My trusty Nokia N97 is quite the celebrity. He goes by the name of Quentin, and is one of those horizontal flip phones with a full-blown QWERTY keyboard. He’s chunky and weighs 150g. Every time I whip him out of my handbag, you’d think I’d taken out the One Ring or the Philosopher’s Stone. I’ve had the entire personnel of a 3 Mobile outlet gather around it as if it were a rare prehistoric fossil. One of them didn’t even know it was a phone and resorted to banging it on the desk.
Luckily, Quentin’s built like a bison and makes Thor’s hammer look like a soufflé. He may be practically extinct, but his battery lasts a week and he’s survived every fall imaginable, unlike the following devices who’ve vanished into oblivion thanks to the ever-changing face of technology. Let’s see how many of these gadgets you remember:
CDs and DVDs
Fair enough. These are still going strong, but only just. When was the last time you actually bought or rented an original DVD, as opposed to downloading a film from the internet? Due to the streaming and iTunes phenomenon, shops such as HMV have been withered down to just a handful of outlets in the UK, and most DVDs are purchased in digital form through Amazon or other online stores. Gone are the days when one could walk into a DVD rental shop, or find a laptop that actually has an optical drive. The tell-tale signs are all there. No matter how pretty Blu-Ray looks, the end is nigh.
MSN Messenger / Windows Live Messenger
This is where all of Generation Y’s teenage drama happened. Our pubescent and cringey conversations were buried for good when MSN was discontinued in October 2014. With the closure of this program, we lost scrolls upon scrolls of chat logs filled with embarrassing declarations of BFFs and cryptic statuses decorated in the most obscure characters and emoticons. If Windows Live Messenger was up and running, then so was your PC. The various notifications were the sound cues of the most interesting moments of our lives…
There was nothing floppy about them… Well, those of you who are tech-savvy and know how to dismantle these will know how to extract the floppy bit, but for most of us, pushing and sliding one of these into their hard drive was one of the most satisfying sensations anyone could ever experience. The younger generation mostly remembers the 3.5inch floppy disk, which would usually have around 2.88MB worth of storage and could be bought in packets of half a dozen or so from stationers. Computer studies and ECDL teachers of the early 2000s must’ve been surrounded by towers of these when they’d ask their students to hand in their saved homework, and may the gods have mercy on your soul if your floppy disk wasn’t labelled.
The CD’s batmobile. The first portable CD player by Sony was released in 1984 and weighed 590g. However in 1995, Sony released the iconic Discman, which featured all the latest factors that allowed for high-quality listening. Incidentally, Sony had clearly not tested its anti-shock protection feature when travelling on an old Maltese bus; nothing could withstand the impact of tal-linja and potholes. Who else used to whisper ‘it’s alive’ whenever the CD started spinning?
A lot of us still haven’t got round to converting our baby videos to DVD format. That’s because some dads still insist that the VCR still works and that there’s no need… and they’re not entirely wrong. The last few VCRs sold are probably still in good working condition, as is mine at home. I suggest, for the sake of nostalgia, you go home tonight, bring out the home video cassettes and give your VCR a test run. It might actually surprise you. But aside from the pleasure of hearing the tape rewinding in the machine, you might experience something a little more indelible when watching the footage.
You’ll see 80s perms, flower power shirts and that old sofa you stained so often with Ribena. You’ll hear Spandau Ballet on the radio and Enya as background music for wedding videos. You’ll see those who are no longer an active part in your life, and those who still are, and you’ll see who was slimmer or who had less wrinkles and darker hair. You’ll see and hear the faces and voices of those who are not with us any more, which will prove to be quite overwhelming.
I did not expect this article to go down this road. I thought we’d just be amused at the primitiveness of the gadgets that laid the foundations of the technology we have today. But perhaps the purpose of technology isn’t just to take us further into the future. It can also be a means to help us look at the past, which can be very haunting.
What other gadgets can you remember from the 90s and 2000s? Have you had any similar experiences with archived technology?
Tell us your stories in the comment section below!