Of all the terrible technologies to grace our presence, Betamax was not one of them, because it was hardly ever in anyone’s presence. Invented by Sony in 1975, this tech sought to do battle with VHS, a competing media medium. While it supposedly had better video quality, video resolution, and a better console for cassettes, it underwent a series of blunders that lead to its inevitable demise. It is truly an obsolete tech platform if there ever was one.
Of the many blunders that stifled Betamax’s possible popularity was its treatise with other companies. In effect, it refused to let other companies undergo the licensing needed to manufacture players for the product. What this meant was that the consoles for playing the tapes was more expensive—always. VHS implemented no such foible. And so, it was VHS that won.
2. Google Glass
Other than tech that has gone by the wayside in the past, there are some more modern tech we can see struggling before our very eyes. Google Glass is one of these technologies. Attempting to manifest the Minority Report lifestyle into real life, this tech has attempted to enable the easy access of features like recording, the internet, email, and other un-necessities.
Because we all have smartphones, the tech in Google Glass is excessively superfluous. Beyond that, it costs a pretty penny. What’s more of a problem, though, is that the tech makes it far too easy for creeps to record other people. This sketchy feature of the glasses has led some places like movie theaters to ban them from their premises. Google still plans on improving this product for future use, but the project is currently shelved.
Some tech of yesteryear stood a good chance at catching on, but sadly couldn’t compete with powerhouse entertainment companies. The Dreamcast is one such nightmare. Having been introduced in 1998, this console was quickly outplayed by the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Because of such sterling competition, the Dreamcast has gone the way of Betamax and Google Glass—fallen dreams.
Other than the clearly capable competition, Dreamcast had problems with marketing. It was one of the first tech companies to start using memory cards, but this wasn’t enough to redeem Sega’s product from hot competition. Neither was its partnership with Microsoft, because—hey—they were surely more invested in the computer biz than gaming. That is, until the Xbox released soon after.
Among the more abominable of the tech mishaps is the Segway. This two-wheeled abomination briefly dominated the ranks of mall cops and terrible TV everywhere. I think the most cardinal rule of tech is this: if you see Kevin James riding it, the coolness factor will drop by a significant margin. Today it’s mostly used for security patrol work or city tours.
What can we attribute to the Segway’s clumsy reputation? This is likely its awkward controls and uncomfortable look. While four-wheeled automobiles and two-wheeled motorcycles can reach highway speeds and get us from one place to another, all the Segway can do is lose us dates at a max speed of 12.5 mph.
5. Virtual Boy
This uncomfortable blunder of a gadget would not only impose a galling number of red frequencies on the retina of your eye, but also give you a headache from its obnoxiously fitting structure. Spawned from the 9th circle of Hades, this device never took hold—which is what you’d expect from any spawn of the great evil one.
Ultimately, this unwieldy device was both ahead and behind its time. Made in 1995, it was a bit too early for the introduction of VR. But beyond that, the VR that it did implement was terrible. It was more akin to the effect of those headache-inducing blue-red 3D glasses you would wear to watch equally lame movies. Either way, the product was allowed to go extinct—and we’re all better off for it.
Among the more weird—and thankfully brief—technologies to broach the ancient world (i.e., the late ’70s) was the Laserdisc. Also called “DiscoVision”—because, hey, it was the ’70s—this plight in cylindrical form was crafted as a replacement for VHS tapes. Fortunately, it never got popular.
There are several reasons for the Laserdisk’s rise and then immediate fall from grace. Two of the more easy to see are that it was easy to damage and that it was heavy. If you were to throw it frisbee-style, for instance, it would surely lead to injury and possible loss of a limb. Since most people look disparagingly at dangerous musical weaponry, the disk stayed where it belonged: the realm of nonexistence.
The Cinerama was essentially just an early—and worse—version of the IMAX. However, unlike the streamlined and actually quite-nice IMAX, the Cinerama had to string together and synchronize multiple projectors in order to accurately portray a film. Because of this, they had to literally hire multiple different professionals to operate the machinery.
Needless to say, this difficulty was a costly endeavor for movie theatres. And so, as with most costly endeavors, this price tag left very few movie theatres willing to front the bill. The technology, in other words, never made it out of the nascent stage. For this, we should probably be thankful.
8. Digital Audio Tape (DAT)
The Digital Audio Tape was manufactured in 1987 as a way to record live sound. Surprisingly, this tech was actually pretty good. Many report that it far exceeded the quality of audio by other popular devices of the time. What was the problem, then? That the music industry thought the tech would make the pirating of music much more easy.
In 1992, the music industry decided to take their concerns to congress. Their lobbying worked, and they eventually got them to pass a bill entitled the Audio Home Recording Act. This bill forced Digital Audio Tape manufacturers to pay royalties to the music business, which in turn encumbered their ability to sell. This ugly shift in the market paved the way for CD success.
9. Quick Response
One trend we all know that did nothing but perturb an otherwise pleasant existence was the production and advertising of the Quick Response. This black and white checkered tag was meant to make life easier; it was meant to show us deals on wheels for things like Subway, RadioShack, and Apple. All you had to do was scan the code, go to the site, and buy.
For whatever reason (your better judgement, probably), this little bit of tech never caught on. People were instead—who would’ve guessed it—more interested in going to stores or just buying things online. These intransigent dispositions left the Quick Response slow to grow. And, ultimately, it will die a quick death with no potential for resuscitation.
10. Apple Newton PDA
The Apple Newton PDA was Apple’s first attempt at the portable smart market. It was also arguably its worst. It was so notoriously awful that it became the subject of late night comedy specials (which are their own breed of awful). This ever-compounding mixture of bad technology and comedy plummeted the sales of this poorly thought-out device.
Among the more glaring technical forays into trashy tech was the device’s scribing system. You couldn’t in other words, write without calling your whole worldview into question—if you tried to write the word “juxtaposition,” say, the device would interpret it as “fruit salad.” If you don’t think this annoying, you could be a sociopath.
11. The DivX
The DivX was actually quite innovative—so innovative, in fact, that it couldn’t survive. In the land before Netflix and online streaming, movies were difficult to come by. You’d have to go to the store, go to the theater, or some other magical place to see your desired films. DivX tried to make this easier, delivering downloadable movies with a quick turnover time.
But in this land before the now, where despoliation and plunder reigned, people weren’t ready for the tech. And beyond that, it was relatively expensive. And even beyond that, it was tedious. To get the stuff to work, you would have to buy affiliated machinery. DVDs were easier, so the world stuck with those.
In concept, the eBook always seemed like a good idea. You could reduce the size of your library while maintaining the same number of books. What an idea! You could even now carry all of these books around with you. In recent years, eBooks and eReaders have gripped between 20 and 30 percent of the publication market.
While products like the Kindle have enjoyed success, a new interesting trend is arising: eBook sales dropped by 10 percent in 2017 and an additional 5 percent in 2018. Consumers prefer actual hard copies for certain literature, especially when it comes to indie titles and obscure publishers. eBook providers limit selection based on projected sales, and the market appears to be responding with their p(ocket)Books.
While the beeper may have had a brief stint of fame as something that would annoy you in meetings and family dinners, that fame was short lived. For whatever reason, the world of phone technologies grows like none other. And this has, if you couldn’t tell, rendered the beeper utterly obsolete.
It isn’t hard to see why this lump you’d attach to your belt would quickly become old news. As soon as you invented something with only minor additions to functionality, it would no longer serve any desirable purpose. And this is exactly what happened once phones got small enough to brandish freely.
The world of the Internet doesn’t always make it easy for companies to last. Sometimes you think the supremacy of a company will continue until the end of time, compounding and expanding into a vast empire of wealth and terror. But, companies like Myspace, a once thriving enterprise of friendship and top-eight friends, clearly disprove this concept.
While its heyday was somewhat substantial (we all had a Myspace, right?), most of us hopped off the train when Facebook came along. Somehow we all collectively agreed that Tom was a chump, our top-eight friends sucked, and that we’d rather be cool on another platform. And now the rest is literally history.
15. Galaxy Note
The Galaxy Note is one of the more interesting tech blunders of our time—but not because its features were necessarily defunct. Instead, this hot mess was literally a hazard to those who owned one. This product, in other words, brought a lot of heat to the customer.
After some flaming sales, this product started to burst into flames. It was the first smartphone to win the status of being banned from airplanes because it would literally catch fire. What’s funny is that Samsung issued replacements without actually understanding the problem. So, as you would expect, this new batch similarly burst into flames.
Once heralded as the most successful Kickstarter project in existence, the Pebble smartwatch didn’t really make too big a dent in the marketplace—or if it did, it was immediately removed by some unbearable mechanic. As it turns out, smartphones pretty much have the smart-ground covered, and smartwatches are just too redundant to be fun.
Pebble even had the audacity—after having acquired plenty of millions of dollars in investments—to attempt another Kickstarter. Even after all this initial success, however, Pebble caved and decided to sell their product. Now their tech is used by some other company for their own smart-whatever purposes.
The Zune was not actually that bad a product. What were its problems, then? These were mostly that it had some tough and already-established competition. That competition was the iPod. And, as you probably could have noticed, the iPod clearly won out in this battle of the music pods.
The Zune was essentially too late to emerge to really make a difference in consumer buying decisions. Also, it was really just mirroring all of its tech and structure from the iPod. So, it was a mix of boring copycatting, unoriginality, and a too-late-to-the-party vibe. And we all know how much society loathes people who are late to the party—especially when they’re wearing the same outfit as someone already there.
Personal digital assistant, you ask? Yes, something none of us use anymore. Why? Because all of us have smartphones—which are essentially the same thing but 1,000 times better. So while these may have had a day in which they were useful little gadgets, that day has long since passed.
If you still have a PDA, it seems likely that you’ve been living the past two decades in a worn-down cabin somewhere in the Montanan wilderness. Although, I suspect that if this were the case, you would not have happened upon this article. And since you have, it’s safe to assume you ditch this defunct technology long ago.
19. Landline phones
Somehow landline phones still exist, but I don’t think anyone uses them. I think they’ve become one of those weird hipster décors that people buy like record players to just sit around and collect dust (sorry, vinyl fans). Occasionally someone will feign interest and snap a photo or two for Instagram. But even this fad is on the decline.
Once upon a time, however, we all knew a time when they were used. People would pick them up, chat into the perforated holes, then stay chained to the wall for a few minutes. This time has long since passed. Clearly, this is because smartphones and wireless have become omnipresent. How did we get by without mobile phones at all?
20. Public payphones
Even worse than the landline is the public payphone, which has become defunct beyond reason. While these still exist in the form of suffocating boxes on the side of foggy London street corners, they don’t exist in the realm of actual function. And this is why many have been removed from the streets and promptly incinerated.
Public payphones are just another of the many technologies of yesteryear that has been left to die a cold and lonely death. Movies like Phonebooth, then, will never again be possible again. But for most of us, this is blessing and not a curse. It wasn’t one of Colin Farrell’s better films, anyway.
Some of the tech on this list has become obsolete not because they were bad technologies, but because they were just introduced at the wrong time or the wrong place. Or, they were the result of a fumbling PR team or bad advertising campaign. This isn’t the case with the VCR.
The VCR became obsolete because it was an absolute garbage technology by the time digital entertainment took rise. After the DVD dropped, there was never one person who said, “I prefer to spend six minutes of my life waiting for the movie to rewind!” If said person did exist, they were likely in a state of existential crises or mania. And because of this ubiquitous and unrelenting loathing, people were eager to hope on board the digital disc train.
22. Fax machines
Fax machines are another terrible technology that has done nothing but plague its users—and everyone else around them. Having been invented as a way to noisily transport paper documents from place to place, this bulky hunk of a machine still manages to take up certain chunks of office space. It’s dreadful.
Other than these businesses living in the past, though, the fax machine has gone the way of all the other technologies of yesteryear. You’re more likely to find one in a dumpster than on the desk of the savvy businessperson—unless, of course, that business person is from the 1940s.
CDs weren’t (aren’t?) all that bad. Or are they? While most people today have moved onto subscription services like Spotify and Pandora, others of us are still stuck in the past. We like, in other words, the CD ports in our cars and laptops and the functionality they provide. We’re not ready to give up just yet.
But the tech world is in the midst of overthrowing this CD kingdom. What point is there in physical CDs when you can have nearly every song ever made stored neatly in the cloud from your phone? There is no point. So goodbye, compact disks. It’s been real.
24. Floppy disks
If you’ve ever gotten kicks out of breaking a floppy disk into many, tiny lamentable shards, you aren’t alone. The bulk of people on planet Earth forced to store some boring school project or other drab work have likely shared such joys. And if not, they probably enjoyed the thought of it.
This tech has been replaced and then replaced again. It clearly was not the most proficient. Let us use it as a piece of evidence for how precipitously the tech industry changes, then. The computers that held these things are gone, and they are nowhere but trashdumps and garbage piles everywhere.
Hard copies of maps aren’t too common nowadays. Since the sprawl of the internet can reach nearly anywhere in the modern day, the paper tech has become basically obsolete. Unless we’re some wilderness guru embarking down the most terrifying and adventurous journey, it’s likely we won’t need a paper map anytime soon.
We can expect, then, that as time wears on the number of paper maps on planet Earth will wane to zero. Unless we undergo a nuclear apocalypse and all technology is destroyed, we likely live in a world increasing technological advancement. Nowhere in this modern world will the map grow to be more popular.
There is a realm of modern day hipster culture wherein old defunct technologies are taken, purchased, and poised such that they can be Instagrammed for all to see. The typewriter is one such technology. It has graced (cursed?) the desks of many, and usurped the productivity of more than that.
Typewriters became obsolete immediately following the invention of the personal computer. We need to face the fact that the typewriter is in no way an effective or practical instrument for writing. So if you want to take up desk space with this hunk of garbage keys, you are more than welcome. But don’t expect the rest of the world to do similarly.
27. Dumb phones
What’s the opposite of the smartphone? Everything that came beforehand. And what did this technology do? Essentially nothing. Well, at least that’s when compared to the things that our modern phones can do—things like access the internet, play games, or talk to people. Arguably most of our time isn’t even spent talking on these things.
Anyways, these phones of yesteryear served mostly the purpose of allowing us to communicate—and that’s it. And they weren’t even that good at this; they were clunky, bulky, and otherwise undesirable. Another entry for the list of that became obsolete with the construction of Apple products.
28. Dial-up modems
Dial-up modems are another of those tedious technologies we needed to get to something better. They acted as a terrible stepping stone for the better things to come. And these better things were so much better. So much better, in fact, that reflecting upon how abysmal the dial-up modems were will inspire nothing but unrelenting bliss.
I encourage you, then, to reflect on the days in which you had to work through the tedium of these terrible technologies. If you still use one, you might just be a caveman. Just kidding—these aren’t totally gone yet. One day soon, though, they will be an object of the past.
Walkman, albeit one of the more fun technologies of the past, have become something as obsolete like the rest. Since the advent of things like CD players and iPods, they have gone extinct. While we don’t think about them with the same sort of reserved animosity that we do the fax machine or phonebooth, we do look back at them like they’re sort of a cool dinosaur.
While this is exactly what they are—something that went extinct around 65 million years ago—they provide a fun source of entertainment for those who would like to play them up in throwback ’80s movies. They also fill the bulk of dumpsters and trash piles everywhere.
30. Overhead projectors
One of the most loathsome of the terrible technologies from our haunted past is the overhead projector. Again, there is probably not one single person who currently finds these presentation devices worth the time. And so, they line the floor of junkyards everywhere.
So that concludes this list of terrible technologies with which we are better off. And now that they’re gone we can live happily ever after. And if you’re not happy after this, you should probably go to the doctor, because these are the sorts of changes in our society that are deserving of our praise. Lots of it.