List of obsolete technology

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This is a list of obsolete technology which includes newer technologies that replaced the older ones. Many technologies that have newer alternatives have not been completely replaced.

Obsolete technology Replacement Still used for
Hourglass Clock Tasks where a fixed amount of time can be measured with a low-tech solution: Exposure time tracker in saunas (where electronics might be damaged by the heat or ultraviolet light), retro kitchen timers, board games
Sundial Clock
Primitive Fire making Ferrocerium, Match, Lighter Practiced as backup survival skills if advanced methods unavailable.
Drive-through bank teller (sometimes featuring pneumatic tubes to transfer documents and money to outer lanes) Drive-through automated teller machine, online banking Drive-through tellers still exist to serve customers who prefer not to use the available technology.
Bathing machine No longer required due to changing social standards of morality
Quill pen, reed pen, dip pen, fountain pen Ballpoint pen Calligraphy, personal preference
Swamp cooler Air conditioning Dry climates
Manual vacuum cleaner, carpet sweeper Electric vacuum cleaner Carpet sweepers are sometimes used in commercial applications (like movie theatres) where the noise of an electric vacuum is unwelcome
Producing light with fire. Early: candles, torches. Later: kerosene lamps, fuel-based lanterns, and gas light Flashlights, electric lights Torches sometimes used for performance purposes. Coleman Lanterns and similar are sometimes used for camping, but battery-powered lanterns are becoming more common. Gas lighting is still used for street lighting in some historic districts, but not indoors due to toxic emissions. Candles are still used for aesthetic purposes.
Moonlight towers Distributed street lighting
Incandescent light bulbs Fluorescent lamps, cold cathode lamps, high-intensity discharge lamp, LEDs Specialty purposes; mandatory phase-out of incandescent light bulbs is happening in some countries. LEDs are also gradually replacing compact fluorescent lamps.
Kitchens and cooking
Open hearth cooking Kitchen stoves, ovens, barbecue grills, various small appliances Historical recreations
Toasting fork (for use with open flame to make toast) Toaster, toaster oven Camping
Turnspit dog Steam power, wind-up power, electrical power Extinct
Icebox Refrigerator
Audiovisual communication
Cathode ray tube Flatscreen
Betamax Lost a format war to VHS
Video cassette recorder DVDs, digital video recorders Playback of historical recordings
HD DVD Lost format war to Blu-ray
Telegraph Telephone, teletype, email, Global Maritime Distress and Safety System
Phonograph and phonograph record Audio cassette, 8 track tape, compact disc, MP3 Vinyl revival
Audio cassette, cassette player, Walkman Compact disc, MP3, MP3 player, Discman Playing historical recordings
Compact disc, CD player, Discman MP3, MP3 player, USB stick Playing historical recordings
Analog television Digital television Mandatory digital television transition has been underway around the world since the 2000s
Computing, information storage, and office equipment
Vacuum tube Transistor Vacuum tubes are still used in more expensive guitar amplifiers and hi-fi power amplifiers
Paper data storage for computers (punch cards, punched tape) Magnetic data storage
Paper card catalogs, edge-notched cards Computer databases
Paper address book, Rolodex Contact list, electronic address book
Typewriter Word processor Still used by some writers being deliberately low-tech
Dot-matrix impact printing Inkjet printer, laser printer Still used in some enterprises, especially for old carbon paper forms
Carbon paper Photocopier, cheap printing of multiple copies Still used by some enterprises
Mimeograph Photocopier, cheap printing of multiple copies
Faxes Email, World Wide Web Still used by some enterprises
Phone book Search engine and online databases Yellow pages are still distributed for advertising purposes
Pneumatic tubes for moving documents and postal items Electronic communication, mechanized surface vehicles Transport of physical items in hospitals and factories, scientific applications
Paper ledger Computerized spreadsheets and databases
Slide rule, mechanical calculator Electronic calculator, computer
BlackBerry physical keyboards Modern smartphones have software keyboards displayed on the touchscreen when necessary
Credit card imprinters, with carbon paper Magnetic stripe cards, EMV (chips)
Celestial navigation with lunar distance method and dead reckoning Marine chronometer to solve the longitude problem
Celestial navigation with sextant and marine chronometer Inertial guidance, radio navigation, radar navigation, satellite navigation Backup in case of electronic system failure or jamming, spaceflight where satellite and ground-based systems can't be used
Pram (backward-facing) Stroller (forward-facing, collapsible)
Boneshaker, penny-farthing bicycle Safety bicycle (early version of the modern bicycle)
Buggy whip Automobiles do not require them Horse transport for novelty purposes, and for utility in developing countries and Amish communities
Pack animals Trucks and vans In developed countries, only in difficult terrain with no roads (e.g. Grand Canyon)
Draft animals for canal boats, plows, carriages, light rail vehicles Motorized boats, tractors, steam railroads, electric trolleys, cable cars, horseless carriages (automobiles) Sled dogs in arctic regions of North American and Greenland. Horse-drawn carriages are recreational attractions in some highly developed cities
steam powered Traction engine internal combustion powered Tractor Maintained by preservation societies and for historical demonstrations
Steam locomotive Diesel locomotive, electric locomotive Still used for historical heritage railways
Marine steam engine and steamship Marine diesel engines, nuclear marine propulsion, aircraft for long-distance passenger travel
Carburetor Fuel injection Small engine equipment, Piston Engine Aircraft
Cobblestone Concrete, asphalt Still used in historic districts
Early siege engines (siege towers, battering rams, catapults, ballistae, trebuchets) Artillery, aircraft
Forts, defensive walls, castles Vulnerable to air attack, useless to prevent the advance of aircraft Limited use of underground bunkers and civilian air raid shelters
Spear Firearms Bayonets, spear fishing
Sword Firearms
Muzzleloader firearms Breech-loading weapons Historical re-enactments
Gunpowder Smokeless powder, high explosives, dynamite, ANFO Recreational shooting, historical reenactments


Older technologies substantially co-existing with newer technologies include:

  • DVDs have not been displaced by Bluerays
  • Hammers have not been displaced by nail guns
  • Long-distance travel by railroads and highway has to some degree been displaced by airplane, but not entirely - especially in countries adopting high-speed rail
  • Ferry travel has not been completely displaced by bridges and airplanes
  • Fords are still used for rural roads, though bridges have replaced them for most roads in most developed countries
  • Postal mail continues to be used alongside email, but with substantial decreases in personal correspondence outside of special occasions, due to the availability of text messages and email.
  • Shields co-exist with bulletproof vests, and are used by riot police. Lighter-weight and stronger materials are available compared to ancient wooden and bronze shields, including clear plastic shields and bulletproof shields mounted on firing platforms.
  • Analog watches are still widely used for reasons of fashion and personal preference despite the availability of digital watches which can be made much lighter and with smart watch capabilities.
  • Pneumatic tubes for passenger transport have been used in atmospheric railway to provide motive power, like a cable car system. Vactrain systems, where the entire passenger compartment travels through an evacuated tube, never became operational, but are still being investigated for high-speed transport.
  • Fireplaces are still used for primary heat in some houses in developed countries, though furnaces, electric heat, and other modern HVAC systems are less polluting, can be better controlled, and can also provide cooling.
  • Hot water bottles continue to be used along with electric blankets and heating pads.

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