Technology Explained

7 Technologies That Came and Went in the Last 15 Years

Mihir Patkar 04-02-2015

Nostalgia turns cold hearts into poets. A few bars of a song, a wafting scent, a random sentence, and we’re off in our own world, reliving a time gone by.


Remember the Walkman? Sony’s portable tape player revolutionized the music industry Tunes On The Go: From The Walkman To The iPod & Beyond [Geek History] Your children will never know what it’s like to have the batteries on a personal cassette player start to run out, as the music slows by a noticeable couple of BPM and Bruce Dickinson’s vocals... Read More . In the past, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone wearing those headphones with the Walkman tucked into their belt buckle. As with anything, technology evolved, people moved on. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

It’s not the only geeky thing to have once been the talk of the town, only to have faded into irrelevance now. Let’s take a moment and remember a few items in recent history that were buzzwords in the technological landscape, and are now stimulus to bring a smile to our memory.

The iPod and MP3 Players


Sony’s Walkman was replaced by Steve Jobs’s first major success on his return to Apple, the venerable iPod. But over the past few years, iPod sales have declined tremendously, Microsoft’s competitor Zune never took off, and other dedicated MP3 players have closed shop too.

A combination of factors has led to this moment: smartphones became ubiquitous, offered the same audio quality, and have plenty of storage space, so no one wanted two devices in their pocket. Spotify and other streaming services changed the music download experience and are killing iTunes Spotify Your Music Collection: The End Of iTunes Spotify is no longer content to just compete with radio, now they're competing with the idea of even owning music. Read More .


While Apple still makes iPods and despite Neil Young’s best attempts, the dedicated MP3 player is on life support. Pretty soon, it’ll be just like the romance of nostalgia with the MiniDisc Why I Still Love The MiniDisc [Opinion] I’m aware that this might sound like the ranting of a man approaching middle age, jaded by years of iPods and MP3 players and OS updates and finding the right app to record with, but... Read More .

HD DVD, Zip Drives and Other Storage Media


Technology has seen its fair share of duels, right from the days of the BetaMax vs. VHS video format war. Sony lost that one, but it stormed back during the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD war, also known as the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 war. It’s an important chapter in the history of Blu-ray technology Blu-Ray Technology History and The DVD [Technology Explained] Read More , but at the time, there were several people rooting for Microsoft and the HD DVD. The HD DVD was an optical disc that offered marginal benefits over existing DVDs — mainly in the form of more storage.

Removable storage formats are always changing in technology. You can go back further in time and reminisce about the microdrive, a one-inch hard disk that was eventually replaced by flash memory cards. The time machine has other relics of unforsaken love, like the Zip Drive that never really took off thanks to CDs, and the good old floppy disc. Don’t look now, but Blu-ray and its brethren might soon be in this list if cloud storage has its way.


Palm Pilot and PDAs


Sometimes, a shift in technology can make a great company obsolete. The smartphone killed its predecessor, the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) or Pocket PC, and with it, Palm. It’s ridiculous to hear “back in the day” from a writer who isn’t even 30, but back in the day, every business executive rocked a PalmPilot, a touchscreen portable device with a stylus, running PalmOS.

To give context to our younger readers, PalmPilot was the BlackBerry before BlackBerry was BlackBerry. Other Pocket PCs ran the predecessor to Windows Phone, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. The death of the PDA came down to the evolution of touchscreen technology The Evolution of Touchscreen Technology In the tech space, time moves quickly; a little more than seven years ago, smartphones as we know them did not exist — now, they’re the most profitable tech industry on Earth. Read More . The iPhone turned your finger into a stylus with the advent of capacitive touchscreens, a leap in technology over resistive touchscreens Capacitive vs. Resistive Touchscreens: What Are the Differences? Capacitive and resistive touchscreen devices are everywhere these days, but what's the difference and how do they work? Read More . As technology shifted, so did people’s choice. And before anyone could figure out what happened, Palm went out of business.




Why should you change your schedule according to TV show timings? You should be able to watch your favourite TV programs when you want to watch them. TiVo was the first big DVR (Digital Video Recorder) service and a must-have for everyone who watched a lot of TV — which is, well, everyone.

“A decade ago, TiVo was an obvious thing to own for anyone who took television seriously. It had basically invented the DVR, after all,” writes Chris Ziegler at The Verge. “It had years of experience on its scattershot competition. The user interface was fantastic. The iconic ‘peanut’ remote felt at home in the hand.” But TiVo’s slow pace of innovation was making it obsolete, and the final nail in the coffin was the entry of on-demand video services like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes Hulu Plus vs. iTunes vs. Netflix vs. Amazon Instant Video: Which Is Best? Hulu. iTunes. Netflix. Amazon Instant Video. The lifeblood of online cinema and television. The new wave of home media. The providers of endless entertainment in which pants are not necessarily required. They are the contenders... Read More .

Some people still have TiVos in their living rooms, but hardly anyone talks about it. Even its CEO sold around $132K in stock. ‘Nuff said.

MySpace and Orkut



Before the times of Facebook and Twitter, there were only two social networks that were relevant: MySpace and Orkut. These were the precursors to the social networks we use today, but the thing about social networks is that people go where, their friends go. MySpace and Orkut became uncool, Facebook became cool, and before you knew it, notifications on those networks dropped from several a day to one in several days.

Forbes reasoned that it came down to bad management: Facebook’s owners let the users decide what the site should be about, while MySpace tried to make the site into an entertainment hub and enforced that on users. MySpace is still around as a place for music-makers and aficionados to network, but it’s little more than that. Orkut remained relevant in the Facebook age in markets like Brazil and India, but eventually lost out to Zuckerberg’s creation. It was shut down after being bought by Google. The bigger question now is whether we will be talking about Facebook and Twitter in the same breath a few years down the line. Is Facebook going the same way as MySpace? Is Facebook Going The Same Way As MySpace? It happened with the massive community of AOL Online during the dialup days, it happened with Yahoo Search during the late 1990's. And history is more likely than not to repeat itself with Facebook. Why? Read More

Second Life


Second Life isn’t dead, it has just dropped off the map. Launched in 2003, this online virtual world was what everyone talked about Second Life - What is the Hype? Read More . Most of us probably still have Second Life accounts, our avatars sitting quietly in a hard drive somewhere. But people stopped talking about it.

It has been in decline for some time. Almost 70% of regular users don’t explore the world at all. Wagner James Au puts things in perspective in GigaOm: “I’ve been writing about Second Life since 2003, first as Linden Lab’s ’embedded journalist,’ then as a GigaOM editor and for a book, and still continue covering it on my own blog. Still, I recognize that it’s very much a niche product that today isn’t adding users.”

He is still hopeful that Second Life has a second life, but don’t count on it.

Instead, let it be a happy memory of how you spent hours customizing your avatar and building a virtual life. A little escapism is healthy, eh?

Google Wave


Ah Google Wave, we hardly knew ye. Google failed spectacularly 4 Ways Google Failed to Change the World “We celebrate our failures,” Google’s Eric Schmidt once said. Google’s had some amazing successes that have changed the world, but some of their attempts to do so have failed. With their famous “don’t be evil”... Read More in its attempt to reinvent email with Wave, but not before drawing a legion of fans who still swear by it. While discussing candidates for this list, here’s what the MakeUseOf chatroom looked like:


There were plenty of reasons it didn’t work out, like the invite-only system. Gina Trapani, the first person to write a guide on Google Wave, explained it best: “The tool didn’t explain itself well enough. The barriers to entry were just too high. The use cases weren’t clear. People didn’t get it.”

What’s Next?

What do you think is the next addition to this list? Which once-popular technological artifact is teetering at the edge of the cliff? Point-and-shoot cameras? Netbooks? Firefox OS?

Image credits: saaby, Jurireal, chadh, Jamie McCaffrey, pseudoplacebo, Vdovichenko Denis /

Related topics: Blu-ray, iPod, MySpace.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Neil
    March 3, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    My iPod mini is still my music provider of choice for working out. Easy to use, lightweight and the battery goes on for ever.

  2. Aventerine
    March 3, 2015 at 4:52 am

    I still have the stylus from my Palm Pilot & use it with my Nintendo DS lite. I also have an MP3 player I use almost daily and I hope they don't go away any time soon. Dedicated MP3 players are great for people who don't own smartphones but still want to listen to music on the go and the are a lot cheaper. My MP3 player is a cheap little thing that I use a microSD card in. I'm sure the quality of the sound is not as good as a more expensive player or a smartphone but I just enjoy listening to music so it works for me.
    I too used to own a Zune. I loved it because I could watch movies on it with having to annoy my family who always want to watch something different.

  3. A41202813GMAIL
    February 15, 2015 at 2:56 pm


    @Mihir Patkar

    Thank You.

    I Started Programming COBOL In OCTOBER 1980.

    What Did You Expect ?

    I Am Not Weird, I Am Just Plain Old.


  4. george
    February 14, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I agree. I still use zip drive. A safe way to back , as I don't use a cloud or back up but once in a great while.

  5. A41202813GMAIL
    February 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    MP3 Players And ZIP Drives.

    Not Yet Completely Dead, As Far I Am Concerned.


    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:19 am

      MP3 players, fair enough. ZIP Drives? Really?

    • A41202813GMAIL
      February 12, 2015 at 11:48 pm

      I Still Have 2 External 250MB Parallel, And An Internal 100MB IDE, ZIP Drives.

      I Have A Dual Boot DOS6 And XP PC.

      Just For Kicks, I Still Do A Monthly Backup With Them.


    • Mihir Patkar
      February 13, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      You're weird and I like you.

  6. Rob
    February 5, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    All I can say is good riddance to Google Wave!

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:18 am

      Heathen. A pox upon you.

  7. Saikat
    February 5, 2015 at 7:32 am

    Oh! We Indians still remember Orkut.

    I am waiting for the day cell phone chargers go extinct. What's the status with Plasma TVs?

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:18 am

      God, I'm so happy Orkut is dead. It was the bane of my existence.

      Plasma TVs are still around, but slowly dying. I think they'll stick around till OLED prices become more affordable.

  8. Leah
    February 4, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    I can't believe the iPod's time is over. But, you know, the iPod and other mp3 players helped to bring us to the smartphone, I think.

    I wonder if my sister has deleted her MySpace yet? I remember her not wanting to simply because she was one of the first followers so she had a small number and showed up on the front page of everyone's list (not including the top 8 or whatever).

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:17 am

      Exactly, Leah. Technology is often evolutionary. The walkman led to the iPod which led to the smartphone, which will probably lead to other wonderful things. It's nice to get nostalgic, but it's also important to acknowledge where these gadgets from yesteryear have brought us today.

  9. Shawn Rosvold
    February 4, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I have an original Zune with 120GB of storage on it. I love having it because, even though Microsoft didn't promote it, it also plays videos which is great when I travel. Battery life is forever. My Republic Wireless phone is WIFI, and while Google Music is great, I don't always have WIFI available, and the app itself sucks. So, I'm not ditching my Zune yet.

    As far as TiVo goes, we cut the cord and ditched subscription TV altogether. But there are some over the air shows that I like to watch on our schedule, so we bought a TiVo and pay the $15 a month for the service. We also use Netflix and Chromecast, but it's nice to have a DVR for the shows we watch on a regular basis.

    Good article!

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:16 am

      A Zune fan! I thought you guys were more extinct than the dodo ;) Just kidding. I always thought the Zune could have been bigger and better if Microsoft had innovated at a more rapid pace. Alas!

  10. Boo Radley
    February 4, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I'm gonna miss my iPod Classic when it finally gives up the ghost. I LIKE having a dedicated audio player. I have an old iPhone that I could use, I suppose... or I could just suck it up and use my phone like everyone else.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:15 am

      Ah, the lament of the iPod Classic owner. There are many here at MUO and many other journalists who share your pain, my friend.

  11. KT
    February 4, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I think dedicated handheld gaming will be on this list soon, as smart phones get more powerful.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:15 am

      I completely agree, KT. To me, handheld gaming is on its way out, I can't see how it can possibly compete with smartphones.

  12. dragonmouth
    February 4, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Before there was PalmPC, there was Apple Newton.

    • Jackson
      February 4, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      That came and went rather quickly!

    • Jackson
      February 4, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Great article, Mihir ;)

    • Davin Peterson
      February 4, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Apple did not invent or pioneer the mp3 player. Creative pioneered the mp3 player. Steve Jobs went to Creative and stole the patent and idea from Creative Labs. Apple & Creative sued each other and Apple pay over a million to Creative. The Creative ZEN MP3 player was always better than the iPod beause it had a higher resolution screen, FM tuner, Microphone/Recorder, EQ and music could be download from multiple sources whereas the iPod was limited to iTunes.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:13 am

      Thanks Jackson!

      Man, dragonmouth, really showing your age there with the Newton reference :D 20 points to you, my nerd brother.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:14 am

      @Davin I didn't mean to suggest Apple invented it, but the iPod was the pioneering device, the device that really brought the MP3 player into the public psyche. It's just like how Apple didn't invent capacitive touchscreen phones, but the iPhone is what made it part of regular usage.