Obsolete Technology: 40 Big Losers

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21. Dialing on a Rotary Phone

Status: Nearly deceased

The ease of touchtone dialing has made active use of rotary phones a novelty, though it isn't clear whether those old Bell Telephone models will ever become truly rare, since they were built to withstand thermonuclear attack. In any case, mimes may never let the motion go from their repertoire.

22. Storing Data on a Floppy Disk

Status: Nearly deceased

A disk with 1.44MB of storage? Shyeah, right. The once-standard protocol for storing and transferring data seems puny by today's file-size standards. (And don't even get started with the truly floppy 5.25-inch variety.) Few new PCs are being built with floppy disk drives anymore; and as a result, the era of the A:\ prompt is in its twilight. As for the Zip drive, Iomega may still say it sells 'em--but is anyone buying it?

23. Booting Up to a C:\ Prompt

Status: Nearly deceased

DOS, we'll always fondly remember seeing your blinking prompt upon boot-up. Rest in peace, dear friend.

24. Typing on an Old-School Word Processor

Status: Deceased

Let's face it: Doogie Howser wouldn't have been nearly as endearing if he had typed his nightly journal on Microsoft Office 2010. But boy, that plain blue-and-white screen just screams "1991."

25. Having Your Mobile Phone Attached to Your Car

Status: Deceased

I remember those early mobile phones that mechanics installed in people's cars. What I can't remember, though, is what today's important-looking Bluetooth-always-in-the-ear guys did to make themselves look like tools back then.

26. Putting in a Videotape to Watch a Movie

Status: On life support

Dearly beloved, we gather here today to mourn the passing of VHS. The lucky twin of the long-deceased Betamax (whose cause of death remains a source of controversy decades later), VHS gave us hours of videotape-watching enjoyment--and almost as many hours of trying to adjust the blasted tracking knob to get a steady picture.

27. Holding Up a Lighter at a Concert

Status: Showing signs of illness

Listening to a power ballad in a dimly lit stadium without a sea of gently undulating lighters for company is like spending time at Twitter without a sea of social media experts offering their insights and informed criticism: Something about it doesn't feel right. Sure, holding up thousands of illuminated cell phones might be safer--but even if the phones have virtual lighter apps installed, it just isn't the same.

28. Watching a Movie on a Laser Disc

Status: Deceased

The only proof that anyone ever actually watched movies on laser disc is the (at this writing) 5282 entries posted on eBay by people trying to dump their LDs. But whether fact or fiction, the technology is definitely obsolete now.

29. Using Proper Grammar and Punctuation

Status: On life support

txting and iming has made proper grammar seems kinda old skoo, dont u thnk? heres hoping 4 capitalization & punctuation 2 make a comeback in emails & other writing. the gr8 gatsby probly wuld hv been way less gr8 if it wuz written like this. lol

30. Getting a New Car With a Cigarette Lighter

Status: Showing signs of illness

Built-in cigarette lighters--standard-issue accessories for many nicotine-friendly decades--are losing favor among automobile manufacturers. In fact, most new cars today ship cigarette lighter-free, instead dedicating the ports to electronics charging.

31. Flipping On an Incandescent Light Bulb

Status: On life support

More and more nations are saying so long to the traditional incandescent light bulb and encouraging their citizens to use relatively ecology-friendly, energy-saving bulbs. Cartoon characters getting "bright ideas" have yet to adapt, however.

32. Sitting in Front of a CRT Monitor

Status: On life support

I won't miss staring at blurry, hard-to-read text on a CRT screen. But I will miss the dramatic effect of seeing one of those bad boys dropped from a third-story window. Flatscreen monitors may be more aerodynamic, but they just don't blow up as well.

33. Playing Music on an Audiocassette

Status: Nearly deceased

You can try to rewind, but the life of the cassette is on its last legs. If anyone knows a practical application for four boxes of late-1980s, early-1990s rock tapes, please advise.

34. Going to the Local Music Store to Check out CDs

Status: On life support

Local music stores are becoming harder and harder to find. Here's hoping that the remaining few can manage to hang on. Losing them would leave a cultural void that iTunes is not equipped to fill.

35. Getting an AOL Disk or CD in the Mail

Status: Deceased

Ever wonder how many of those floppies and CDs AOL sent out over the years? You're not alone. But no one seems to know the answer. The supply of AOL marketing material appeared endless, right up until the mailings stopped a few years back. People who devoted their time to collecting or shunning the discs haven't figured out what to do with themselves since (nor have I figured out what I'm supposed to use for coasters now).

36. Looking Up Numbers in the Phone Book

Status: Showing signs of illness

Phone companies still hand them out, but printed phone books have definitely seen better days. The combined influence of the Web and of phone services such as GOOG-411 has sharply reduced everyday use of phone books; and today the traditional walking of fingers through wood-pulp pages seems antiquated to many tech-friendly families (and wasteful to many green-friendly families).

37. Using Carbon Copy Paper

Status: Nearly deceased

With even low-end printers now able to scan, copy, and possibly make toast, you don't see old-fashioned carbon copy paper too often, making carbon paper a candidate to join purple-on-white mimeograph paper any day now in the museum of antiquities. And I doubt that anyone's complaining.

38. Sending Documents via Fax

Status: Showing signs of illness

Why fax when you can attach? Especially since most documents are now created on computers, the facsimile may soon find itself on the endangered species list. Fear not, though, Office Space fans: The legend "PC Load Letter" will live on forever.

39. Rockin' Out With Your Boombox

Status: Nearly deceased

Your iPod may look cool, but can you balance it on your shoulder and blare your funky beats at obnoxiously high volumes? Didn't think so. The boombox-- also known as the jambox, the ghetto blaster, or the jerkface apparatus--reached its peak popularity during the 1980s, when big hair, stone-washed jeans, and bad dancing enjoyed similarly unaccountable heydays. Though updated editions of the boombox may be on the market today, the era of not being able to ride in peace on a randomly selected public conveyance on a randomly selected day is, thankfully, behind us.

40. Giving Someone Your Undivided Attention During a Social Interaction

Status: Showing signs of illness

Oh, come on--talking without simultaneously texting or tweeting is so 2008.

More Chances to Live in the Past

For further excursions down memory lane, see the following articles from our archives:

The Floppy Rises Again

The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

The Most Collectible PCs of All Time

The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

When not distracted by Twitter, Contributing Editor JR Raphael gives his undivided attention to eSarcasm, his new geek humor site.

What technology do you miss? We'd love to see your comments, either below or on our far-from-obsolete Facebook page.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
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