10 gadgets you’ll probably never use again

Please give a moment of silence for these fallen warriors of the tech world, killed off by better alternatives

These gadgets once ruled the Earth but now, like electronic dinosaurs, they are extinct – or near enough. Join us on a journey and we mourn the tech you used once but probably never will again.

Image credit: April Killingsworth

Cheap point-and-shoot cameras

Once a common sight at pubs, birthday parties and weddings, the humble point-and-shoot digital camera is in steep, sorry decline. While sales of DSLRs, compact system cameras and premium compacts are healthy, it seems that nobody is interested in the RM500ish snapper these days.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why. Smartphone cameras are now almost the equal of a point-and-shoot in terms of image quality, with the added bonuses of easy photo sharing, automatic cloud backup and portability. Plus, you always have one on you.

Cause of death: Smartphones

Fax machines

In the age of email, text messages and instant messages, no one bothers with the fax machine anymore. The days of waiting over the fax machine for that distinct dial tone is a thing of the past. With the exception of some offices, email has taken over as the defacto medium for sending over documents.

Documents that are emailed over are as legible or even better than the ones that are faxed over. Even if you need to have something signed, scanning the document with your signature would be more than sufficient. Then there's the time saved when multiple pages are involved. Where the fax would have taken ages to get a 20 page document faxed over, the process of scanning said documents and sending them over via email will take less than half the time. Not to mention, you will not bear the sins of a tree killer.

Cause of death: Email

Image credit: 5starstationery

Pagers

Beloved of rappers, dealers in illicit substances and anyone trying to have a busy social life at a time when even basic mobile phones cost more than giant televisions, pagers are now signifiers of a more innocent, sepia-toned era. For the uninitiated, they were small devices able to receive a short text message – or sometimes just a number. We're unfortunately old enough to remember the process: calling a human operator, dictating a message and having that passed on to a friend's pager. The holy grail was a two-way pager, able to send as well as receive!

As with many of our other entries you'll see here, the downfall of pagers was the advent of affordable mobile phones, which offered everything a pager could – and much more besides.

Cause of death: mobile phones

Image credit: Jim

Pocket calculators

Once an essential part of the secondary school attendee’s kit – and not simply for its ability to display rude words when turned upside down – the humble pocket calculator has fallen on hard times since the rise of the mobile phone. Even early mobiles offered a calculator function, meaning maths students could leave the ever-reliable Casio or Texas Instruments calc gathering dust at home. RIP.

Cause of death: phones (both dumb and smart) and computers

Image credit: Pablo

Arcade machines

From the days of Space Invaders through Street Fighter II to Dance Dance Revolution, there have been long periods when coin-operated arcade machines led the line and set the agenda for mainstream video games.

While arcade machines are still about, you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that they’re anywhere near the cutting edge of gaming today. Since the PlayStation arrived on the scene, arcade gaming has been in decline – and now it’s the home consoles and PCs that are leading the charge when it comes to innovation and graphical power.

The fact that arcade centres in Malaysia have been always been associated with the more seedier elements rather than wholesome family fun has added to its demise. Interestingly, arcade machines’ best chance of surviving in the modern gaming climate may be looking back to their past. Retro gaming establishments such as Barcade, which allows craft beer-sipping Brooklynites to drop spare quarters on classics like Gauntlet, Joust and Final Fight, are keeping the arcade dream alive. Just.

Cause of death: home consoles

More after the break...

Mouse nipples

We’re not talking about rodent teats, of course – those are still going strong as far as we’re aware – but rather the tiny rubber joysticks used to control the mouse pointer on early laptops. Uncomfortable to use for prolonged periods and prone to both wearing out and getting covered in all sorts of unsavoury finger-dirt, this is one thing we’re glad to see the back of.

Cause of death: trackpads

Image credit: Matthew

Mobile phone antennas

The cause of much in-pocket discomfort, mobile aerials no longer prod our thighs and beg to be broken off the first time a phone is dropped on the floor. Phone manufacturers have thankfully mastered the art of concealing antennas inside the body of their creations, and in all sorts of clever ways too: the HTC One, for instance, has an antenna made of co-injected polycarbonate, which is forced into channels in the aluminium body while in a molten state. Genius.

Cause of death: improved design and manufacturing

Image credit: Marco Nedermeijer

MP3 players

OK, so the MP3 player isn’t strictly dead – it just got absorbed, or morphed into, other gadgets. There was a time when almost everybody you’d meet had an iPod (or a non-Apple alternative for those who resented the iPod’s old approach to syncing and DRM), but now it’s rare to see anyone who isn’t a child or tween with one – everyone else uses their smartphones. It’s just a question of convenience.

Yes, it’s those smartphones again. Little wonder Apple now only offers one version of the once-ubiquitous iPod Classic, and hasn’t updated it since 2007.

There will always be a few people who favour dedicated MP3 players over their phones – the sound quality argument is a valid one, because lossless audio takes up a lot of space and dedicated MP3 players don’t need to use this up on apps; being designed primarily for music, they also may have better built-in DACs than phones. So perhaps it’s fair to say that the MP3 player has become a niche item rather than a totally dead one.

Cause of death: smartphones (again)

Netbooks

Cheap, compact, lightweight and just powerful enough to perform the basic tasks that make up 95 percent of the average person’s computer usage – email, web browsing, YouTube-watching etc. – the netbook was hailed as a revolution in mobile computing.

Then along came tablets and the MacBook Air. The former can handle all of the above tasks and are generally smaller and more powerful than netbooks, while the latter offers the same sort of portability with far better design, build quality and performance (let’s face it: most netbooks had had a run-in with the ugly stick). One by one the netbook manufacturers gave up on this end of the market, with the final two holdouts Asus and Acer finally ceasing production in January 2013.

Cause of death: tablets

Flip video camera

The Flip range of pocket-sized video cameras enjoyed a dizzying level of success in the mid-to-late noughties, culminating in the company’s megabucks (US$590 million to be precise) acquisition by Silicon Valley royalty Cisco Systems in 2009. Cisco saw that a cheap, simple and portable HD camcorder was the perfect tool for the YouTube generation.

But less than two years later and despite relatively strong sales persisting, Cisco pulled down shutters on the Flip business – perhaps wary that the steep rise in smartphone ownership (not to mention even cheaper camcorder-equipped devices like the iPod Touch) would ultimately prove the death of such devices. Chalk another one up to phones, chaps.

Cause of death: yet again, smartphones

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