The world was a very different place several decades ago. With very limited access to the internet, doing a lot of the tasks we do in everyday life would seem impossible back then, yet we think nothing of it today. In fact, we now carry more processing power in our pockets than what was used to land men on the moon. Astonishing. Technology has changed so much since, then and will continue to do so.
For example, I remember when I was younger going to my father’s office on the weekend to watch movies because he was lucky enough to have a DVD player in his work computer. The day when we finally got a DVD player at home was amazing. Now, with the emergence of Netflix and other streaming services, a lot of people don’t even own a single DVD.
So in commemoration of technology past and the advances of everyday technology, here’s a top 10 list of obsolete appliances and electronics that we all used to use.
VCR stands for videocassette recorder that would record analog audio and video from broadcast television and playback the recording. The first commercially successful VCR was introduced to the public in 1956, and achieved massive widespread home use throughout the 1980s and 90s, and remained as the staple of video viewing technology until the year 2000, when DVDs were introduced to the mass market. In 2007, mass production of VCR technologies stopped due to their increasing obsolescence. They still have some niche appeals to vintage markets, but in terms of universal appeal, the VCR is now an obsolete appliance.
The VCR was much larger and more cumbersome than the DVD, and was overly sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity and magnetism. To be honest I’m quite glad this piece of technology is gone. Finding out that your mother had taped over ‘Die Hard’ so she could record ‘Keeping up Appearances’ was heartbreaking. Even worse was if you accidentally recorded over someone’s wedding or birthday tape – you’d have no way of getting it back!
Nowadays, most people watch their video content on streaming services.
The CD, or compact disc player, was first sold to consumers in 1982, and enabled higher-information density required for higher-quality sound. The CD player was quite revolutionary, as some of their models such as the Sony Walkman were the first easily portable music devices available to mass audiences.
Technically, the CD player is still not an obsolete appliance, as CDs are still sold across the world, but there are many other pieces of technology that are capable of playing CDs. This was not the case in the 80s and 90s, when CD players were the only widely available appliance able to play them.
The biggest contributing factor to the CD player’s obsolescence is the emergence of the internet. Now, thanks to the likes of iTunes and Spotify, you don’t even need to leave your couch to download and listen to the latest hit. When was the last time that you can remember buying a physical copy of an album? While I’m sure a lot of you still do this, the majority of people now listen to their music online.
Going even further back is the cassette player. Like the CD player it preceded, the cassette player, or cassette deck, was an appliance that was used to play and record audio compact cassettes. They used large tape reels that needed to be threaded by hand, which could prove tricky if the reels ever came undone. They were extremely popular in the 1960s and 70s, and achieved most of their success with automobiles.
Unfortunately for the cassette player, it was phased out by the CD player, which as we know also become obsolete itself just a decade or two later. Ultimately, they were too cumbersome to use, and didn’t provide a high enough sound quality in comparison to other music and sound appliances. Cassettes were also another candidate for the risk of accidental over-taping of a precious and often painstakingly collected mix of current favorite hits.
A more recent addition to this list, Cathode ray tube TVs (CRT) were those massive clunky TVs everyone used to have before the newer, slimmer editions we have today were released. Cathode ray tubes are vacuum tubes that accelerate and deflect electron beams onto the screen to create moving images. These tubes had to be very long in length, which is why those TVs used to be so ridiculously heavy.
CRT TVs were phased out in favor of LCD, plasma and OLED TVs in the early 2000s due to all 3 of them having lower manufacturing costs, power consumption, weight and bulk. CRT versions are still sold across the world, but have an insignificant market share compared to the latest versions, and are not as profitable to make.
I know that my living room certainly feels bigger now than it did when we used to have one of these behemoths instead of the slimmer versions. And I still haven’t forgotten the pain caused by attempting to lug one of them from room to room – that’s a job for several people. All in all, this is one appliance I’m not sad to see the back of.
Visit Canstar Blue’s entertainment section to compare the LED and LCD TVs on offer at in the present.
The first commercially successful answering machine was sold in the United States way back in 1949, making it one of the oldest pieces of technology on this list. There’s no need to go into too much detail about what an answering machine is, as most of you will probably still have one attached to your home phone – they just might not get used very much.
While they are still used by a lot of people, answering machines are hanging on for dear life, and are fast moving towards obsolescence. No one really leaves messages anymore, as the primary method of contact for the majority of the population is via mobile. This unfortunately means that the majority of messages left on your answering machine will be from annoying neighbors or telemarketers. I wonder which one is worse?
Like their answering machine counterparts, the landline telephone is spiraling towards becoming obsolete. A landline telephone is a phone that uses a telephone line as well as radio waves for transmission. According to the CIA, there are currently 1.2 billion landline phones in operation around the world. However, this number is quickly decreasing, due to the continuous improvement of digital technology and the conveniences of internet-based alternatives.
Landline phones are a dying breed, as only half of households in the United States claim to own a landline phone, and 1 in 5 state that they only use mobile phones for communication in their homes. This is particularly true for the younger generations, as 60% of young household owners claim to only use mobile phones, whereas the older generations continue to cling to the old way. Personally, I hardly know anyone under the age of 40 who still have a landline, and if they do I never call it. Mobile communication is just so much more efficient these days, and as such, landline telephones are an appliance that is facing obsolescence.
If you’re looking to be one of the many who doesn’t rely on outdated landline phones, then check out our comparison of smartphones.
A fax is a telephonic transmission of scanned printed material sent to a phone connected to a printer. While versions of the fax machine have been around since the 1800s, the first commercially successful fax machine in the modern era was introduced in 1964. Fax machines were widely adopted by businesses during the 1970s, and this continued until the 21st century, when internet-based alternatives such as email become more useful in terms of their capabilities.
Most businesses do not use these archaic machines anymore, but bizarrely, they remain popular in fields such as law. This is mainly due to the fact that electronic signatures on formal documents and contracts are not yet recognized by law, whereas signatures on faxed contracts are. Fax machines have also caused problems for the football industry, with dozens of player transfers not being completed on time each year due to the slow speed of fax machines. They served their purpose for many decades previously, but are now considered an unreliable piece of technology, and hopefully they will be gone for good in the near future.
A slide projector is a mechanical device used for showing photographic slides. They gained widespread use in the 1950s for home entertainment as well as education purposes, and consist of 4 main elements:
- An electric light bulb or another light source
- A reflector lens to direct light to the side
- A slide holder
- And a focusing lens
These appliances are now almost entirely obsolete, replaced by image or video files on digital storage media that can present more clearly and in better quality. The obsolescence of slide projectors unfortunately means that there are no more long evenings watching photos of people standing in front of famous things from their holidays. We have Facebook for that now.
‘Love’ is a kind word to describe dial-up internet, I feel. Dial-up was an early form of internet access that uses a public telephone network to establish an internet connection to an internet service provider, and the modem was the appliance used to code and decode frequency signals while attached to the computer. Dial-up internet was first offered commercially in 1992, but wasn’t on top for long, as it was replaced by broadband internet in the early 2000s.
Despite the abysmal speeds it brings compared to modern internet equivalents, dial-up still isn’t totally extinct, even though it is now obsolete. Dial-up is still common in rural or remote areas where broadband installations are not available due to the low population density. All that is needed for dial-up is a telephone network and a modem, which is all some people, have. Just 3% of adults with an internet connection use dial-up, although judging by my internet speeds, you’d think it is still more common that.
Last but not least, we have the iPod. A more recent piece of technology than anything else on my list, but I feel it needs a special mention, as just a decade ago, you couldn’t step out of your front door without seeing people with white earphones in their ears dancing everywhere you looked, whereas now they are only remembered for giving their name to radio shows released on the internet.
The iPod is a line of portable media players that also serves as a storage device, released by Apple Inc. in 2001. It won several awards for industry innovation and engineering excellence upon release, and reached 74% market share in 2005. Numbers have since dropped off, but it is still going relatively strong, with 350 million people still owning an iPod as recently as 2013. Sales have decreased dramatically however, and given the widespread popularity of the iPhone and other smartphone brands, which can do everything the iPod can do, it is likely that it will continue its decline until it eventually reaches obsolescence too.
While it’s a bit sad to see all of these once famous these go the way of landfill, it does leave more room in the house for the newer and far more exciting appliances of the future. In 20 years, maybe the iPhone will be obsolete too.