10 gadgets Boomers & GenX grew up with that are nearly obsolete


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Sometimes, it feels like technology moves so quickly that you could blink and find yourself behind the times. Devices that were once staples of everyday life get relegated to obsolescence before we even wrap our heads around them.

We’re taking a look at some “gone but not forgotten” gadgets that were pretty useful to most people, not all that long ago. We looked at various technology news websites and blogs to help construct our list. Let’s take a walk down technological memory lane.

1. Landline Phones (1950s-1990s)

A cordless phone on a table

We still rely heavily on phones, but landline phones are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Once, everyone had a phone or two in their homes that connected to a physical landline, but as of 2018, more than half of homes (55 percent) use only cell phones. Many of the remaining households have cell phones in addition to a landline.

Those who still have a landline are likely to own their homes. That suggests that even people who still have a landline only have one because it’s kind of always been there.

2. Phone Booths (1950s-1990s)

Phone Booths

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a phone booth these days. Phone booths originally popped up when telephones were newer and more expensive to use. A public phone booth could offer a cheaper alternative available to just about anyone.

One of the first phone booths we know of sprang up between Bridgeport and Black Rock, Conn. That booth, which cost 15 cents to use, got installed in 1878. It wasn’t until 1889 that a true public telephone appeared.

3. Film Cameras (1930s-2000s)

Film Camera

These days, we film and take pictures of most things on our phones, a job once exclusively belonging to film cameras. The first Kodak roll-film camera came about in 1888, and by the early 1900s, we had silent movies shot on film cameras.

These cameras became more accessible to the general public a little later with things like the Polaroid camera and disposable cameras. But now, all of that has gotten replaced by cell phones that can fit in our back pockets.

4. Pagers (1980s-2000s)

Old pager device

The first pagers were for the police. Soon, they moved to use in hospitals.But pagers really gained popularity in the ‘80s, when 3.2 million were in use around the world. Their short range limited their usefulness, but the fact that they started sending text messages boosted their popularity.

Once again, we have cell phones to blame for the decline of this technology. When cell phones started becoming popular, the limited capabilities of pagers made them obsolete.

5. Fax Machines (1970s-2000s)

Fax Machine

Fax Machine

Xerox invented the fax machine in 1964, but it wasn’t standard business equipment until the ‘70s. In the ‘80s, the machines got an upgrade to include copying and scanning functions. This made them great all-in-one devices for businesses.

This time it isn’t just the fault of cell phones that this technology turned obsolete. Cloud computing also contributed. These days, it’s just so easy to share information that faxing has become far too much of a hassle.

6. CD and DVD players (1980s-2000s)

DVD Player

CD players revolutionized music in the ‘80s. People could buy and play CDs so much more easily than vinyls. A CD collection was a point of pride until things like Napster and iTunes made all music digital.

And what about DVDs? They suffered a similar fate.

They swept in to replace clunky VHS tapes in the ‘90s, offering improved performance and convenience. But these days, people get a lot of their entertainment through streaming, which requires little more than an internet connection.

7. Alarm Clocks (1940s-2000s)

As far back as the 1300s, we’ve been trying to wake up on time, but the first instance of what we’d recognize as an alarm clock didn’t come around until closer to the 1920s. In the 1940s, the government deemed alarm clocks “essential to the smooth running of industry.” This is when they got produced in the greatest quantities and incorporated new features like the snooze button.

Most people now simply set an alarm on their phone rather than using a separate device.

8. Standalone GPS Devices (2000s-2010s)

GPS device

It’s great being able to type an address into our phones and instantly get directions, but there was a time not all that long ago when you had to use a completely separate device for GPS. Before 2000, the Defense Department purposefully degraded the quality of GPS, making them inefficient. But once that ended, the floodgates opened.

In the early 2000s, everyone had a GPS to help them navigate. Today, we rely on many of the same GPS satellites used for these obsolete devices for our phones.

9. VCRs (1970s-1990s)

VHS videocassettes

Invented in the 1950s, VCRs didn’t really become a popular consumer product until the ‘70s when Sony and JVC started to push them. As they proliferated, they also became more affordable for the average consumer. Pretty much every home had a landline and a VCR at one point. It freed people from being tied to television schedules. Now, you could watch what you wanted when you wanted.

DVDs and computers eventually made VCR obsolete. But the last VCR was manufactured shockingly recently – 2016.

10. Traditional Watches (1800s-2000s)

Watches are very, very old devices. Even the ancient Egyptians used some form of time-telling device.

The first wristwatch was invented in 1812. Meant to replace pocket watches, it slowly crept into wide usage.

Then, in the early 1900s, we got the first automatic, self-winding watch. The 1920s and ‘30s saw an uptick in the popularity of wristwatches, with another bump in the ‘70s when electric wristwatches hit stores. Today, however, wristwatches are often just jewelry or status symbols.

Which Obsolete Devices Would You Bring Back?

Do you have a bit of whiplash from this trip down memory lane? Technology changes and adapts at an ever-increasing pace, which can leave us feeling like we’re always falling behind.

Many of the devices on this list were cherished staples of everyday life that have been replaced by a single device: the smart phone. But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. They all paved the way for the features we love in our phones, from GPS capabilities to alarm clocks. We couldn’t have gotten here without what came before.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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