It is interesting to look back at the various ways that technology has been advertised to consumers over the past several decades. It is particularly interesting to look back at these advertisements when the featured products have been made obsolete. From the BetaMax to the HD DVD the following are a list of the ads from technology that are either in dead or dying format, or those which are no longer in production.
Dial Up Internet
Perhaps the most important technological innovation since the television was the consumer availability of the internet and its subsequent online community. Most people remember what it was like to access the internet back in the early 1990s: you were required to dial up, hope that a connection would be established, and then log onto a network that moved at a snail’s pace. In short, it was slow computers and even slower connections. But, it was impressive at the time nonetheless.
Portable CD Player
In retrospect, early personal CD players were a joke – they didn’t have the ball-bearings that firmly held the discs in place. This meant that CDs were prone to shift around within the unit, which proved difficult for the disc to be read. As a result, the music would constantly skip; basically you had to be sitting perfectly still with the CD on a desk in order to listen to music. This meant that the early CD players weren’t usable for road trips, or for running, or anything really...for that matter.
Personal Cassette Player
Ohh, the personal cassette player. The cassette tape was the easy-to-reproduce, durable and relatively cheap alternative to records when first introduced. As a result, they became the music format of choice in the 1980s and into the early 1990s. It’s hard to believe that cassettes were still produced by major record labels up until 2000. Memories of having to rewind these tapes with pencils should haunt most people over 25 from time to time.
The laserdisc was an obvious precursor to the DVD, which more closely resembled an LP. The laserdisc never really took off in the U.S., while its success was relatively greater in Asia. The most likely reason for Laserdic's widespread failure was price: the average Laserdisc player cost about 5x the price of a VCR. The laserdisc enjoyed the status of a luxury item at one point, and within five years it became the source of many jokes – mostly those citing its irrelevancy.
Projection Box Television
These huge monstrosities were usually accessorized with a few hundred pounds of fake wood, metal and wires. The point was to make the TV look as if it were somehow part of a much larger cabinet, that complimented a room's greater interior design motif. Aesthetically a fail, these huge television sets were the crowning jewel of a middle class family’s living room for at least a generation. It is most likely tied to the fact that, at one time it was extremely popular to put up fake plastic wood paneling in your home.
BetaMax is the most frequently referenced dead technology. This is because as a format it did not last very long. Having launched in 1975 in the U.S., the BetaMax format would - at the height of it's popularity - account for only 30% of the market. A the same time, VHS, which launched in 1976 was able to capture 70% within a year. After losing the format war with VHS, BetaMax has resigned itself to operational obscurity. But it holds a special part in the heart of many – maybe hundreds of thousands – and is known colloquially as the epitome of irrelevance.
Neo Geo was a flash in the pan. On one hand, they revolutionized gaming with far 'superior' graphics at the time -32 bits were quite a step up from 16. The games however, were questionable: with horrible graphics, stolen story lines, and miserable translations. The best bet for people that still own a NeoGeo is to hold onto it; maybe there will be a movement in the future among gamers wishing to own vintage consoles to revisit the sub-par gaming experience of yesteryear.
Polaroid instant cameras were a very popular consumer product with both commercial, and cult appeal for decades. Only in 2008 did Polaroid announce that it would discontinue manufacturing the instant film format; The affordability and popularity of digital cameras are presumed to be the primary reason for the declining relative popularity of Polaroid.
Somewhat popular among musicians, and somewhat popular in Japan, the MiniDisc never fared well as a consumer product. Introduced in the early 1990s in most global markets, it lasted only with mild success until all but disappearing by the late 1990s. Most people attribute the increased popularity of compact discs, and (re)writable compact discs as a reason for the MiniDisc’s lack of success. It could also be that most record labels never fully pursued this technology, and as a result only produced limited pre-recorded albums.
When the VCR format was launched in 1976, it quickly became the dominant market leader. VCR remained in this position throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, until eventually losing ground to the DVD format by 2000. Since then, the VCR format has been on the decline, culminating in a 2007 FCC mandate that no longer shall stand-alone VCR players be produced for the U.S. Market.
The first HD DVD players were released in March 2006 in Japan, and in April 2008 in the US. By 2008, Netflix, Best Buy and Wal Mart had stated that they would openly support the competing BluRay format. In February 2008, Toshiba, the largest supporter of the format, soon followed suit. In less than two years, the format was all but dead. Currently, there are millions of unsold HD DVDs in American markets; some retailers (as noted above) are even giving them away with drastically price-reduced HD DVD players. HD DVD could rightly be perceived tas the modern day BetaMax.
Pagers were popular among doctors and professionals by the late 1970s, but as a consumer product they were not widespread until the early 1990s. To those not old enough to remember, it consisted of a small device worn on the belt (or in the case above on the wrist). If someone called the number, then it would send the number to the pager recipient, who then in turn could respond by calling back. The pager was most popular during the initial rise of the cellular phone, when for most people, the former presented a more cost-efficient alternative. As cell phone prices reduced, so did the widespread use of pagers. The pager left a lasting impression on society, however with the introduction of “pager code”, which could be interpreted as a precursor to text messaging.