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21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade

By Brian | December 12, 2009 | Share on Facebook

Business Insider has published a list of the twenty-one things that have become obsolete during the 00′s. Unfortunately, it’s one of those sites that tries to increase their ad revenue by making you click twenty-one times to see the whole list (like advertisers don’t understand that it’s not twenty-one people seeing their ad, but the same person ignoring it over & over again? But, I digress). Anyway, since I’m technologically opposed to that sort of thing, here’s the full list (with links back to their pages in case you want to read the text behind each one). You’ll note that this list of twenty-one things has twenty-two items on it (a bonus item? Seriously? Sheesh…)

  1. PDA’s: Specifically, PDA’s that need a stylus, like the old Palm Pilot
  2. E-mail accounts you have to pay for: as storage got cheaper, e-mail accounts became free
  3. Dial-Up: the sound of a modem connecting to another modem has become relegated to War Games and movies like it.
  4. Getting Film Developed: Remember the old Fotomat booths in the shopping center parking lots? No more…
  5. Movie Rental Stores: Say goodbye to your local Blockbuster’s, if you still can, and sign-up for your Netflix account (or just use your TV provider’s On-Demand channel). Also obsolete: late fees.
  6. Maps: With GPS devices and Google Maps-enabled phones, why figure out how to fold (and un-fold) a map?
  7. Newspaper Classified Ads: Thank you, Craig Newmark.
  8. Landline Phones: When your cellphone works anywhere, why have a phone that plugs into your house? I’m not sure this one is gone for good yet, but it’s certainly getting there.
  9. Per-Minute Long Distance Charges: like storage (above), this got cheaper and cheaper until it became free. Most people pay a flat rate per month now, and VOIP is chasing that into oblivion too…
  10. Public Pay Phones: This one’s for you, Bennion. Again, when your cellphone works anywhere, why have a phone that plugs into a closet on a street corner?
  11. VCR’s: Even DVD’s are going away, now that Blu-Ray has won the day. The VCR has officially gone the way of the Betamax machine.
  12. Fax Machines: If anyone’s even sending faxes anymore, they’re winding up in e-mail boxes, not paper trays.
  13. Phonebooks, Dictionaries & Encyclopedias: What used to take up shelves, now takes up hard drive space. And now it’s searchable! Also becoming obsolete: the need to remember the order of the letters in the alphabet.
  14. Calling 411 for Information: My kids don’t even know about this! Phone numbers come from Google or some more specific search engine now…
  15. Music CD’s: Gone are the days of buying eight songs you don’t like to hear the two that you do like…
  16. Backing Up Data to Floppies & CD’s: This one’s a bit unfair, since it was both created and obsolesced this decade, but it’s true – backups go on external hard drives or UBS thumbnail drives now. It doesn’t save as much shelf space as the encyclopedias, but it still helps…
  17. Getting Bills in the Mail: or, for that matter, sending checks back to pay them. I honestly don’t know how much a stamp costs these days.
  18. Buttons on Electronic Devices: Touchscreens have brought us into the Minority Report world.
  19. Losing Touch with People: Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we’re in touch with everyone we ever knew. Or ever will know…
  20. Personal Boundaries: also gone, thanks to Facebook and Twitter. Of course, I think this is more about us learning how to better use these tools than anything else. No one’s forcing you to post that picture of yourself dancing on the tables at the bar last night, ya’ know…
  21. Paper: It’s true. While everyone’s screaming about saving the environment, we’ve managed to eliminate a great deal of the paper in our lives, and it’s becoming moreso every day….
  22. Record Stores: Like the movies, people no longer need to go somewhere else to get their music. It comes to them…

A pretty good list, I think. Your turn to chime in – what did they leave off the list?

Topics: The Future is Now | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade”

  1. jason says at December 12th, 2009 at 3:23 pm :
    Heh, always happy to get a call-out, Brian, thanks! For the record, I don’t miss payphones per se; I do feel a certain affection for phone booths, in as much as they used to be such a familiar — and sometimes comforting — part of the landscape, and I’m sensitive to familiar objects vanishing from it. If that makes sense…

    It may surprise you, given my usual thoughts on these matters, to learn that I don’t really mourn most of the items on this list. I do question, however, whether many of them are truly obsolete. For example, I know everyone is ga-ga for the iPhone and its competitors, but it seems to me that buttons are alive and well for those who prefer them (I do, myself; I prefer the tactile sensation of actually effecting a change on something. But then, I haven’t really played with the touchscreen controls, either.) Paper is another one. Perhaps this one is symptomatic of my particular field of employment, but I still have a lot of paper crossing my desk every day, and, although I’m not opposed to online bill payment myself, I know plenty of people who aren’t comfortable with the idea. (Older people, to be honest, but still…) And my local record shop seems to be doing quite well, despite that whole CD vs. downloading thing.

    My point here isn’t to argue that newer technologies and methods aren’t becoming prevalent; they unquestionably are. Nor am I arguing that the old ways are better. I just think it’s perhaps premature to declare some of this stuff dead.

    I will give you the VCR… although I still have — and occasionally use — mine. Which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you in the least… :)

  2. Ilya says at December 14th, 2009 at 12:15 pm :
    My first reaction was similar to Jason’s. I don’t think many of these are obsolete, per se, rather than gradually becoming less relevant. Most people I know still have a land-line phone service (it may be VOIP, but it is still stationary). When you’re walking around an unfamiliar city, looking at a map is occasionally more convenient – such as when you want to determine your relative location to several points of interest at once – than using a smallish electronic device. Two of your readers prefer buttons to touchscreens – that may be a statistically significant sample to argue that buttons are not yet obsolete…

    But it’s a fun list, nonetheless.

  3. Konstantin says at December 14th, 2009 at 12:32 pm :
    As long as there are legal papers to be signed faxes are not going to be obsolete. What you’ve forgot to mention is that newspapers are becoming obsolete by the way of Google and online news services.

  4. Lisa Rafal says at December 18th, 2009 at 4:40 pm :
    begging to differ with you on the record store thing…vinyl is back and more desirable than it’s been in a long time. people long to hear that grainy sound of a needle on vinyl delivering that music we loved as kids. i’m about to set about recovering some of my favorites on vinyl again and head out to sears to pick up a new turntable. what’s old is new again!

  5. Brian says at December 18th, 2009 at 5:21 pm :
    Vinyl produces a more nuanced reproduction of the original – THE FIRST TIME YOU PLAY IT. Each time the needle goes across the grooves, though, the recording gets worse. Eventually, it wears out. Also, carrying around 3,000 songs on vinyl can get a bit unwieldly.

    You’re right that it’s making a comeback, but it’s still a very minor segment in the music industry. Some stats:

    Year-to-date digital single-track sales (as of 11/8/09):
    – Michael Jackson: 11.3 million tracks
    – Lady Gaga: 11.1 million tracks
    – Black Eyed Peas: 10.3 million tracks
    – Taylor Swift: 9.98 million tracks

    Year-to-date digital album sales: 65 million
    Year-to-date digital track sales: >1 billion

    Year-to-date vinyl record sales: >2 million
    (breaking last year’s record of 1.9 million)


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