11 Tech Gadgets That Used To Be Cool but Aren't Anymore

AI-generated image of a girl listening to music on a Walkman

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AI-generated image of a girl listening to music on a Walkman
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

From Trendy to Trivial

As technology rapidly evolves, it can be hard to imagine a time when we couldn't just Google everything. Yet, as convenient as our smartphones and laptops are, they still can't replace the nostalgia that old tech gadgets used to bring us. These devices — now mostly obsolete — still evoke fond memories of simpler times. 

From the whirring sound of a VHS tape rewinding to the satisfying click of pressing "play" on a cassette tape, these gadgets transport us back to an era when the magic of technology was in its tangible, physical form. 

Join us on a trip down memory lane as we revisit these 11 outdated tech gadgets that still hold a special place in our hearts — even if they're not considered cool anymore. 

Old retro cassette tape. Vintage 80's music tape isolated on white background

1. Cassette Tapes (1960s-2000s)

Long before the reign of Spotify, the humble cassette tape was every music lover's best friend. Used for recording and playing audio, cassettes were popular because they were easy to carry and use, though most tapes could only hold about 20 songs (or the equivalent of 90 minutes of audio).

They were particularly popular for creating mixtapes, which were akin to the playlists of the time. These were often recorded off the radio or from other tapes. (Talk about a romantic and thoughtful gesture!) Also, who remembers having to record their cellphone's ringtone off the radio? Those were the days.

CD with music from 90s, disco party lights, party concept to 90s music

2. CD Players (1980s-2000s)

Rising to fame in the late '80s, compact disc (CD) players swiftly eclipsed cassette tapes as the go-to medium for music. By the '90s, they had become the gold standard (did anyone else's parents keep an entire binder of CDs in the car?) by offering better sound quality and more storage. 

Their reign lasted well into the early 2000s, until digital music and MP3 players began to dominate the music industry. Despite this, CDs remained popular for several years, with sales peaking in the early 2000s before gradually declining.

Generic HD floppy disks standing on floppy disk drive. Retro computer and data archive technology concept

3. Floppy Disks (1970s-2000s)

Before USBs, these small, square disks were used to save and move files from one computer to another. Though they didn’t hold much data, they were important for saving schoolwork or games. A staple of the '70s and '80s, floppy disks were the primary method of data storage and transfer. 

Their popularity peaked in the late 80s but began to wane with the creation of more efficient storage solutions like re-writable CDs and USB drives in the '90s. Despite being phased out, floppy disks remained in use into the early 2000s.

Pile of VHS video cassettes. Vintage media. Isolate on a white background.

4. VHS Tapes and VCRs (1970s-2000s)

VCRs (short for video cassette recorders) were a common household device used for watching movies and recording TV shows. Before the introduction of DVDs and digital streaming, VHS (video home system) tapes were the gold standard. Their popularity soared through the '80s and '90s, but the introduction of DVDs in the late '90s marked the beginning of their demise.

By the mid-2000s, VHS tapes were largely phased out in favor of DVDs and digital streaming. But as tedious as it was having to rewind each tape after watching it, we low-key miss the ritual of popping a tape in and watching it whir to life. 

Related: Stylish Tech Accessories That Don't Look Techy

Portable cassette player

5. Walkmans (1979-2000s)

When Sony introduced its cassette player, the Walkman, in 1979, it revolutionized the music industry. I remember getting a yellow one for Christmas one year and thinking it was just the coolest thing ever. The portable music player's popularity skyrocketed in the '80s and continued through the '90s. 

However, with the rise of portable CD players and, later, MP3 players, the Walkman's dominance faded — gradually becoming a symbol of retro technology. Nowadays, if you're looking to buy one, be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars for it! 

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A black pager with green screen

6. Pagers or Beepers (1980s-2000s)

Before cellphones, people used small devices called pagers to get text messages. If someone wanted to contact you, your pager would beep, and you’d see their message instructing you to call them. Pagers were most popular in the '80s and '90s — especially among business professionals who needed a quick and reliable way to receive alerts while on the go. 

Their use peaked in the mid-90s, but the widespread adoption of cellphones in the late '90s and early 2000s led to a rapid decline in their usage. Today, pagers are mostly a relic of the past, though some hospitals continue to use them for paging doctors and medical staff.

Related: Tech Gifts for Men Who Have Everything

Game Boy
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

7. Game Boys (1989-2000s)

Before the era of PlayStations and Xboxes, the humble Game Boy paved the way. Launched in 1989, the handheld device quickly became a hit in the gaming world by allowing people to play games on the go. Players would insert different cartridges to play a variety of games (Tetris was my absolute favorite). Its popularity soared through the '90s, becoming a beloved gadget for kids (and adults) alike. 

Despite the emergence of more advanced gaming consoles, the Game Boy maintained a strong presence in the gaming industry until the early 2000s.

A black vintage rotary dial telephone

8. Rotary Phones (1900s-1980s)

Commonly used from the early 1900s to the '80s, rotary phones were gradually replaced by touch-tone phones in the '80s. These old school phones, which were kind of like the early version of landlines, used a circular dial to enter numbers and were connected to the telephone network with a cord.

Despite being pretty cool-looking, their decline was hastened by the rise of cordless and mobile phones in the '90s. However, rotary phones still managed to survive in some households and offices until the early 2000s before being phased out. 

Old used cell phone on dark background
Wako Megumi/istockphoto

9. Flip Phones (Late 1990s-2000s)

Flip phones were characterized by their hinged design that allowed them to flip open and closed. The phone's design not only protected the screen and keypad when not in use, but also provided a satisfying snap when closing. (They just made hanging up on scammers that much more satisfying.) Models like the Motorola Razr, which was introduced in 2004, became hugely popular at the time. 

Though smartphones and touchscreen tablets with features like internet access and cameras have largely replaced them in functionality, flip phones remain a nostalgic reminder of that time's mobile innovation and style.

disposable camera

10. Disposable Cameras (1980s-2000s)

Before every smartphone also doubled as a camera, people had to bring rolls of film to CVS or Walgreens and wait for days to have them developed. These disposable cameras were known for their convenience and one-time use — becoming a staple for casual photographers and travelers from the late '80s through the early 2000s. 

While disposable cameras are largely obsolete nowadays, they've experienced a resurgence among those who appreciate the unique, analog quality of film photography. 

DVD movie collection, studio shot

11. DVDs (Late 1990s-2010s)

When digital versatile discs (DVDs) emerged, they revolutionized how we used to watch movies. Offering superior video and audio quality compared to VHS tapes, their ability to hold significantly more data allowed for the inclusion of extra features like director's commentary, deleted scenes, and multiple language options.

DVDs became the primary source for home video entertainment into the 2000s, but their popularity began to wane with the advent of Blu-ray discs and digital streaming platforms. Despite their decline in popularity, DVDs remain a cherished format for collectors and those who prefer to own physical media. Some even think they might make an eventual comeback.

Related: You Won't Believe How Much These Collectibles Fetched at Auction