Do you get excited about a new, shiny phone, tablet, TV, or other tech device? When you get a new device do you ever find yourself missing your old tech?
While we often get a thrill about the latest and greatest new gadget, we also may mourn the loss of the gadget it’s replacing. Outdated tech that’s gathering dust in our closet or mounting up in landfills may harbor memories of time gone by.
Few people want to return to the days when mobile phones weighed more than a phone book, but some retro tech may bring up feelings of nostalgia for you or served a function that you find is lacking in modern tech.
Take a trip down Memory Lane and revisit classic tech that may be obsolete but not yet forgotten. Are there some features you miss? Do you wish we could return to the days of simpler tech?
Dialing a phone number could take quite a while on a rotary phone if that number contained a lot of zeros. Yes, people actually had to dial phone numbers on a dial one number at a time, instead of just selecting a favorite contact to auto-dial.
No caller ID, call waiting or voice mail. You had no idea who was calling when you picked up the phone. If you tried to call someone who was already on a call, you got a busy signal. You had to call back again and again until they hung up the phone.
Check out these kids when they see a rotary phone for the first time:
With the advent of voice mail, many household got rid of their answering machines. In fact, many households don’t have a landline at all, relying on their cell phones instead.
If you were expecting a call from that special someone, returning home to a flashing light on your answering machine could bring a smile to your face. Of course, that smile might be wiped away when you actually listened to the message…
If you’ve ever been caught without your cell phone or had your battery die when you needed to make a call, you may have had difficulty finding a pay phone in a pinch. When was the last time you saw a pay phone?
While London, England still has attractive phone booths, very few still exist in the US. See, NPR, Some Brits Not Ready To Say ‘Ta-Ra’ To Iconic Telephone Box.
In 2000 the US had over 2 million pay phones. By the end of 2012, only 243,487 pay phones were in use in the US. See, USA Today, As pay phones vanish, so does lifeline for many.
There’s no more satisfying way to end a phone call than snapping a flip phone shut. Ending a call on a smartphone doesn’t seem as final as physically closing a flip phone. Somehow pressing your finger to a glass screen just doesn’t deliver the same sensory experience.
Flip phones also had the advantage of hiding the keypad when the phone was closed. No accidentally calling your boss when you sat down with a flip phone in your pocket!
QWERTY Keyboard on a Smartphone
If you ever had a smartphone with a physical keyboard, you may miss the feeling of the keys on your fingers. Physical keyboards made it possible to type without even looking at the screen.
Typing on glass is a challenge for many, with auto-correct leading to humorously erroneous messages being sent. Apps such as SwiftKey and Swype on Android make typing on a glass screen much easier, much to the envy of many iPhone owners.
See, Mashable, 9 Old-Fashioned Tech Terms You Still Use Today
Tech has dramatically changed the way we listen to music in just a few generations. We’ve moved from vinyl records to tapes to CD’s to digital files to streaming music. Imagine what the next generation will bring…
They were subject to scratching, warping and breaking but vinyl records still hold fond memories for many. The sound of records dropping onto a turntable or the needle gliding over a scratch could be as satisfying as the music being played.
Some audiophiles still prefer listening to music on vinyl and rumors of a comeback for vinyl abound. See, The New York Times, Weaned on CDs, They’re Reaching for Vinyl.
45 RPM Singles
45 RPM single records cost about as much as a single song does now on iTunes or Google Play, but 45’s gave you the freedom to purchase a single song if you didn’t want to invest in an entire album. You had to supply the adapter so the record could be played on your turntable.
As a bonus, you got a second song on the B side of the record, which was a great way to discover new music from your favorite band. Many B side songs became bigger hits than the A side songs they were paired with. Queen’s We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions were paired on a 45 record.
See, Yahoo Music, 25 B-Sides That Became Hits.
The idea of portable and recordable music became a reality for consumers with the advent of music available on tape. The debate between cassette vs. 8-Track tapes resulted in a short-lived victory for cassette tapes. The CD took over the top spot for the preferred music format for many just a few years later.
Video Cassette Tapes
Time-shifting TV shows began with video cassette recorders (VCR’s). No longer did you have to panic at the thought of missing your favorite TV show because you couldn’t be sitting in front of the set at the scheduled broadcast time.
That panic was quickly replaced by the realization that your favorite TV show/wedding video was erased by your roommate/mom/little brother who unintentionally recorded over your show.
Like cassette and 8-track music tapes, VCR tapes were convenient and portable. You could pop your tape out of your VCR and bring it to a friend’s house so you could watch your show together.
VCR tapes were replaced by digital video recorders that could store TV shows in digital files, eliminating the fear of a show being recorded over as well as the need to rewind the tapes.
Monotone Computer Screens
When personal computers first became available, people were so excited about having a computer in their homes that they didn’t notice the screens were the equivalent of having a black & white TV in their house.
Fortunately, living color soon came to PC’s and people soon replaced their old monitors with color ones.
Before Windows, you had to enter commands to a computer to tell it what to do. While that may sound onerous and confusing (and you’re right, it certainly could be), there was something very satisfying about having a computer do exactly what you commanded it to do.
With early PC’s data was stored on a floppy disk you would take with you. Best for text documents, floppy disks didn’t store much data and were soon replace by hard disks, thumb drives and now the Cloud.
In the good old days, a point-and-shoot camera meant taking pictures was a financial gamble. You had to invest in the cost of film, flashbulbs and developing the pictures. After you dropped off your film at a camera store, you would wait a week or so for your pictures to be developed.
The anticipation of seeing your photos grew throughout the week until you opened that envelope to see the fruits of your labor. Only then did you realize that your skills as a photographer might not be as professional as you had imagined.
My Picks for Tech I Miss
As much as I enjoy getting new tech, there are some devices I still miss using. Trading up to new tech generally gets you new and useful features but the tech I miss had features I wish were still in newer devices.
What it is:
Garmin is now known as a company that makes GPS/Sat Nav devices but in 2003 it began selling a device called the Garmin iQue that was a combination PDA/GPS unit. The iQue could keep your information organized and guide you where you wanted to go, all without a connection to the Internet.
The iQue contained a satellite antenna, computer processor, music player, voice recorder and ran on Palm OS software. The iQue used voice guidance and maps to get you to your destination. You could load the maps onto SD cards to switch regions as you traveled. The iQue could also display your photos stored on an SD card.
As long as you had a view of the sky you could figure out where you were, without worrying about cel phone signal strength. If you had a window seat on a plane or train the iQue could tell you how fast you were going.
Why I don’t use it anymore:
I used my iQue, whom I affectionately named “Bess”, for six years, from 2003-2009, until I got my first iPhone that was able to do almost all the things, and more, that the iQue could do. But the iPhone still can’t guide me when I have no Internet signal tell me how fast I’m going in an airplane.
The iQue weighed 3 lbs/1.36 kg, so wasn’t an insignificant device to take along with me. The battery life was also short, especially when using its navigation features. If the battery died, you lost your information and would have to Hotsync the iQue with your computer to get it back on the device. Not ideal for travel.
What it is:
ReplayTV is a DVR (digital video recorder) that was an early competitor of TiVo. What made ReplayTV so special was its advanced features. ReplayTV had Commercial Advance, the ability to detect and skip commercials automatically so you have a seamless experience watching a show, as if the commercials didn’t exist.
You could also share recorded shows with other ReplayTV owners over the Internet and network your ReplayTV’s within your house so you could record a show on one ReplayTV and watch it on another.
ReplayTV’s other advanced features included being able to skip to a specific time in a show, program shows to record according to keywords, filter show recordings by whether they were new shows or repeats, and play only the commercials of a show (for the Super Bowl).
ReplayTV’s Commercial Advance and show-sharing features gained the attention of network television companies who filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of ReplayTV who soon declared bankruptcy, unable to fight the lawsuit. Subsequent versions of ReplayTV didn’t have the Commercial Advance or show-sharing features, eliminating its two primary advantages over TiVo.
See, Wikipedia for a detailed explanation of the ReplayTV lawsuit history.
Why I don’t use it anymore:
While I still miss Commercial Advance and the other features of ReplayTV, I also realize its limitations. ReplayTV can’t record HD programs and can only record one show at a time.
Enjoy this SlideShare presentation of Nostalgic for Tech!
What tech of days gone by do you miss? Do you have a favorite device you wish were still around? Do you still use any retro tech? What features of classic tech do you miss most? Let us know in the Comments section below!
- Rotary Phone image by Nate Steiner
- Answering Machine image by Dave Chamberlain
- London Phone Booth image by Sami Pyylampi
- Flip Phone image by Aaron Vince
- Turntable image by Katie Mollon
- 45 Record Adapters image by Leo Reynolds
- Music Cassette Tape image by Ani-Bee
- Video Cassette photo by anankkml, courtesy of Free Digital Photos
- Floppy Disk image courtesy of Wikipedia
- Instamatic Camera image by Collecting Cameras
- ReplayTV image by Brent Evans