What is your "most outdated device"

Rob Walker says: "For Yahoo News, I asked a bunch of smart tech writers (Kevin Kelly, Alexis Madrigal, Jenna Wortham, Douglas Rushkoff, etc.) to reveal their 'most outdated' device. Readers are offering some amusing responses of their own." (Shown here: Kevin Kelly's phone.)


  1. Neat concept.

    I suppose the oldest piece of gear I still regularly use is a Sony portable stereo cassette / radio, with two  — decks? cassette slots? — so it could do dubbing. It was a wonderful boon back when sharing music meant copying a cassette tape.

    I got rid of virtually all of my tapes a couple of years ago; the stack I have left are in a “digitize us” pile.

    I use the radio every day; it sits on the counter between my kitchen and living room.

    And I still have the manual for the sucker!

  2. I play Tetris on a hand-me-down Gameboy (1989) that I got from my nephews c. 2000. It’s pretty beat up, but it works well enough.

    I own and regularly use a lot of 1960s and 1970s vintage HP and Tektronix test equipment, because it was designed and built to last forever.

    The calculator on my desk at work is a Sony Sobax Nixie tube unit (1969) that does square roots. It works great, which is good because its potted-transistor-module construction ensures that it can’t be fixed.

  3. I have a Palm V which I still use daily for a meditation and pomodoro timer, and an Olympus pocket tape recorder which I use for recording ideas when on the run or behind the wheel.  If I had to use my phone even to make voice recordings, I’d have to navigate across the glass screen; with the Olympus all I have to do is touch it and my hand finds the right buttons.  Much safer when driving.

    Arguably, both devices have the same important feature: Big, haptic controls for getting to what you care about quickly, both devices create their own use contexts simply by their shape, and both devices are optimized for your hands, not your eyes.

    1.  I still have a Palm III, but I haven’t used it in years.

      I wish my Android pad supported Palm Graffiti text input instead of that stupid virtual keyboard.

  4. My oldest device is a WalkMan II.  It has a little pamphlet inside from Akio Morita (the founder of SONY) asking me to write him back and tell him what uses I found for his wacky new device.  Listen to music while playing golf?  Who knows?!  I also have the 2 ‘C’ battery battery belt pack for it to extend playing time to over an hour!

    The oldest device that I have that actual works (the WalkMan seized up long ago) is the old BetaMax deck (one of three) with the DIN port on the front for you to hook up your bazooka sized camcorder.  It has the endearing feature of a little gate that pops up over the cassette slot when the cassette is inserted with a “Cassette loaded” decal on it.  The other, swinging gate, that the cassette was pushed through is pushed up to the roof of the chamber by this gate.

    Love the circuit boards in these babies.  They’re hand soldered, have labels for each resister, capacitor, transistor and so on and have areas marked out with labels like “audio playback circuits” and “timer controls”.

  5. I have a NES that I wont throw away… it works sometimes.

    As far as oldest device of all (not digital or media) in my possession, I have an 1864 Spencer.

  6. My girlfriend owns a Laserdisc video player in perfect condition. Not only that, but a DEVO disc to go into it. True love! 

  7. A 1929 Royal 10 typewriter (the one with glass sides) and a mid-70s Sharp EL-105 calculator are the two oldest devices in my possession.

  8. I object to the idea, implicit in this, that old technology equals outdated technology. What we should be doing is judging technological devices for their fitness for the job they’re performing. If an old device still does the job well, then it isn’t outdated.

    1. It would be interesting to compare the answers to two questions, I think:
      – what is the oldest device you own?
      – what is the most outdated device you own?
       (for some definitions of “device”) 

      I have a reel-to-reel tape recorder (still useful as a tape delay effect), a mixing console with 8-track DAT recording (I don’t use the DAT feature, but it’s a good mixer), a pair of fairly new (around 15 years old) turntables.  All of them have some aspects of outdated-ness to them, though the oldest, the tape recorder, is still probably under 50 years old.

      I also have a hand-cranked nut grinder  and some cast-iron frying pans that could be 10 years old or 100 for all I know – as long as the physical characteristics of foods don’t change too much, they have no obsolescence potential.

  9. I have a 30 year old Casio fx-82 calculator that I use all the time.  If you ask it to do a natural log it has to sit and think about it for a half second before coming back with an answer.  Back when it would get a lot of abuse, I would clean it occasionally by soaking it in a beaker of distilled water for an hour then drying it in the vacuum oven.  

  10. i have one of those old Coleco Football (LED handheld) games from the late 70s. still works. i’m terrifically nostalgic about the sounds it makes.

  11. I’m still using my 7 or 8 year old flip phone.  I don’t need to do anything on a phone besides make and receive phone calls, so I don’t need bells and whistles.  The only things I wish it did were take messages and play at least one cheapass game, like Tetris.  I don’t like to text, but it accepts texts for me anyway.  If it weren’t for my old phone having no cover, and thus periodically buttdialing a random person, I’d still be using it.

  12. Tomytronic Pac-Man handheld game from c.1982.  Still works (although it plays a bizzaro alternate rules version of pac-man where the direction you eat a dot from matters).  Somehow its 4 C batteries have lasted without leaking since the mid 1990s.

  13. I’ve got a gen1 radio-only walkman that a homeless guy pushed on me for whatever I had in my pocket.  the UI is better than all the modern stuff, but I’ve only used it a few times.  I’ve got an 8 track player to play music in the bathroom that I got from ebay so I could actually play some free tapes I got when I worked at a record store.  I used that a lot but the outlet in the bathroom went out.  this beast, though, is older than them both and I use it close to daily.

      1. dunno, but that comment could be construed as calling me out for making a false claim as to the vintage of my toaster.  I know you have far too much class than to question a man’s toaster, though.

        1. No, I had a reissue of a classic toaster. It broke after about three toasts.

          1. sucks.  I heard Ray’s Music Exchange has some pretty cool deals on some OG models.

  14. I’m currently using two great pieces of 1960s tech in my home office. My Google phone number is connected to an early Western Electric touch-tone phone (via an Obi100 voip box, which is fantastic BTW). The phone sits atop a walnut-cased Sansui receiver, which is connected to the computer, and has some newish Infinity bookshelf speakers paired with it. While I love newer technology too, I am old enough to have grown up with the vintage stuff, so I appreciate the function, beauty, and durability. I can’t quite grasp throw away consumerism. 1. Expensive. 2. Wasteful. 3. Low quality. In general, our ability to create nice things is not diminished, but our desire to do so is. Above all else, we seem to want to have more stuff, at the expense of quality.

  15. I’ve got bits and pieces stashed away that are older, but I actually use my 25-30 year old clock-radio every day. The digital display has faded, but the radio portion still works fine.

  16. I bought a newfangled digital alarm clock when I was 9, so I could get up for my paper route.  It still works, though now the alarm emits a low drone that drives my wife utterly nuts.  Also, some of the numbers don’t work, but I can usually deduce the time.

    1. *fist bump*

      Started out using a slide rule in grade school, but upgraded to the first affordable TI calculator by the time I got to calculus.  Still have BOTH.

    2.  Ah! I didn’t think of my slide rules. I have a small collection ranging from a 2 inch plastic tie clip to a 2 foot professional rosewood.

      Dang! I have a link to what was a cool online virtual slide rule, but Google informs me it is now a malware site. :(

  17. My 1983 HP-15c is the oldest thing I regularly use.  I have an HP-35 that works (from 1973), and a Minolta SR-T 201 camera from 1977 that is in fine condition.

  18. We still have our Marantz stereo components (I think circa 1985), the AM/FM stereo tuner ST525, equalizer EQ-20, amplifier FM 325, which all work well today, and stereo cassette deck SD 320, which is sitting on the shelf gathering dust.

  19. Probably the Amiga500 sitting in my basement, although there’s an Apple IIe in my Mom’s attic.
    I just wish I hadn’t thrown out my old Commodore Vic-20 way back when.

  20. I have, and use, a rotary dial phone, circa 1975. It will never die. Pac Bell forced me to buy it when I was a student..

  21. My cellular phone. My friends call it my “atari phone.”  I was excited, about 4 years ago, when I graduated to it because it was a flip phone with a full-sized keyboard and a camera.  The camera has since stopped working, the phone is giant, ugly, and I have no “smartphone” capabilities. A girl asked me the other day why I had a “giant pager” and I embarrassingly informed her it’s my cell phone.

  22. As usual the Boing Boing comment thread makes for much better reading than the linked article.

  23. A 1960 Zenith “Super DeLuxe” Trans-Oceanic portable shortwave radio. Still works. Great to listen in on broadcasts from around the world.

  24. A manual typewriter.

    The outdated part is trying to find replacement ribbons for it.  Otherwise, the thing will outlast all of us.

  25. I read the headline way too quickly and thought it was: ” What’s your most outdated piece of *advice*”
    Coupled with the picture of K.K’s phone, I figured the challenge was for readers to come up with their most outdated piece of advice that related to technology.  I kind of think that would produce comments at least as interesting as a list of outdated devices.

  26. My main cast iron skillet is around sixty years old, and my favorite audio hardware are a pair of speakers and a quadrophonic amp that are both around forty years old.

    I think my hand-cranked burr grinder is about that old as well, but I’ve no way to know for sure.

    Then there’s my Hi-Fi, which is identical to the one in Don Draper’s office.

    1. Everything you’ve listed is old but not outdated: they still work and will work on into the future with no need for currently-unavailable parts.  (Possible exception being the Hi-Fi, depending on its innards.)

  27. I recently (in the last month) gave away my original game boy, game boy color, Sega Nomad, sony cassette tape recorder, Timex alarm clock/radio/cd player, and 9 yr old laptop. My oldest electornic device is now my N64.

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