The last 50 years have seen breathtaking advancements in technology. But with the coming of the new, the old has to make way and sometimes dies off completely in the process. It doesn’t take long for what seemed like a gadget found in every home to become just another unused item collecting dust in the attic or garage.
Here’s a look at technologies that were a big deal at one time but are barely recognizable to today’s generation.
1. Video Home System (VHS)
Towards the end of the 1980s, VHS tapes became the hallmark for home video. From watching the latest blockbusters borrowed from a local movie store to capturing family moments, these reels of magnetic tape were a mainstay of family entertainment.
Still, there was that annoying inconvenience of slotting a tape into the VCR only to find out the person who watched it before you failed to rewind it. This and other shortcomings were the reasons VHS experienced a rapid demise and was replaced by the CD and DVD in the early 2000s.
Persons with VHS tapes have had to convert their precious videos from VHS to USB or VHS to DVD to ensure the content remains watchable on modern players.
2. Floppy Disks
Floppy disks were a data storage medium that initially appeared in the 1970s. The first floppy was an 8-inch disk that could store 80 kilobytes -negligible by today’s standard but impressive at the time. As the disks got progressively smaller, their capacity grew and in the mid-1980s, the standard 3.5-inch disk could store 1.44 MB.
Floppy disks were, nevertheless, vulnerable to heat and magnets, thus easily corrupted. And as the size of software installation files grew, one required dozens of disks to run large applications like Adobe Photoshop. The floppy could not survive and is today mostly remembered by the save icon used in many everyday applications.
3. Pagers and Beepers
Pagers were invented in the 1950s but didn’t really catch on until the 1980s. They were one-way communication devices that allowed doctors, emergency services, and safety personnel to be within reach at all times, even when they weren’t close to a phone line.
The entry of mobile phones in the 1990s and smartphones in the 2000s precipitated the decline of pagers and beepers. They, however, continued to be used well into the 2010s thanks to their resilience, durability, portability, and coverage.
4. Personal Digital Assistant
The precursor to the mobile phone, the personal digital assistant (PDA) provided, albeit limited, access to word processing, Internet browsing, and touchscreen functionality. A must-have among top executives at its peak, the PDA’s popularity quickly diminished as the smartphone caught on.
Smartphones could fulfill the functions of the PDA and much more. And as a mass-market product, it became possible to get a smartphone at a much lower cost than the PDA. It was time for the PDA to be confined to the annals of history.
5. Dial-Up Modems
Internet access today usually means the broadband and 3G/4G/5G networks. That wasn’t the case in the early years of the world wide web. Users had to connect via dial-up modems. It was an exciting era as the world became aware of the Internet’s power as a tool for communication and knowledge-sharing.
Yet, dial-up modems had severe drawbacks. Worst was the patience you needed to successfully connect via a phone line. If someone called while you were making the connection, you’d lose access immediately. Browsing the Internet was expensive and painfully slow. It was only a matter of time before the dial-up had to make way for more efficient tech.
These antiquated technologies may have succumbed to obsolescence, but they remain a reminder of just how far the world has come.