Their deaths were greatly exaggerated: The decrepit devices with unlikely afterlives

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

When news broke that Sony is set to cease production of MiniDisc stereo systems, most people's reaction was 'you mean they still made those?' David Crookes looks at other gadgets that refuse to die.

VHS

Invented by JVC, the VHS format became predominant in the 1980s and while DVDs, Blu-rays and streaming are far more popular today, JVC ceased production of stand-alone VCRs only in 2008. By then, it had sold more than 50 million of them.

Panasonic stopped selling VCRs in Japan in 2011, though production continues at factories in China and Slovakia and Panasonic makes VHS/Blu-ray players.

VHS remains popular among serious film fans. "In the 1980s, there was a wave of horror, action and B-movies released on VHS which have never made the leap to DVD," says Sam Ashurst, Total Film's deputy online editor and a self-confessed VHS nerd. "Sometimes the films were made so quickly and cheaply to fill the shelves at VHS stores that the negatives were not kept. In other cases the films were so bad no one would ever bother to re-release them but they have a kitsch appeal to completists."

Hollywood has also recently experimented with releasing limited-edition brand-new VHS tapes as promotional tools including Miami Connection and the horror anthology V/H/S.

Whether they have real mass appeal is uncertain, however. A Facebook page called "I still use VHS tapes" has fewer than 200 Likes. Its administrator, Mike MacIntosh, says: "I find it's the nostalgia that always brings me back. For some reason it just feels better to have a black plastic brick play a movie for me instead of a disc."

Cassettes

Time was when no self-respected music lover would be seen without their portable cassette player. Although the Walkman brand was Sony's, it became so ubiquitous with these audio devices following its 1979 release that all such tech was casually given this moniker. Today, MP3s rule the roost, but it was not until 2010 that Sony announced it was ceasing production.

Cassette players continue to be made, though, and there are lots of tape evangelists around. "Interest in cassettes has grown in recent years," says Stephen Mejias, writer for stereophile.com. "Cassettes are still being made, mostly by very small independent labels, although a few of the larger indies, such as Domino, Sub Pop and 4AD, have recently joined the fold. Tapes are often extremely limited – editions in as few as 50 or 100 copies are not uncommon – and they're generally lovingly packaged."

Beyond music, cassettes have been used for all sorts of, often kitschy, things from collage, sculptures and purses to USB thumb drives.

Floppy Disks

In today's era of cloud computing, high-capacity blank CDs and DVDs and USB thumb drives, the floppy disk has inevitably gone out of fashion.

They became commercially available in 1971, with most people remembering the cardboard 5.25in and blue 3.5in varieties. But while Apple dropped the disk drive from the iMac in 1998 and the likes of Hewlett-Packard stopped supplying floppy drives on business desktops in 2009, they are still in use today.

"System admins and engineers might need them when fixing older computers and retro fans would need them for games on older home computers," says Micro Mart editor Anthony Enticknap.

The idea of floppies also lives on with most people seeing them as save icons on productive software such as word processors.

MiniDisc

Launched in 1992, around 22 million units have been sold since but it will be scrapped next month. Sony says MiniDisc cartridges will continue to be sold. Some radio reporters still use them for news gathering.

Fax

With the first commercial telefax service launching in 1865 before even phones were invented, internet communication has largely taken over. Except in Japan, where millions still prefer to send documents this way (1.7 million machines were sold last year).

PlayStation 2

The fourth PlayStation was announced yesterday, but the second console, which was launched in 2000, was not discontinued until January this year. In that time it became the world's most successful games console, having sold 150 million units. Games are still being made for it, including the recent Fifa 13.

Super 8 film

In 1965, Kodak introduced Super 8 film. Originally it was able to record only images but the capacity for sound was added in 1973. Kodak continues to sell Super 8 film today and there are film festivals which celebrate the format.

Game Boy

When Nintendo's Game Boy was released in 1989, it was an instant success. It went on to sell nearly 120 million units until it was discontinued as late as 2003. As well as games, the machine was famous for its music output – the Tetris theme has been sampled and used in a variety of tunes by bands such as Doctor Spin.

Although you will have to go to eBay to pick up a Game Boy today, musicians still love it. Matthew C Applegate, aka Pixelh8, has created software called Music Tech for the Game Boy, which allows him to use the handheld as a real-time synthesiser. "These wonderful devices were a huge part of our lives and we wanted them to shine again," he says. "The Game Boy was small, brilliantly designed and it produces amazing sounds. It was simply us adapting our toys into a means of expression."

The Game Boy has eight inputs – up, down, left, right, select, start, A and B. Applegate mapped these to musical keys and plays what are called chiptunes "to shake nightclubs to their foundations".

Pagers

In the late 1990s, pagers were common among those who did not want an expensive mobile-phone contract. Pay-as-you-go mobiles sent pagers on their way but they are still being made and used, primarily in hospitals – for now, anyway.

Research has shown that someone frequently paged can spend 20 per cent of their time looking for and waiting on phones. Peterborough City Hospital has ditched pagers – which were introduced into hospitals in the 1950s – and has been using a two-way, hands-free device which can be slung around the neck or worn as a badge.

Mary Day, matron for surgery and musculoskeletal, said: "One of the many advantages of using hands-free communications is the fact it increases direct patient time. I can still be caring for a patient and require some assistance from a therapist or another nurse. It reduces time spent finding that assistance or having to leave the patient to use the phone or answer my pager."

Typewriter

Invented in the 1860s, typewriters became incredibly popular very quickly but computers caused them to go out of favour. Brother made the last UK typewriter in November 2012. They are still often used in Latin America and Africa, though, because they don't need power.

Polaroid cameras

Polaroid announced it was scrapping its instant cameras and instant films in 2008, around 60 years after they came into being. In 2010, it came back with the Polaroid 300, however, and it still sells instant cameras, albeit digital ones, today.

Commodore 64

Some home computers from the 1980s, such as the Jupiter Ace, barely lasted a couple of years but the Commodore 64, which was launched in 1982, was not discontinued until as late as 1994.

Even then, it refused to die. In 2004, the C64 chip was inserted into a retro-style joystick and bundled with some classic games (selling 70,000 on the first day of sale). Today, enthusiasts continue to make games for the C64 and older titles can be played via the Virtual Console on the Nintendo Wii.

It has proved to be rather inspiring for musicians too. A decade ago, six computer-science students at the University of Copenhagen decided to form a band called PRESS PLAY ON TAPE. They play versions of C64 game music using real instruments, adding drums, bass and distorted guitars to the synthesiser and techno sounds of those classic computer tunes.

"The sound of the Commodore 64 sound chip is quite special," says guitarist Jesper Holm Olsen. "It is thin but powerful and raw all at once. It is also slightly hissy and distorted in a way that our parents hated but we learnt to love. The sound is still so distinct that fans of Commodore 64 music are able to recognise its sound chip anywhere it's being used, even if it is just for a small effect in a piece of modern pop music."

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

    Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?