Can You Identify These Outdated Technologies?

Maria Trimarchi

7 Min Quiz

What obsolete thing is this?

Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone was patented in 1876. And in 1878, New Haven, Connecticut, was the first city in the world to publish a book of telephone exchanges -- although "book" is a little bit of exaggeration. In a city of 150,000 people, there were, among homes and businesses, a total of 50 telephones.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Unlike digital transmissions, analog radio waves broadcast a continuous signal, and you used your analog radio to tune into those AM/FM frequencies at home or in your car. These radios had to be manually tuned to the station you wanted to hear, which wasn't always easy.

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What obsolete thing is this?

It wasn't until 1972 that the world's first commercial electronic digital timepiece -- a Hamilton wristwatch -- went on sale. Today it's more common to see digital clocks and watches.

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What obsolete thing is this?

In the U.S. between 2000 and 2012, check use fell 57 percent. In fact, less than one-quarter of us might still write one from time to time, when electronic payment somehow isn't an option, but long gone are the days when 85% of all the non-cash retail purchases we made were with paper personal checks. Online bill pay and mobile wallets, along with person-to-person (P2P) payment/lending systems, are expected to fully replace checks.

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What obsolete thing is this?

On March 7, 1876, U.S. Patent No. 174,465 was granted to Alexander Graham Bell for his invention of the telephone. Since their early days, telephones have been directly connected. All landline phones, whether they have a corded or cordless handset, have a phone cord that plugs into the wall -- each is connected by a pair of dedicated wires to a local switching system. Consumer mobile phones, which use radio waves instead of wire, weren't introduced until 1973.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Also called the compact cassette, the cassette tape is an analog magnetic tape recording format invented in the early 1960s as a medium for audio storage -- for dictation machines, not for mix tapes. It went on to become the hot format of the '80s, and supplanted both home reel-to-reel tape recording and 8-track cartridges.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Invented by William Gray, developed by George A. Long, and installed on the corner of Main Street and Central Row in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1889, was the world's first coin-operated public telephone -- although the first phone booth wouldn't appear until the early 1900s. .

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What obsolete thing is this?

Cathode ray tube (CRT) displays were one of the earliest commercially made, and were the most common display technology used in television sets and computer monitors for decades -- until they began to be replaced by slimmer and flatter LCDs and plasmas in the early 2000s.

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What obsolete thing is this?

With dial-up Internet access, you manually connect to the Internet through a phone line -- and it's exclusive use, which means anyone who tries to phone you will get a busy signal. Broadband, on the other hand, is always on but doesn't need exclusive use of your phone line -- and has speeds at least 200 times faster than a dial-up 56 kilobits per second connection.

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What obsolete thing is this?

In 2006, Nikon announced it would stop producing film camera bodies, along with interchangeable manual focus lenses, lenses for large format cameras, and enlarging lenses. While some professional and amateur photographers are keeping the format -- and film -- alive, film photography faces not only the DSLR and digital point-and-shoot cameras, but also the most popular and common digital camera, the iPhone.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Instead of the traditional clunky cash register that's been in use since just after the American Civil War, many large chains and small businesses have embraced new technology to meet the 21st century demands of retail: all-mobile payment systems that allow businesses to process transactions through consumer devices such as your smartphone or tablet.

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What obsolete thing is this?

It debuted two years after "Pong", and you probably know it as the Atari 2600, but between its debut in September 1977 and November 1982, it was called the Atari VCS (Video Computer System). The 2600 came bundled with two joysticks, a pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge (which, depending on the year you bought the console was either "Combat" or "Pac-Man"). When it was new, it was priced at $199, which, adjusted for inflation, is more than $800 today.

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What obsolete thing is this?

In 2015 when new chip cards, EMV readers, and other more secure technologies were introduced, the magnetic stripe (or "magstripe") on traditional credit and debit cards became obsolete.

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What obsolete thing is this?

They're super common in our homes, and yours may even have some built in, but with the rise of e-books, our bookshelves are becoming less and less for book storage. Roughly three-quarters of American adults say that they've read at least one book in the past year. While we still read paper books, our libraries of e-books are growing on our devices -- and audio, too.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Your smartphone isn't just for making calls, and it's making your alarm clock obsolete. Why? Because it's duplicate technology -- why have a dedicated alarm clock on your nightstand when you carry one with you 24/7 on your phone?

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What obsolete thing is this?

Saving 88KB -- or 1.44MB, which was the most popular -- of data may not sound like much now, but when floppy disks were introduced, it was amazing. The growing popularity of digital music and high-res photos wouldn't fit on this storage option, which was replaced by other options such as CD and USB.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Did you know that Steve Wozniak came up with the idea for the Apple 1 from a television set and a typewriter, back in 1976? While there are some who can't bear to part with their typewriter, most people can't recall the last time they used, or saw, one. Since the late 1990s, consumers have been choosing the computer over the typewriter, and in the 2000s there was one remaining typewriter manufacturing company remaining in the world.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Today they're digital, but the earliest camcorders, which were big, recorded onto videocassette tapes -- either Betamax or VHS formats. Smaller, handheld, analog camcorders used the 8mm or Hi8 tape formats. By 2006, SD cards and internal flash memory of digital recording had replaced analog tapes.

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Which one of these isn't obsolete?

The first USB -- which stands for Universal Serial bus -- was introduced in 1995, and could transfer data as fast as 12 megabits per second. There have been several iterations, but overall, you can thank USB for replacing all these other ports, some which required their own dedicated expansion cards and connectors.

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What obsolete thing is this?

In the early 1980s, daisy wheel printers, like the Commodore DPS 1101, were slow, loud, and also fairly short-lived. They were replaced by the dot-matrix, called impact dot matrix printers because of how their print heads struck the paper, which were supposed to be more efficient.

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What obsolete thing is this?

HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language, is used to define the way that all the elements of a webpage -- images, multimedia, text, etc. -- display in a web browser. While it's not totally obsolete, it's for certain not used the same way as it was when the Web was new, such as displaying content with tables or iframes.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Call it a stereo plug, headphone jack, microphone jack, or aux input, devices including PCs, digital cameras, headsets, and portable DVD players all use 3.5 mm connectors for video and audio output. In 2017, Apple infamously "killed" the headphone jack when it removed it from the iPhone 7.

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What obsolete thing is this?

The QWERTY keyboard design, which is the same as your physical computer keyboard and the virtual version on your phone, first appeared on a typewriter (which was the first successful typewriter) in 1868. Today, while we're still addicted to the keyboard layout, other input types, including facial, gesture, and voice recognition -- like something out of "Minority Report," is hot on its heels.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Handheld calculators and graphing calculators aren't obsolete quite yet, but they're facing a threat: a new class of calculators available for free both online or on your smartphone. If it's on your phone, do you need to buy a separate device?

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What obsolete thing is this?

Although there were previous attempts, the first commercially successful answer machine made its debut in 1949. It used a 45 rpm record player for your outgoing message, and a wire recorder to save and playback incoming messages. More modern answering machines went on to use microcassettes and digital storage for greetings and messages. Unlike how the voicemail works on your smartphone, an answering machine was a partner to your landline phone. Once your phone went mobile, so did your answering service.

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What obsolete thing is this?

In-car navigation systems and GPS-enabled phones, along with mapping apps and online mapping services, are making it less and less likely for us to reach for fold-up maps. All said, maybe it's not such a bad idea to keep one in your car for when your connection is spotty -- or the zombie apocalypse has begun.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Once upon a time, just a few decades ago, if your friend Bob called you but you were already on the phone with your friend Jane, Bob would hear a busy signal. Because there was no call waiting or voicemail, Bob would have to wait and try again, until you were finished talking to Jane.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Parallel, FireWire, SCSI ... and don't forget the PS/2 port to connect the mouse and keyboard (green and purple, respectively). Recognize these from computers you used long ago? They're all outdated computer ports, many sunk with the introduction of USB ports.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Personal digital assistants were the precursor to today's smartphone -- and it's the smartphone and tablet that lured us into giving up those PDAs. It was a handheld device used as a personal organizer, and you used a stylus to interact with its touch screen.

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What obsolete thing is this?

"Text Me" is still one of the candymaker's relevant sayings. But do you remember when NECCO eliminated “Fax Me” from the sayings it prints on the heart-shaped Sweethearts candies you see on the shelves every Valentine's Day? It was 2013, and, possibly, signaled we were over the physical fax machine (you can send and receive faxes online, if needed) -- except for some businesses, like healthcare, which continue to rely on fax machines now just as they did decades ago.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Rotary phones were pretty simple -- they were designed with a dial, or wheel, with 10 holes, with numbers assigned to each hole. To make a call, you used your finger to dial the holes with the corresponding numbers. The phones weren't fancy -- they didn't even have redial.

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What obsolete thing is this?

There was the Walkman, the Discman, the Nano, the Shuffle and many, many other portable music players on the market since the very first, the Sony Walkman, was introduced in 1979. But by 2012 there was a significant chill on players, overtaken by the popularity of storing and listening to music on smartphones.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Digital wallets, virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, and person-to-person payment services such as Paypal are making coins and notes an obsolete way to pay. In fact, in the UK, cash is no longer the most common payment method -- digital is. In China, too, the convenience of mobile payments has all but made cash obsolete. And in Sweden, fewer than 1% of payments are made with cash.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Just like a cassette tape reel-to-reel recorded on magnetic tape -- but instead of being inside a plastic cassette, reel-to-reel tapes were on, wait for it -- reels. It was most popular in American homes in the 1960s, but began to lose popularity when 8-track and cassette tapes were introduced.

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What obsolete thing is this?

AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, made its debut in May 1997, and was a popular real-time messaging program from the late 1990s until the late 2000s. It was discontinued in December 2017.

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What obsolete thing is this?

In 2013, the CEO of Roku, a streaming media player, predicted that Blu-ray would be obsolete by 2016. He wasn't far off. Blu-ray, which is considered a better viewing experience than both DVD and streaming, is buckling under the pressure of competing with streaming services, as streaming services revenues climb.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Don't call it a comeback. Vinyl's been here for years -- although the format almost disappeared in the late-1980s and 1990s when it went up against CDs. In 2007, only 200,000 LPs were sold, total, and today they only account for 5% of album sales.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Before James Watt's steam engine, most people relied on their farm animals, water wheels and wind power -- and, of course, our own hands -- to get work done. Although he wasn't the first to build a steam engine, it was his invention of a steam engine with a separate steam condenser that changed the world when it was introduced -- a key event leading up to the Industrial Revolution.

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What obsolete thing is this?

The third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was planned as 40 printed volumes, and its production was dragging on two decades after it was scheduled to be released -- and although print may not be feasible with a volume of such size, an online version is.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Although the most common slide film was 35 mm, slides don't look like photographs -- they're transparencies that are framed with 2x2-inch cardboard. And they're not looked at in albums. Slides are projected onto a large screen or wall with, you guess it, the slide projector. When the price of color film, processing, and prints decreased in the 1970s, so did the use of slide film -- but if you have a box of old slides around but no projector, you can have them digitized or turned into traditional prints.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Shortwave radio is a radio transmission that uses shortwave radio frequencies, which can broadcast to any shortwave listener across very long distances, even from continent to continent. Listeners would tune into frequencies, often between 1700 kHz and 30 MHz is where you'd find the most activity -- in fact, it used to be where you'd tune in to hear breaking international news. In the U.S. today, shortwave continues to be used by the military, for diplomatic communications, and for emergency communications.

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What obsolete thing is this?

You might remember the mimeograph from the classroom, your office, or from anywhere low-cost duplication was needed. Mimeo, which is also known as a stencil duplicator, is a duplicating machine that forces ink through a stencil onto paper. But once photocopiers were introduced, those using the mimeograph process started to taper off.

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What obsolete thing is this?

If you're using "login," "qwerty," or "welcome" as your unbreakable password, we have bad news -- those common passwords are easily breakable. For those with a weak password or the 60 percent who say passwords are cumbersome, other security methods like biometrics (which includes fingerprint scanning, iris scanning and face recognition) are taking over.

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What obsolete thing is this?

Once upon a time you carried one of these if you were, for instance, a doctor or surgeon on call. But in 1994, when they hit their peak, more than 61 million people were using them -- and most of them weren't in healthcare. Today, they're still buzzing, but it's very limited. It's estimated that while 85 percent of hospitals continue to rely on pages, everyone else gave them up for the features of a modern smartphone.

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What obsolete thing is this?

"There is nothing now left for invention to achieve but to discover news before it takes place,” wrote a New York Herald reporter about the invention of the telegraph in 1844. After all, it certainly was faster than the Pony Express and other ways of delivering mail and communications.Western Union, your go-to place to go if you needed to send a telegram, closed its telegraphy service in 2006 -- you might find a service online, but email and texts are faster.

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What obsolete thing is this?

When it was introduced in 1994, the Zip drive and its compatible Zip disks filled the need for a medium-to-high-capacity storage system. In 2003, the Zip line was discontinued. Yet, in 2006, PC World rated it as the No. 15 worst tech product of all time -- only to then name it the 23rd best tech product of all time the very next year.

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What obsolete thing is this?

COBOL may stand for Common Business Oriented Language, but many these days refer to it as, Completely Obsolete But Omnipresent Language. COBOL is a programming language designed back in 1959 by the U.S. Department of Defense. By 1970, it was most widely used programming language around the world, and continues to be written today to maintain the programs and applications written in it over the last few decades.

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What obsolete thing is this?

In 1986 Americans spent $4.4 million buying and renting video cassette tapes -- which was more than they spent going out to the movies that year. By 2016, two decades after DVDs were introduced, the last manufacturer of VHS-compatible video cassette recorders (VCRs) stopped making the devices.

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About This Quiz

Buckle up -- before seatbelts go the way of the dodo bird! We're taking a trip back in time, before iPhones, before self-driving cars and before you could find out about anything from Google. (That's right, there was a time before Google.)

You may not have to worry about it when you stream new releases, but there was a time when video rental stores reminded you to "be kind, rewind!" your videotape rentals. And once upon a time, too, cellphones didn't have things like cameras or heart rate monitors -- although they did have physical keyboards. In fact, when the very first iPhone was announced, back in 2007, it didn't have a physical keyboard, and everyone wondered, how will we ever send emails and text messages on that? Somehow, we managed. And, imagine, no more looking under couch cushions -- or the couch, itself -- for the remote control, or controls depending on your home audio/video system, because you can control your setup with voice commands. Wearables, like smartwatches, and smart home devices, like the Amazon Echo, are growing increasingly popular, and making some of our favorite gadgets obsolete.

Even if you weren't alive in the decades when these technologies were popular, you're still benefiting from them today. Here in the 21st century, after decades -- even centuries -- of technological advances, some pretty basic things, like checkbooks, home phones and headphone jacks have become old news.


Hop into your time machine, and let's see how much you know about outdated tech.

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