10 Intriguing Forms of Technology that Became Obsolete

by Shweta Anand12 months ago

6 Telex Machines 

The Teleprinter Exchange, shortened to “Telex,” was first set up for public use in 1932 in the UK, and used telephone or telegraph cables to transmit text messages over long distances. Even as late as the 1980s, Telex machines continued to be an inexpensive form of long-distance communication, until being replaced by fax machines in the 1990s.  

Telex Machines
Image Credit: MehmetO/Shutterstock.com

The Teleprinter Exchange, shortened to Telex, was a popular technology during the post-World War II era. The first country to set them up for public use was the UK in 1932, with the General Post Office’s (GPO) Telex Printergram service. These machines had typewriter-like keyboards and used telephone or telegraph lines to transmit text messages over long distances.

To use this technology, senders would first need to type in a number that connected them to another machine. Then, as they typed their message into the machine, it would be printed out on the other end. Commercial and private Telex networks soon became a global phenomenon, and Telex remained an inexpensive form of long-distance communication even into the 1980s.

In the 1990s, however, the arrival of fax machines pushed the Telex networks into the realms of obsolete technology. As a result, today, these are used only in certain industries like banking that require a secure form of communication. (1, 2)

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7 Punt Guns 

A “punt gun” was an extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and 20th centuries to hunt ducks and other waterfowl. However, they were too powerful and quickly depleted large stocks of wild waterfowl in the US. As a result, many states began banning their use, eventually pushing them into obsolescence. 

 Punt Guns
Image Credit: York Museums Trust/ wikimedia.org

A punt gun was a type of shotgun used for duck hunting that became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. They were too large to be held by hand and had a strong recoil that made it necessary to mount them on small boats. 

In the 1800s, to meet the rising demands of consumers, hunters began to experiment with waterfowl hunting. This then gave rise to the custom-built punt guns that were over eight feet long and two inches in diameter. However, instead of a comically large gun with little effect, the punt gun proved to be too powerful. 

They could fire over a pound of ammunition at a time and kill 50 birds at one go. In the US, this practice started to decimate waterfowl populations at an alarming rate and state governments decided to step in. Soon, several laws were passed to regulate their usage, and these guns were slowly pushed towards obsolescence. (1, 2)

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8 Typewriters

The first practical typewriters were invented in 1867 and patented a year later by Christopher Latham Sholes. They quickly became a commercial success and were often permanent fixtures in most offices in the US. By the late 1900s, however, they began to be replaced by more modern technology and are now considered a novelty item. 

Typewriters
This mother-of-pearl ornamental Remington, one of the first typewriters made at Ilion, was shown at the Centennial Exposition of 1876, and hardly notice by the public (Image to the left); The machine that Sholes brought to Ilion in 1876. The case is opened to show the keyboard. Note that the letters are arranged nearly as they are in the standard keyboard to-day. Image Credit: saltofamerica.com saltofamerica.com

The first practical typewriter was completed in 1867 by a Milwaukee man named Christopher Latham Sholes. He patented it a year later, and in 1873, the first commercial model of the typewriter was introduced.

These machines then quickly became a popular form of technology and ushered in an era of mechanical typing. Soon, typewriter manufacturers like E. Remington and Sons, Oliver Typewriter Company, Royal Typewriter Company, and Smith Corona became some of the leading names of the time. 

Initially, typewriters were adapted to meet the needs of the time and fitted with electrical drives to enable power operation. But despite this, their death twitches began in the late 1900s as personal computers with word processing software became more common.

However, while this certainly pushed typewriters into near obsolescence, they were not completely forgotten. As a result, even today, these are sold as unique collectors’ items. (1, 2)

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9 LaserDisc 

The LaserDisc was an analogous form of video disc that debuted in the 1970s. These looked like giant CDs and had two single-sided aluminum discs separated by a layer of plastic. However, they failed to become commercially successful in the US and eventually lost out to digital video formats like DVD.

LaserDisc
A 20-cm Laserdisc containing various karaoke videos. (Image to the left), Pioneer VP-1000 LaserDisc Player. Image Credit: Edward Wilders/wikimedia.org, cnet.com

The LaserDisc was an analog video disc format that debuted in 1978. These were typically 12 inches in diameter and had two single-sided aluminum surfaces separated by a plastic layer. 

The video quality of LaserDiscs was a major improvement from that of VHS tapes and Betamax. Further, as time went on, this analog video format also began to sport stereo digital audio as well. However, it did not gain much commercial success in the US despite its popularity in countries like Japan. As a result, while millions of LaserDisc players were sold in the US, they remained a niche format known only to videophiles.

Eventually, as they came neck-to-neck with digital formats such as DVD, they began to fall behind. For instance, the LaserDiscs’s lack of compression meant that it held less data on one side than a DVD. 

In the end, DVDs won the race and LaserDiscs became a relic of the past. (1, 2)

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10 Zeppelins 

Zeppelins are a type of rigid airships that gained popularity in the late 1800s. Named after their creator, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, these airships proved extremely useful during World War I. However, in 1937, after a zeppelin named Hindenburg burst into flames and killed 35 passengers, these airships became obsolete. 

Zeppelins 
Image Credit: USN//Naval History and Heritage Command via wikimedia.org

The age of zeppelins, although brief, began in 1874 when Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin first began working on them. These rigid airships soon became popular during World War I and were used as scout aircraft and in bombing raids. 

In 1919, a British military crew made the first trans-Atlantic flight in a British-made zeppelin, spreading their fame wide and far. Later, with the introduction of the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg, airship travel began soaring with success.

However, later, some world leaders like Hitler noted that the airships were too slow when compared to airplanes and withdrew government support. 

The final blow to this technology came when the mighty Hindenburg met with a tragedy on 6 May 1937. As it was landing in New Jersey, it burst into flames and killed 35 of its 97 passengers. 

In present times, there have been some attempts to revive the zeppelin, but they still largely remain an obsolete technology. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Technologies That Most People Don’t Know Exist

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