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.


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."


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 "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.


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.


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".


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."


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."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Client Services Administrator - IT Industry

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of ICT servi...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line Technical Support Advisor - Up to £26K inc bonus

    £20230 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for a career in...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company is...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future