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 £100ish 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
You don’t have to go back far to find DVD ruling the home entertainment roost. Coming into a market still dominated by outdated analogue VHS tapes, DVD delivered better picture quality, 5.1 surround sound, extra features and the added convenience of being able to skip straight to your favourite scenes.
But as quickly as it rose to prominence, DVD dropped into a decline, brought on by several factors. Blu-ray and HDTV services made us realise that DVD’s standard def pictures weren’t actually “all that”, and to add insult to injury, the long-promised arrival of several excellent, cheap on-demand streaming services happened. You probably have a DVD player (or at least something that plays DVDs) under your telly as you read this, but ask yourself: how often do you use it these days?
Cause of death: Blu-ray, Sky HD, Netflix and Lovefilm
Image credit: nrkbeta
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
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
From the days of Space Invaders through Street Fighter II to Dance Dance Revolution, there have been long periods where coin-operated arcade machines led the line and set the agenda for mainstream video games.
While arcade machines are still about – we’re personally quite partial to blasting away at virtual moose on our local dive’s Big Buck HD cabinet – 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.
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
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
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)
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