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(Pocket-lint) - Advancements in technology come in leaps and bounds, meaning it doesn't take long for new gadgets to become obsolete shortly after they reach their target market. Several modern technologies, such as mobile phones and computers, offer the ability to do many of the same things that these older gadgets were capable of, but in a smaller and more portable forms. 

That's why we're taking a nostalgic walk down memory lane, looking at some of the biggest, best and most memorable gadgets from the last century that have been outdated, outmoded or just forced into irrelevance by better, modern technologies.

You might remember many of these, but there are plenty of the younger generation that don't.

Wikipedia Public telephone booths

Public telephone booths

The iconic phone booth; essentially a monument to telephone's history and now just a tourist attraction or somewhere to shelter from the cold.

The public phone booth has now been rendered obsolete by the rise of the mobile phone. There's rarely going to be any need for a coin-operated telephone when you have one in your pocket.

Pexel Rotary telephones and wired landlines

Rotary telephones and wired landlines

Another piece of technology that nears obsoletion after being replaced by a computer that we carry around in our pocket. The wired telephone dates back as far as 1844 and it has seen many iterations over the years that have since passed.

One such variation was the rotary dial telephone which featured a dial arranged in a circular layout so the user had to turn the dial for each digit off the phone number they were trying to call.

Except perhaps as a novelty, rotary phones are long since a thing of the past. Wired landlines are following close behind as modern smartphones are easily acquirable, far more personal and affordable.

Wikipedia Dumb phones

Dumb phones

In a world of smartphones, these old fashioned mobile phones basically did nothing but call, send text messages and perhaps, if you were lucky, allow you to play a cheeky game of Snake.

They are now thoroughly antiquated and more or less obsolete. The precursor to the modern mobile, they were extremely useful in their time and were happily running for days without charge, something which we sorely miss.

Wikipedia Pagers and beepers

Pagers and beepers

Pagers were originally designed and built in the 1950's but they didn't really take hold in terms of popularity until the 1980's. These one-way communication devices were often used by emergency services, doctors and safety personnel who needed to be reachable at all times, even when away from a landline telephone.

The rise of smartphones in the early 2000s saw the decline in the use of pagers and beepers but due to the durability, resilience and better coverage they continued to see use for several more years and, as an example, Canada was still paying as much as $18.5 million for its pager service in 2013.

Wikipedia Personal digital assistant (PDA)

Personal digital assistant (PDA)

The forefather of the modern mobile phone, the personal digital assistant offered limited access to a lot of modern capabilities we've come to expect, including internet access, word processing, touchscreen functionality and more.

They quickly became obsolete when smartphones started to gain favour, but before that time they were a firm favourite with businessmen across the world.

Wikipedia LaserDisc


LaserDisc was one of those niche formats of technology that was mainly popular among videophiles and film enthusiasts. Although it was the first format of optical video storage, available from 1978, LaserDisc failed to gain mainstream popularity due to the expense of the players.

LaserDisc offered higher-quality video than VHS and Betamax and the technology behind it was the foundation for compact disc, DVD and Blu-ray in later years. Despite never going mainstream, it wasn't until 2001 that the last video titles were released in this format and a total of 16.8 million LaserDisc players were sold worldwide.

Max Pixel Digital Versatile Disc (DVD)

Digital Versatile Disc (DVD)

DVD was the evolution of the digital video format developed by tech giants Panasonic, Philips, Sony and Toshiba. With a high storage capacity, it became a medium for computer files, software and high-quality video. DVD had many benefits over that of previous magnetic storage formats, including larger storage space, but also durability that meant that in theory, the discs could have a lifespan of up to 100 years.

With faster internet speeds, video streaming technology and other superior formats such as Blu-ray - even 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray - on the market, DVD is likely nearing the end of its lifespan. Meanwhile, other formats of DVD such as the 1080p-capable, Blu-ray rival HD-DVD never really even took off in the first place, much like the fabled LaserDisc.

Wikipedia Floppy disks

Floppy disks

Floppy disks were a type of data storage medium that originally appeared in the 1970s. The first was the 8-inch floppy disc, capable of storing just 80 kilobytes of data. As the floppy disks got smaller, their storage capacity grew and by the mid-1980s the 3.5-inch floppy disk was able to store a respectable 1.44 MB.

Floppy disks were unfortunately vulnerable to magnets and heat, and easily corrupted. By the 1990s software size meant many disks were required for most applications (Adobe Photoshop required over a dozen disks to run) so CD-ROMs began to take over. The floppy disk now only lives on as a save icon in most software applications.

No Zaku Fax machines

Fax machines

The humble fax machine was essentially a modern version of the telegram. For many years, it allowed people and businesses to transmit scanned documents from one phone number to another. The recipient would have the joy of a printed copy of the document bursting forth from their machine. This was all done by a transmission of audio frequency tones that were deciphered at the other end.

Like many of the technologies on our list, fax machines have largely been rendered obsolete by the invention of email, the internet and advancements in computing technologies.

Public Domain Pictures Compact cassette tape

Compact cassette tape

Audio brother to VHS and Betamax cassette tapes was the compact cassette tape. Originally introduced in 1968, compact cassettes used the same magnetic tape technology to deliver affordable audio to the masses. They were used as either blank tapes that could be recorded onto (via dictaphone or boombox for example) or as pre-recorded cassettes of music albums. Cassettes could also be used to store other data and were therefore used as a storage medium for early home computers.

Cassette tapes gained popularity in the 80s but by the 90s were outsold by compact discs which soon became the standard format. Nonetheless, cassette tapes continued to sell and it wasn't until 2001 that they truly began to die, at least in pre-recorded formats. Blank tapes were still being sold right up until 2012. In their heydey, cassette tapes sold as many as 442 million in the US alone.

We have hazy memories of fighting cassette players to rescue chewed up tapes and spending hours twizzling them back together with a pencil.

Wikipedia Video Home System (VHS)

Video Home System (VHS)

In the late 80s, VHS cassette tapes became the popular standard for home video. Whether used for recording family videos or rented for the local video store to watch the latest blockbuster, these small reels of magnetic tape wrapped in plastic housing brought joy across the lands. Unless of course, someone forgot to rewind the tape you rented or a sibling recorded over your copy of Terminator 2.

The rise of DVD saw to the slow but steady demise of VHS and, by 2008, DVD replaced VHS as the favoured video technology both for recording and film distribution.

Wikipedia Digital Audi Tapes (DAT)

Digital Audi Tapes (DAT)

The digital audio tape was the brainchild of Sony and offered a digital recording capability but with a similar design style to the compact cassette tape in a smaller format.

DAT was capable of recording at a higher quality than CD and also boasted the ability to number tracks and skip right to them much like a CD. However, due to the cost of this format it never really caught on at consumer level but was used in various professional markets and as a computer data storage medium.

With lacklustre sales of around 660,000 sales since 1987, Sony announced it would stop production of DAT machines in 2005. The format was essentially superseded by hard disk drives and memory cards but is still in use in some areas.

Wikipedia Overhead projectors

Overhead projectors

A classroom classic, the overhead projector was a simple yet wonderful system for projecting images, text and drawings onto an appropriate screen.

Transparent sheets of acetate were used in place of paper to enable presenters to transpose their presentations onto the screen in front of the class. Although likely still in use in some classrooms, these projectors have likely been rendered obsolete by modern projection technology and computers.

Wikipedia Phonebooks


Not really a technology as such, but certainly something made obsolete by technological advancements is the simple phonebook.

These chunky paper directories included residential and business listings for all the phone numbers you could possibly need. Now rendered obsolete by the internet, these phonebooks are certainly a relic of a bygone era. Yet we still occasionally see them posted through our front door.

Wikipedia Portable DVD players

Portable DVD players

With the rise of DVD and the ever falling cost of the technology behind it, as the well as the shrinking sizes of processors and advancements in screen technology, it was no surprise that portable DVD players made their way to market.

However, the size of the discs and the quality of battery life meant that DVD players failed to gain widespread popularity and initially their cost was prohibitive. Now, with easy access to streaming video via mobile phones and tablets, the need for portable DVD players is almost entirely negated.