Obsolete Technology: 40 Big Losers

By the time you read this story, the Internet may be obsolete.

Okay, maybe not. But you never know. With technology evolving at breakneck speed, no one can say for sure what's around the next corner--to say nothing of the one after that. The circle of life, however, remains constant: When a new high-tech creation is born, something else may die as a result. Sometimes, the loss is a good thing--who wants busy signals or staticky TV?--but at other times, the departure stirs bittersweet feelings (remember saying farewell to your trusty old C:\ prompt?).

We've compiled a list of 40 once-commonplace activities that are rapidly approaching extinction. Some are in danger of disappearing, while others have already vanished. So join us for a spirited send-off.

1. Playing Video Games at an Arcade

Status: On life support

Once a favorite activity of geeks worldwide, going to the arcade to play video games began fading away in the mid-1990s, just as going to the arcade to play pinball had done a decade before. A few arcades survive, but the days of gamers lining up to toss quarters into Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat are long gone. It's easy to see why: The advent of advanced gaming systems allows you to experience the same action at home, minus the dungeon-like lighting, the deafening game noise, and the premature exhaustion of your lunch money for the week.

2. Running Out of Hard-Drive Space

Status: Deceased

With terabyte-size drives now selling for less than $70, hard drives that exceed your storage needs aren't exactly hard to come by these days. But remember when an 80MB drive was the pinnacle of luxury and a 1GB drive would have seemed as spacious as Carlsbad Caverns?

3. Getting a Busy Signal

Status: Nearly deceased

Thanks to advances in voicemail and call-waiting technology, you rarely hear that annoying broken tone any more. Unless, of course, you're voting for American Idol or listening to Pink Floyd.

4. Going on a "Blind" First Date

Status: Deceased

What with Google, dating sites, and a slew of social networks, it's not difficult to get to know a person digitally before choosing to interact with them in a brick-and-mortar environment. Heck, you might even get to know them intimately before ever meeting. Or instead of ever meeting.

5. Needing to Be 18 to Have Access to Porn

Status: Deceased

It may sound crazy, but in the old days a fella had to be 18 to get his hands on prurient materials--either that or have an easily bribable older brother. Or a friend with such a brother. Or a dad with an obvious stash. Not that I know anything about such matters.

6. Chatting With the SysOp

Status: Deceased

The SysOp--short for system administrator--was a figure of power beginning in the late 1970s and continuing into the early 1990s. As the creator and overlord of the local bulletin board system (BBS), the SysOp watched over the users who dialed into his pre-Internet electronic communication system. He chatted with visitors, kept the system running smoothly, and occasionally hit the disconnect button when someone remained logged in for too long.

7. Paying for Long Distance

Status: Nearly deceased

Once upon a time, people had to pay expensive per-minute fees for long distance. Then, the big bad cell phone came along and blew those charges away like a straw house. The end.

8. Getting Fuzzy TV Reception

Status: Deceased

When the United States flipped the switch on an all-digital broadcasting system this summer, it also effectively sent the fuzzy "white snow" to the graveyard. So long, annoying static; we always loathed you.

9. Hearing the Sound of a Modem Connecting

Status: Nearly deceased

How a familiar series of sounds could simultaneously be so grating and so gratifying is a mystery that man may never unlock. Jonesing for a fix? Try the 56K Modem Emulator.

10. Shooting Polaroids

Status: Nearly deceased

Polaroid plans to stop selling its signature instant film at the end of this year.

11. Waiting to Get Photos Developed

Status: Showing signs of illness

Though film-based cameras aren't completely gone, the advantages of digital snapshots --namely, that you can view a picture immediately after taking it and that you can discard bad shots at no cost--have certainly made traditional cameras far less common.

12. Typing on a Typewriter

Status: Nearly deceased

The clickity-clackity sound of the standard typewriter has quieted over the years. Unless you work in the New York City Police Department, which reportedly just signed a $1 million typewriter-purchasing contract.

13. Removing the Perforated Leader Strips From Continuous-Feed Paper Printouts

Status: Nearly deceased

Born in the 1970s, the dot matrix printer delivered low-quality printouts for nearly two full decades before inkjet technology offered an alternative that was slightly less hard on the eyes. The dot matrix printer will be remembered for its frequent paper jams; for its slow, noisy operation; and for the thin strips of perforated paper that you had to tear (carefully, so you didn't end up with a document that looked as though a tiny but voracious shrew had been sampling it) off the left and right sides of a printout once their work of keeping the paper properly aligned in the printer was done.

14. Having Easy-to-Remember TV Channel Numbers

Status: Nearly deceased

Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on? More like 557 channels (and still nothin' on). Try writing a catchy tune to that, Springsteen.

15. Checking Your Answering Machine

Status: Seriously ill

"Hi, you've reached the answering machine. I'm still around, but most people are now using dial-in voicemail instead of me. What a bunch of ungrateful little...BEEP!"

16. Enjoying Complete Privacy

Status: On life support

In the face of constant monitoring by Google and the many forms of GPS tracking in our lives (social networking shoe, anyone?), privacy has become a rare and precious commodity within the connected world. Speaking of which, that's a nice shirt you're wearing today.

17. Making Someone a Real Mix Tape

Status: Deceased

Web sites like Mixtape.com and Songza may attempt to fill the void, but the art of laboring over a custom-made mix tape tailored for a special occasion or a special person--as romanticized by John Cusack's character in High Fidelity --seems to have gone the way of electrical appliance repair and blacksmithing. It's a damn shame, too, because mix tapes made great gifts for dates (and by "great" I mean "potentially highly prized by the recipient and yet incredibly cheap and easy to assemble").

18. Wearing a Calculator Watch

Status: Deceased

Affectionately dubbed "the nerd watch," the calculator watch once served as a proud badge of a person's abiding amusement with mathematics--as diagnostic as a pocket protector or membership in the high school Slide Rule Club. Nowadays, the only sure way to ascertain an individual's true geek quotient is to test their Star Trek knowledge.

19. Seeing Pages and Pages of Phone Sex Ads in the Back of Free City Weeklies

Status: Showing signs of illness

Those naughty 900 numbers may still exist, but cybersex and the scandal-du-jour phenomenon of sexting have stolen most of the spotlight from landline lovin' these days. Not to mention that Craigslist and online events calendars have left free city weeklies looking pretty anorexic themselves. It's true that lying about yourself and your various physical characteristics is just as easy when you're talking on the phone as when you're typing on a keyboard--unless the lie is "I don't sound like Donald Duck"--but online the person you're communicating with can't hear that repellant note of desperation in your voice.

20. Using a Public Phone Booth

Status: On life support

Now that everyone and his cockatiel has a cell phone, public phone booths are getting tougher to track down. Translation: Superman is screwed.

Next: Floppy disks, videotapes, holding up cigarette lighters at concerts, AOL install disks, and more.

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