pentium 4 Celeron D347. It runs at over 3GHz! Or you could buy a profoundly more powerful Sandy Bridge chip for $US20 less. Your call.

3. $200 VCRs

If you can figure out why Amazon is still selling VCRs in 2012, you get a prize. Unfortunately, the prize is this Daewoo VCR, which was probably crap even when it was first released sometime between the first Gulf War and the advent of the Pog.

4. Zip disks

Zip disks are actually a great way to hide evidence of some sort of criminal conspiracy; if the police ever raid your house, it'll take months for them to find anyone else who has a zip drive to read the evidence, giving you plenty of time to flee the country. Paying $US97 for what amounts to about a gigabyte of storage spread over 10 large, bulky, heavy disks isn't convenient, but Amazon is selling the pack at a discount.

5. Serial cables

If your existence still requires the use of serial cables and you're not a museum curator, you deserve the collective pity of the world. This one is $US12.

6. Typewriters that cost more than cheap laptops

The perfect housewarming gift for someone you don't like, this $US465 brother EM-630 Daisy Wheel Typewriter will grant you all the annoyances of a gigantic, bloated old laptop, with none of the benefits. And it's electric, which means in the event of a disaster you won't even be able to use it.

7. Gigantic fax machines

Some dinosaur institutions still ask you to fax in paper forms. And for those hell bureaucracies, there are services like HelloFax.com. There are also fax machines that don't cost eight hundred freakin' dollars, like this one that also prints and copies.

8. VCR casette rewinders

Remember these? After shelling out $200 on your VCR, you could at least cash out another $30 on this slick little number that'll rewind your tapes for you. Automatically. You just press a button, go for a walk around the block, have a cup of coffee, whatever, and after some time, it'll be rewound. Technology is pretty crazy, right?

9. CD players

This Coby POS wasn't even a good CD player when it made sense to own a CD player. Also, consider the fact that it costs less to buy this thing than it costs to buy a CD to play inside of it.



    I have to disagree with the serial cable comment. Serial comma (eia-232 - banging out 1's and 0's) is one of the most easily implemented forms of communication when you're fiddling with electronics. I was pretty stoked when I scored a free dell d630 laptop and it had a serial port... usb-serial converters suck

      Point of sale machines make large use of serial devices too, especially the older ones. The old receipt printers were often serial along with the barcode scanners.

      Unfortunately we have some legacy software at work that makes use of serial printers. I hate to say it but still useful - but to be honest totally unwanted in this day and age.

      Serial cables are still very handy when doing firmware upgrades, etc etc

      I'm with you on this. Most medical devices have serial intakes for programming and service. Bit of a doofus one this.

      This whole article has an air of 'tech smug' to it again. Not exactly surprising considering where it is written. So it is clearly aimed at a young male audience - who are typical gadget fanatics.

      But in the real world, all of these things have a place, and while most people who write for this site probably feel that all these devices are archaic, it's not about the device, but how the device fits into an existing workflow.

      Yes... Workflow, something that often we forget that gadgets are supposed to be supporting, not facilitating. Prisons have typewriters available to prisoners for there correspondence. Do you really think it's a great idea to give a convicted pedophile access to the internet in prison? Writers also often use typewriters - for reasons that are more complex than having access to spell check or cut and paste would make their job simple.

      The Celeron exists to support aged hardware in corporate systems. The Zip disks for use in similar functions, as well as the music hardware that is suggested above.

      Again, I feel the need to dig at this site for it's sloppy journalism. These kids of articles seem to be more about self-affirmation, rather than actually asking the question - Why are these still available, and where are they being used?

        Not to mention the CD players. While there isn't much of a need for portable CD players anymore, last I checked you can still buy music on CD's, so there is still a need out there for CD players.

        I know plenty of people who still prefer to listen to their music directly off the CD rather than ripping it to MP3, for the same reason people still prefer vinyl records. I personally still buy all my music on CD and then rip the CD to mp3's to listen to while on the move. I like having the physical disc even though I don't listen to the disc itself very much.

        As long as CD's are still sold, there we be a need for CD players.

        actually inmates in a gaol have access to computers to write letters either their own personally owned computer or one in a classroom,

        inmates actually have computers in their cells in even the maximum security gaols.

        remember kids just because you have a computer it doesn't mean you have access to the internet.

        I agree, the article amounts to 'technophile fodder', but is that unexpected from a gadget-focused site? I still enjoyed the read, even if many of the objects are (judging by the comments) not obselete.

      I came to the comments just to post on serial cables. For a backyard hacker they are still such an easy thing to use. You can turn off and on the 32 pins as you want and they are dead easy to wire.

    Serial cables are used on most routers

    Not to mention most industrial machines still use serial communication to transfer code.

      And why not? Serial is dead easy to use, and doesn't require your system to install special drivers for your special device to talk to the service computer. It is quick, cheap, easy, and robust. Sure you could install a usb to serial chip inside the industrial equipment, but serial is where it's still at.

    You forgot to mention phones running the Android operating system.

      Or people who use Mac OSX

      They also forgot the upcoming iPhone 5.

        You mean the 4S. The iPhone 5 is going to be magic and run forever on unicorn rainbow power.

    Agree that Serial is still very useful a lot of the gear that is used at work still requires it. We are constantly stockpiling PCI serial cards when we can get them. I would agree that USB to serial is for some devices fine but others its just down right useless

    I disagree with the modems and faxes, there are many places that are using the modems as fax machines connected to a server or workstation. Very handy and cost cost the earth and Fax machines are still being used today and won't be going anytime soon.

    I actually disagree with most of these on the list. USA is completely different to Australia and just because a US person says these are dead, doesn't mean it's true for Australia.

      oops...typo...I do that a lot. I meant 'don't' cost the earth.

        Yeah until recently ANZ had us dialling in to do our business banking with them. I can not tell you how much joy I had finding a floppy drive to re-install the fricking ANZ software.

    Many businesses still use modems to run their corporate banking. Their software dials in to process the payroll, payments, etc.
    Additionally serial cables are the most reliable way to connect those modems, USB drops out a lot, they are also used for getting into the management console of switches, routers, UPS, etc

    A lot of people still have home movie (probably both types ) on vhs. So what do you do when your vhs player breaks

      Get a VHS + DVD Recorder system :D

    CNC, violent enough vibration and moement to shake your whole facility, definitey need mechaical locating and keeping at the connetion points. usb is not secure enough for even home based CNC's

    You wouldn't buy any of these for the first time today, you would be buying them as replacements for dead equipment. If everything you have is backed up on Zip Discs, and your Zip Drive dies, then a BD-RW drive isn't going to help you recover your data.

    Celeron is not Pentium 4....

      For that model it is. It is based on the Pentium 4...


    Just yesterday, at my bus stop, I found the box to a brand new Sony CD Walkman.
    They were so excited by their new purchase they couldn't even wait to get home to open it.
    It could play CD-R and CD-R/W and had Digital Mega Bass!

      i bet they shopliffted it out of the store and only got away with it because its the only way the stores can get rid of the things. they're like rodents, breeding away in stock rooms until you wake up one morning and you find that your franchise DSE is going out of business because all you have in stock are ten year old portable CD players

    Many of my customers still want their VCR repaired. Normally because they're too old to realize copying them to DVD is not only possible, but not all that complex... There is still a high demand for them and normally I send my customers to eBay or a hock shop if they want one.... There ya go Gizmodo, you can send me my brand new daewoo VCR now :D

    Nothing wrong with VCR, even crap ones. Not everyone is tech savvy and still has a collection of tapes they intend to NOT pay some command to convert.

    Quite a lot of music producers still use zip disks. There's a lot of music hardware (drum machines, samplers) that are still relevant today which use them for storage.

    Some of us still have CD's laying around the House and you can hook up Speakers to the Players , old fashioned but they still work.

    You know - good technology doesn't die. They evolve. Most of these items are great examples of the steps to improvement, yet still has the "DNA". The fact is to me this is exciting. The VCR rewinder

    You know - good technology doesn't die. They evolve. Most of these items are great examples of the steps to improvement, yet still has the "DNA". The fact is to me this is exciting. So look for tech with "evolutionary Liniage" . EG -The VCR rewinder - great idea - but the genius is in The VCR.

    My VCR tape rewinder is shaped like a racing car.

    iPhone 3GS?

    But seriously serial cables aren't obsolete. They are actively used especially for anyone in the network game.

    My thoughts; Some people like typewriters (think of Stephen King still using a mechanical typewriter!)
    and CD-audio is still of higher quality than mp3 (though you can rip to WAV, takes up alot of space - about 40MB per song)

    I like how no one has justified the use of the 56k modem yet.

      NAB clients still use 56k modems for B2B transactions "for security reasons"

        Our pathology lab was using a modem until 1 month ago to fax reports... then we got privatised

        +1 It is actually easier and faster to use their software that dials in when doing bulk transactions rather that using the business internet banking. Also NAB's support for their NAB Online (the name of the software that uses the modem) product is amazing!

      You can hook it up to your phone line and have caller id alerts show up on your TV when watching a film. It's great tech.

    I understand the CD players , a lot of elderly people use them for portability of audiobooks and music.

    The entire offshore industry and the mining industry run on serial connections, as DJRCMACH said, USB just isn't secure enough to run safely without the plug falling out.

    Still using RS-232 and RS-485 plugs / cords for all subsea installations and equipment.

      Yeah. I use them all the time. It's not even a matter of which is more suitable for the environment, it's simply a matter of having to interface with industrial machines that pre-date USB (people don't replace that stuff for the sake of getting a new version of Windows like they do the PCs in the office). It's the same reason I have a mountain of keyboards and mice.
      'I had to find a mouse' doesn't sound like a good enough reason to justify throwing two extra days onto a repair that's shutdown an entire workshop. No matter how you explain it they never quite get that you couldn't just pick one up at Office Works.

    CD Players I can understand since I think audiophiles still prefer them for lossless quality.

    Typewriters have a very unique feel that even mechanical keyboards can only approach. I can understand why the luddite writers use them.

    VCRs can realistically be used by people who have a big family VHS collection that they haven't gotten around to digitising.

    Outside of the serial cables, the rest is pretty worthless though. Zip Disks? I still remember the ads for them, and thinking that they were the next 'big thing' after floppies... having no clue the CD/DVD/Flash storage thing was on the horizon.

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