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From Landlines to Tamagotchis, Love Letters to Obsolete Technology

The last man standing in the floppy disk business, the benefits of a landline, and why dumb phones and digital cameras are on the rise.

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Picture this: a teen girl is chatting on a chunky Nokia phone that’s not connected to the internet, taking pictures of her friends with a silver Canon digital camera, and listening to her fave pop star on cassette.

No, it’s not the late 90s or early 2000s; it’s 2023 and old tech is making a generational comeback. Gen Z is embracing the blurry, overlit visual aesthetic of digital cameras and the lessened screentime of “dumb phones.”

The tech we use in our daily lives today barely resembles that of 50 years ago. But some tech you might assume was obsolete never really went away. Floppy disks still power decades-old industrial embroidery machines, many healthcare professionals continue to use pagers, and fax machines remain prevalent in Japanese offices.

It’s hard to predict what sticks and what doesn’t, what will be rescued from dusty attic boxes and resold for many times its original price, and what might just as well have been thrown away. Cassette and VHS tapes may reach the cult status of vinyl records one day, and who knows—in 20 years, all the cool kids might be hanging out at internet cafes.

Explore the surprising afterlives of “obsolete” technologies in the articles below. And if you think you can predict the future of innovation’s past, start stockpiling DVDs, iPods and maybe even lightning cables today.

Image by luplupme / Getty Images.