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Old Tech but Still Useful (at times)

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My Social Psychology class was discussing older technologies and how they are sometimes fun to use in lieu of newer stuff and that they have a curiosity factor that makes them interesting.  Technology moves so fast that five years ago can be old for some technologies.  Here is a list that I came up with among my students, my own thoughts, and a good dose of Google.

Slide Rule - In the early 70s when I was in high school the calculator was just coming out.  I eventually bought a calculator from JC Penny for well over $100 that could add, subtract, multiply, divide but had no memory function.  In chemistry and physics classes we used our trusty slide rules.  It's pretty amazing how fast you can do math on a slide rule and with fairly good precision.

Cassette Player - Some of you might still be using these.  They were a hellish big improvement over the 8-track and much smaller.  I easily recorded thousands of hours of music on cassettes in the 70s and 80s.

Typewriter - I took touch-typing in 10th grade and it was one of the best courses I ever took.  Being able to touch-type has been incredibly useful throughout my academic and work careers.  I don't miss using typewriters but I have some fond memories.

Analog Telephone - You could only dial as fast as that ring could return to the start position.  Numbers were shorter, though.  Even in the 70s we only had to dial five digits in the town in which I lived.

Slide Projector - These were actually pretty cool and were sort of like PowerPoint but in the ice ages.  My dad had a big stack of trays that represented vacations, Christmas, and other occasions.

Stereo - When I was in college a stereo was actually a receiver.  You could buy separates such as a tuner, an amp, and a preamp, but a stereo did it all at a good price.  It had knobs!  Big heavy knobs.  And a good stereo had terminals for four speakers.  In 1977, my sophomore year in college, my dad gave me $200 to buy a used Pioneer that was very sweet for the  time.

Dial-up Modem - After you used one of these long enough you could tell by the tones if you were connecting or if things weren't going well.  When the 56K modems came out you could even tell if you were going to connect at 56 or 33.6.  Them were the days!  (I realize some folks still have to use these).

Turntables -  These have made a small comeback in the form of USB turntables and some folks still use the original version.  In college we were all fanatics about our turntables and our vinyl.  We bought special cleaning fluid for records and spent as much as we could on the perfect stylus.  A direct drive table was better than a belt drive but you paid dearly for the upgrade.

CB Radios - I used these through the 70s and a bit into the 80s.  I then became a ham radio operator and moved up to some really powerful (and expensive) equipment.  CB's are still around today but in the 70s you could sometime not find a channel that wasn't busy.  It was a pretty big deal when we went from 23 to 40 channels.

Pagers - My first pager was a baby-pager.  You rented these for three months so that you could be reached when your wife went into labor.  Later there were pagers that could provide a little news, weather, and sports.  Those were expensive and you paid a premium in monthly service for the news feature.

Please leave a comment with a technology that I missed or your story about one of those above.  Writing this Page brought back some very pleasant memories (and might have made me feel a bit old).
erick99 posted Sep 26, 2012

Wanna check the time machine and go back memory lane, nice technological knowledge, interesting facts. Thanks for sharing.

Dexterous (rep: 102k) posted Sep 26, 2012


Quick story. My parents gave me an 8 track player. I can't exactly remember when and how old I was, but my younger cousin for some reason thought it was a bomb..I was about to change songs and he yelled and cried he didn't want to blow up. IDK we were silly kids, lol.

Here is a very similar looking player. I will never ever forget this.

branie (rep: 129k) posted Sep 26, 2012


i remember growing up we used to have one of those big stereos with big speakers and those cb radios my father used to have one in his car with a long antenna in the rear bumper

rd995 (rep: 151k) posted Sep 26, 2012


I used a slide rule in 7th grade....what a pain they were.

encorez (rep: 10k) posted Sep 27, 2012


Haha, I haven't used any of these in a long time, aside from a turntable, which my friend had for dj'ing. They are still used by some dj's, but quickly being eliminated.

bbattag (rep: 7k) posted Sep 27, 2012


I used to have to replace the paper with mistakes in my Mother's manual typewriter and I was so shocked at how easy the electric typewriter was to use when I was in high school. Then, later on when I learned you could save text, move it around and fix mistakes with word processing, I was so happy!! I still appreciate that!!

ccsweetpea (rep: 8) posted Sep 28, 2012