Closeup of an Empty Telephone Booth Along a Highway in America
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Products You Never Thought Would be Obsolete

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Closeup of an Empty Telephone Booth Along a Highway in America
kickstand/istockphoto

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

If your vision of the Big Apple still includes bright yellow taxi cabs, flashing lights, and a phone booth on every corner, it's time to recalibrate. The city just moved its last freestanding payphone from the street to a museum. It's just another reminder that today's newest, fastest, and best technology will soon look like a relic. 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 inevitable — even for an internet browser that lasted 26 years (that's equivalent to 100+ in tech) like Internet Explorer.


Related:
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Internet Explorer 10 Logo
Microsoft

Internet Explorer

1995-2022
Not long after Internet Explorer's 1995 debut, it was hard to imagine going online without it — the browser was almost synonymous with surfing the web. Introduced by Microsoft as part of Windows 95, Explorer was dominant for much of the next decade, but then started losing steam to more sophisticated rivals. Microsoft itself released a more sophisticated browser, Edge, in 2015, but refused to kill Explorer until recently. Now Microsoft has announced that when people try to use Explorer, they will be pointed to the Edge browser and will remove Explorer icons from the next Windows update, making this a final goodbye. 


Related: Companies That Changed How We Live

Closeup of an Empty Telephone Booth Along a Highway in America
kickstand/istockphoto

Phone Booths

1878-2011
Before phones were pocket-sized supercomputers, people had to stop if they wanted to make calls on the go. The places they stopped to make those calls were phone booths. Once a familiar sight, phone booths — like the landlines and phone books contained within — were dealt a mortal blow by the arrival of cell phones. Even New York City — once riddled with phone booths and freestanding pay phones — just said goodbye to its last street payphone. Although four full-length "Superman booth" phone booths remain in the city, it's unclear whether the phones inside are in service.


Related: The 7 Best Cell Phones for Seniors

Closeup of Male Hand Holding an Old Version of an iPod Nano
AnthonyRosenberg/istockphoto

iPods

2001-2022

Though it didn't make the first digital music players on the market, Apple revolutionized and popularized them in 2001 when it released the very first iPod. Gone were the days of bulky portable CD players that skipped while you were walking, suddenly replaced by a tiny device that could hold up to 1,000 songs. But even the iPod isn't a device for the ages. Apple has announced that it's discontinuing its only remaining iPod model, the iPod Touch, presumably because these days, most people have smartphones that also function as music players. The last iPod Touch models will be available only while supplies last.


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The Original iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPhone 3G on a Glass Table
The Original iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPhone 3G on a Glass Table by Masaaki Komori (CC BY-SA)

3G Phones and Other Devices

2001-2022

The 3G wireless network that introduced so many people to internet on their phones will soon be completely shut down in the U.S. Cellular providers only have a finite amount of radio frequencies, forcing them to choose between maintaining antiquated 3G networks or switching to the latest 5G. AT&T and Verizon both estimate that less than 1% of their service still runs on 3G networks — and 90 million 5G devices were shipped in the last year alone — so the choice is clear. Devices that rely on 3G, including old smartphones, some medical and security alarms, some car navigation and entertainment services, and old tablets and e-readers, will stop working by the end of the year.


Related: Scammers are Targeting Your Phone. Here's What to Watch For

Closeup of the Keyboard of a Vintage Blackberry
AdrianHancu/istockphoto

BlackBerry Phones

1999-2022

While BlackBerry stopped updating operating systems for the once-popular cell phone with its own tiny keyboard in 2013, 2022 brought the final nail in the coffin: As of early January, the company no longer offers support for BlackBerries running its legacy services, meaning older BlackBerries can no longer send text messages or make calls. It's hard to remember, but BlackBerries were once so beloved by fans they were nicknamed "CrackBerries" and, at their peak in 2012, they had over 80 million users including President Barack Obama and Kim Kardashian. 


Related: Companies That Changed American Culture for Better or Worse

Red Vintage Alarm Clock Jumping in the Air with a Bright Yellow Background
Andrii Sedykh/istockphoto

Alarm Clocks

725-2008
Prior to the year 725, no one was ever on time for anything. But that year in China, Yi Xing invented the first known alarm clock, and the descendants of his contraption have been startling slumberers out of dreams both good and bad ever since. It was actually the rise of the clock radio that spelled the beginning of the end for the standalone alarm clock, but in the end it was cell phones that rendered the single-function timed noisemaker a relic of a bygone era.


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Closeup of a Stack of Encyclopedias from 11 to 16 in a Slight Diagonal
Devonyu/istockphoto

Encyclopedias

1766-2010
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.

Vintage Blue Typewriter on a Two-Toned Pastel Background of Pink and Light Yellow
Callahan/shutterstock

Typewriters

1867-2011
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 of word processors, followed closely behind by personal computers.

Vinyl Record Being Played on a Player with Three Records on a Red Background
Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

Vinyl Albums

1948-1993
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 and vinyl loyalists have helped drive a recent resurgence in production and sales (though still low by past standards), the rise of CD spelled the end for the record, which Columbia Records first introduced in 1948.

Closeup of a Roll of 35mm Film on a White Table
hxyume/istockphoto

Film

1839-2018
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. In May 2018, Canon announced it had finally sold its last film camera, eight years after it stopped making them — it took that long to deplete the unsold inventory.

Fax Machine with Sheets of White Paper and Phone, Vintage Look
notwaew/istockphoto

Fax Machines

1843-late 2000s
It's hard to believe that fax machines have clung to the bottom rung of the office tech ladder for as long as they have. Although facsimile machines aren't quite dead, they are certainly a dying breed, at least compared to the technology's peak of popularity in 1997 when 3.6 million of the loud, bulky machines were sold. Faxing was perfected to near-modern standards in the early 1900s, but the technology was so expensive that it was out of reach for most businesses until the 1980s. Today, services like FaxZero, launched in 2006, allow anyone with an email address and an internet connection to send faxes for free, which doesn't bode well for the future of the fax machine. U.S. sales of fax machines fell by more than half from $181 million in 2005 to $70 million in 2010.

Closeup of Two Mini Cassette Tapes in an Old Answering Machine with Greeting Setting Buttons Among Other Buttons
Artistan/istockphoto

Answering Machines

1971-mid-2000s
In 1971, the world met the telephone answering machine with the debut of the PhoneMate Model 400. Now that you didn't actually have to be home to know who called and what they wanted, the devices changed telephone communication forever. Then along came voicemail, which instantly made countertop machines with little tapes inside feel primitive. Then came cell phones. Then came smartphones. There are still some answering machines left in service, but they are the last of their kind.

Closeup of a Projector Shining Orange Bright Light Beam in Dark Background
RG-vc/istockphoto

Slide Projectors

1849-2000s
Scrolling through photos now requires nothing more than a few flicks of the finger across the smooth glass of a smartphone screen. If you need to turn those shows into a presentation, you have your choice of apps that let anyone create slick and seamless slideshows. There was a time, however, when that ability required actual slides. And those slides had to be projected via massive, loud machines that ran hot and came with little remote controls that were often beyond the understanding of the person running the show.


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Focus on One Open Drawer with Numerous White Index Cards in an Old Wooden Card Catalog
Popartic/istockphoto

Card Catalogs

1870s-2000
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.

Female Hand Holding Beige Telephone Receiver on a Pink Background
Agustin Vai/istockphoto

Landlines

1876-2017
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.

Vintage Overhead Projector with Light Shining, on a Desk with Papers Close
studio9/istockphoto

Overhead Projectors

Early 1960s-2015
Big metal boxes with glass tops and protruding upper appendages called overhead projectors once did the heavy lifting at corporate meetings, in classrooms, at weddings and just about anywhere images needed to be displayed for groups of people. They usually worked their magic on makeshift movie screens that pulled down and rolled up from the ceiling like old-fashioned window shades. In 2015, Colorado University-Boulder put its remaining 225 projectors out to pasture, just one of many schools, institutions and facilities that have opted for the countless better, smaller, cheaper and more reliable digital options available at their fingertips.


Related:
15 Ways Classrooms Have Changed Over the Past 50 Years

Stack of Six Phone Books on a White Background
danabeth555/istockphoto

Phone Books

1878-2012
In 2007, Bill Gates predicted that "Yellow Page usage among people, say, below 50, will drop to zero — near zero — over the next five years." More than a decade later, the 20th century relic refuses to die, with bound white and yellow paper directories of business and residential phone numbers still showing up on doorsteps across the country. But while they are still being produced, how often are they actually used in the era of smartphones and Google? Their biggest users, however, appear to be YouTubers attempting to tear them apart in video stunts.

Male Worker Punching Punch Card with Four Rolls of Other Workers' Cards on the Wall
Glen Jones/shutterstock

Punch Cards

1890-late 1980s
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.

Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 from 1979
Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 from 1979 by Binarysequence (CC BY-SA)

The Walkman

1979-2010
Few devices are as iconic as the vaunted Sony Walkman, which made on-the-go stereo sound possible for the masses long before MP3 players and iPods. The Walkman cassette player debuted in 1979 and sold 220 million units over the course of three decades, even as CDs and other digital technology wiped out classic tapes. Finally, in 2010, Sony announced that it was ceasing production of one of the defining devices of the 1980s — it was the same year Sony stopped making 3.5-inch floppy disks.

Man Holding Up Road Map with Both Arms Stretched While Reading It, Standing Against Car with Driver Door Opened
Tom Merton/istockphoto

Highway Maps

1890s-2013
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.

Pile of Several Floppy Disks on a Wooden Desk
Yongcharoen_kittiyaporn/shutterstock

Floppy Disks

1981-1998
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.

1967 AMC Ambassador with a Reclining Front Bench Seat in a Aqua Color
1967 AMC Ambassador with a Reclining Front Bench Seat in a Aqua Color by CZmarlin (CC BY)
Vintage Orange Rotary Phone with Black Cord on a Blue-Green Background
Filip_Krstic/istockphoto

Rotary Telephones

1919-1975
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.

1950s Leica Leitz Prado Slide Projector on a Yellow Polka Dot Background
Etsy

Filmstrips

1940s-1980s
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.

Looking from Top, Closeup of Female Hand Holding Vintage Pager
author/istockphoto

Pagers

1949-1998
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.

Three Stacks of 8-Track Audio Tapes in Different Colors, with Focus on Middle Stack
MichelGuenette/istockphoto

8-Track Technology

1950s-1982
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.

Closeup of GPS Device Mounted to Window of Car
4nadia/istockphoto

GPS Devices

2000-early 2010s
In 2009, two years after Apple ushered in the era of the smartphone, PCWorld ran an article titled "Google Maps Will Not Kill Standalone GPS." Just three years later, Wired ran an article with the headline "Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices." The second article was right. Advances in smartphone-based GPS apps, GPS platforms built into vehicles, and the rise of the unlimited mobile data plan quickly rendered dashboard-mounted bricks sold under brands like Garmin and TomTom redundant and obsolete.

Vintage Wooden Console TV Turned On with Color Block Screen
shaunl/istockphoto

Console TVs

1960s-late 1990s
By the mid-1950s, half of America had a television in the home. For decades starting with the earliest color models, televisions were designed as furniture, partly to make the TV the focal point of the home. Today, televisions are bigger than they've ever been, but the design concept has done a 180 from the days of the so-called console TV. Instead of being a bulky focal point, today's giants are sleek, unassuming, and built to blend.

Closeup of Vintage Calculator Watch
Coprid/shutterstock

Calculator Watches

1975-1980s
Long before smartphones put clocks and calculators in our pockets, the calculator watch debuted as the ultimate in geek chic. Wristwatch and number-cruncher all-in-one, the calculator watch soon fell victim to the PDA and early cell phones.

Many Small Stacks of Super 8mm Film Reels, Kodak and Ansco
Etsy

Super 8mm Film

1965-1970s
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.

Side View of a Blue MiniDisc Player Ejecting a MiniDisc
oe/istockphoto

MiniDisc

1992-2013
Intended to replace the Compact Cassette, MiniDiscs were a pretty nifty recordable disc that had its own disc player, which Sony thought might be a hit stateside. It wasn't. MiniDiscs were popular in Japan but didn't make much of a splash in the U.S. The CD-R, another recordable format, as well as later competition from the Hi-MD made the MiniDisc a mini-don't. The last MiniDisc players were sold in 2013.

A Young Girl on a Yellow Landline Phone While Looking Up at the TV
Stephanie Rausser / DigitalVision / Getty Images CC

1-900 Numbers

1971-2012
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 to 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.

Grey Vintage Polaroid SX-70 Camera on a Steel Grey Background
caviarliu/istockphoto

The Polaroid SX-70

1972-mid-2000s
The world was introduced to instant photography in 1972, when a Polaroid executive snapped five snapshots in just 10 seconds with the game-changing SX-70. Over the decades, the game changed again, and then yet again. The SX-70 ceased being manufactured in 1981. Like other things in the realm of picture taking, these have been made largely obsolete with the advent of smartphones and digital photography. Polaroid itself filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

VHS Tape Laying on Lots of VHS Magnetic Tape
FotografiaBasica/istockphoto

VHS

1977-2005
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.

Two Compact Discs Being Hung from Grape Plant as a Homemade Reflective Bird Repellent
Helin Loik-Tomson/istockphoto

Compact Discs

1982-2013
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.

A Blue and Silver Dial-Up Modem with Wires Inserted on a White Background
OlgaLIS/istockphoto

Dial-Up Modems (56K)

1996-2013
Do you want to use the phone or the computer? At the dawn of the internet age in the 1990s, this was the decision you would have faced if you wanted to get online. Then, 56k dial-up modems were associated with crushingly slow speeds, long startup times, frequent crashes, and the painful sound of digital gears grinding through telephone lines. Then, as early as 2004, Newsday reported on the "Death of Dial-Up," which was on the decline thanks to the arrival of broadband. By 2013, just 3 percent of the country was still shackled to dial-up — a drop of 15 percent over the year prior. 


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