20 Products You Never Thought Would be Obsolete
Today's newest, fastest and best technology will soon look like a relic to future shoppers. With each new update, release, and revision, the last version immediately feels primitive. Some products last just a few years, and others endure for centuries, but one thing is certain -- obsolescence is often inevitable.
Alexander Graham Bell revolutionized human communication when he made the first phone call to his assistant, Thomas Watson. The landline was born and it dominated for more than a century. The mobile era, however, signaled the end for the old-fashioned landline. In 2017, lawmakers in Illinois finally voted to allow AT&T to stop serving the state's 1.2 million remaining landline customers.
The first road maps appeared at the dawn of the automotive era to help drivers of "horseless carriages" navigate the few horrendous roads that existed. Around a century later, GPS became available to the masses, which eventually led many states to reduce print runs or even stop printing the traditional American highway map altogether.
In 1982, Billy Joel's "52nd Street" became the first commercially-available compact disc. MP3s, streaming music services, and the internet would eventually render obsolete the little shiny disc that killed the records and tapes that came before. In 2013, Kanye West released the album "Yeezus" in a transparent case with no record art, which the rapper claimed was an open casket funeral for the CD.
The first known use of the 1-900 number was for the "Ask President Carter" talk radio broadcast, but the exchange became pop culture fodder when Eddie Murphy urged viewers fto call one such number in defense of a lobster on "Saturday Night Live." Soon 1-900 became the curse of parents everywhere when commercials featuring child-focused phone lines as well as adult chat lines became almost unavoidable. Thanks to strict blocking laws approved by the Supreme Court and an FTC ban on 1-900 commercials targeting children, the area code all but disappeared by 2002. Verizon dropped the very last one in 2012.
In 2011, the world's last remaining manual typewriter manufacturer closed for good in Mumbai, India. It was the demise of an office and literary icon. Typewriters met their end, however, thanks to the arrival word processors, followed closely behind by personal computers.
In 2010, the Encyclopedia Britannica published its final print edition. It was a massive, 32-edition collection that followed in the footsteps of the seven million similar sets purchased by academics, students and hobbyists throughout the company's 244-year history. The encyclopedia met its demise in the form of the Internet, which offered knowledge at the click of a button.
The world met the Video Home System (VHS), and the video cassette recorders that brought them to life in 1977. In one of the greatest rivalries in the history of technology, VHS would eventually spell the death knell for Sony's rival Betamax. Although the VCR and VHS tape were largely rendered obsolete by the turn of the millennium, the once-revolutionary tech limped into the digital age, until the Washington Post officially wrote its obituary on Aug. 28, 2005.
Most Millennials have never rifled through a wooden chest of drawers filled with numbered index cards in their local libraries. But for generations, that's exactly how the Dewey Decimal System and the card catalog made finding books easy. Computers were doing the task by 2000.
In 1839, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre shocked the world by freezing a moment in time when he snapped the world's first photograph. Film photography would dominate for more than 150 years. Although the first digital camera was created in 1975, the 1999 Kodak DC210 truly signaled the beginning of the digital camera revolution -- and the beginning of the end for film.
The first pager was originally developed for a hospital in 1949. One-way pager use hit its peak in 1998, and then began a rapid downward spiral. The arrival of the two-way cell phone quickly rendered the technology -- long a mainstay of drug dealers and doctors -- a relic as the digital age drew near.
Although Sony would continue to sell them in Japan for another 12 years, the floppy disk — with its massive 1.44 MB of storage — received a fatal blow in 1998. That's when Apple unveiled the iMac G3, which introduced the first USB port — and dropped support for the aging floppy disk.
One of the earliest ashtrays ever to be built into a car was found in the 1926 Rolls Royce Phantom limousine. Smokers continued to ash their cigarettes in on-board ashtrays for decades to come, while nonsmokers filled them with coins, garage door openers, and whatever didn't fit in the glove compartment. By 1994, however, smoking was out of vogue and Chrysler became the first automaker to offer ashtrays only as an option.
Although vinyl records would play for a few more years — mostly in jukeboxes and on DJ turntables — the vinyl album was all but extinct by 1993, thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of the compact disc. Although plenty of music lovers continue to cling to the easily scratchable black disks to this day, the rise of CD spelled the end for the record, which Columbia Records first introduced in 1948.
The punched-card tabulation system was first put into widespread use during the 1890 United States Census, although inventors had previously tinkered with earlier versions. The simple but highly efficient mass data collection system prevailed for nearly a century, when new technologies, like direct-recording electronic voting machines, emerged as replacements.
Chevrolet introduced the bench seat, which was cheaper and allowed more occupants than individual seats. By the mid-1980s, however, cupholders and center consoles arrived, which would signal the downfall of the classic bench seat.
Near the end of World War II, filmstrips emerged as a practical alternative to clunky 16mm film for educational or training purposes. Easy to store and easy to use, filmstrips were a practical alternative to 35mm films. By the 1980s, however, compact and efficient video players, including VHS, rendered filmstrip projectors obsolete.
8-track players emerged in the 1950s, and revolutionized how people listened to music while in the car . No longer at the mercy of the radio, drivers could now cruise and listen to whatever they wanted whenever they wanted -- until 1982, that is, when cassette tapes proved to be cheaper, smaller, and better quality.
Although Bell developed a primitive version in 1950, it took until 1975 for push button phones to make an impact. Tone-enabled features like call waiting and three-way calling signalled the beginning of the end for the slow, clumsy, rotary dialing system, which had ruled since 1919.
The advent of 8mm film kicked off the era of amateur filmmaking, but the Super 8mm format was an even bigger hit with inexperienced auteurs, who found it easier to use and more professional-looking. In 1963, it got even better when the addition of a magnetic strip made it possible to record audio along with video. New cassette-based formats would soon render both 8mm and Super 8mm films obsolete.