There\’s no disputing that Apple\’s release of the iPhone, iPad, and associated App store were game changers in the world of technology and computing. With more than 500,000 applications and more than 25 billion downloads these apps let us do everything from take photos and video to telling us what song is on the radio by listening to a few seconds of the music and lyrics.

The subsequent release of the Android OS and Chrome Webstore gives us even more applications that plug into our browsers to help us take notes, increase productivity, connect with the cloud, and a million other different things that have no real utility, other than just being fun and cool (Angry Birds, anyone?).

In a very short period of time, these applications have become ingrained in our technological culture, and have been woven into the fabric of our daily routines so much that we almost forget what it was like to live without them.

So, for a bit of fun, I\’ve put together a list of things we did before there were apps. Maybe you remember them as fondly as I do.


Shazam has to be the coolest music app ever, with it\’s ability to \”tag\” a song on the radio in less than 10 seconds. The app listens to the words and music of a song and tells you, almost instantly, the name of the song, artists, album, and gives you links where you can download it directly to your device. I use this app about 5 times a day. I haven\’t gotten into Spotify yet, but I\’m definitely an iTunes junky.

Google now has a native music identifier baked into android voice search too.

My CD\’s have all been converted and uploaded to the cloud where they will live forever; and with the new media match from Apple, I get premium quality versions of my scratchy CD uploads for just a few dollars a year.

Back then:

Music-on-demand meant listening to the radio station all day and hoping you had a clean cassette tape ready to record when your favorite song played. It also meant hoping the DJ didn\’t continue his voice-over into the beginning of the song because that would ruin the recording.


If you are a child of the 80\’s like I am, you might remember things like Boomboxes and the walkman. Smaller radios were cool, but bigger radios were cooler, and if you had a double-decker like the image shown on the right you automatically qualified as an audiophile…or gangster. It was a close call back then.



Other than games, productivity is probably the genre with the most apps. By now, you\’ve probably heard of apps like Evernote, Notes+, Circus Ponies, Salesforce,, and Do. They\’re some of the more popular apps for both mobile devices and your PC browsers, and allow you to take notes with only your finger (or a stylus), transfer large files in seconds, edit photos online, and manage complex projects with team collaboration tools.

You can even watch and interact with live webinars on your iPhones and Ipads now with the help of applications from Webex and GoToMeeting, two companies which are helping to redefine the boundaries of your office.

Back then:

Remember paper? Yeah, I do too. We used to drag them around, to and from meetings, in backpacks that weighed so much it made us walk funny.


And that funny cylindrical thing sitting on the notebook is a pen. Remember those? Such OLD technology – to get pens to work you\’d have to make sure they\’re filled with ink, curl your fingers all the way around them and then press down hard onto the notebook paper. Can you believe we ever used these things?


\"WhatVideo Games

I read a research report by a grad student about increased dexterity in video gamers. The student correlated that to the dexterity displayed by doctors and came to the conclusion that playing video games increases your chances of becoming a famous brain surgeon. I\’m not sure about that correlation, but darn if that\’s not a great thesis.

Today, kids have dozens of consols to play with from Playstations at home and on the go, to Wii, to Xbox, and even exercise has worked its way into video gaming. New versions of Halo sell several million copies on it\’s first day or release generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. Overall, it\’s a multi-billion industry that just keeps on growing.


Back then:

Remember arcades – those cool, smoke filled rooms filled wall-to-wall with giant phone booth like video game consoles. The story lines were horrible and the graphics we worse.

Do you remember your high score on Pong? I can\’t, but if I add up all the quarters I spent in the arcades over the years, I could probably put my daughter through Harvard…twice.

Photo Credit: ProhibitOnions via wikipedia



I recently saw a documentary about digital video and classic film archives, and the director interviewed Martin Scorcese – a known film buff and historian. Scorcese had volumes to say about digital media and how important it is to our culture. The things we can do with graphics today open up worlds of possibility that we did not have available even 10 years ago.

That\’s what makes 3D animation for kids possible, new restored versions of classics, and the ability to keep a digital backup of all your home movies. Priceless.

Back then:

The first video machine we had in our house was my father\’s reel to reel. He was a film student back in the day and he would help us kids draw animated pictures on a light table, photograph them, edit the negatives into a reel, and play our own movies.  It was really fun, and to this day, one of the most creative exercises I can remember.

That process was amazingly laborious – it was not a spur of the moment thing, and doesn\’t even come close to being video on demand.  That wouldn\’t come until years later, when our family got a VCR. We used large cassettes that weighed about a pound a piece to record our favorite tv shows and movies. But only the short movies could fit on one VCR tape. If the movie ran long you\’d have to wait for the commercial around midpoint then be real quick about getting a new tape in the machine and queueing it up to record at just the right time. If you had a VCR with multiple speeds it was easier to record longer movies, but there was no guarantee your friends had a VCR that could play the faster speed, thus rendering your tape useless.

When HBO came out and offered movies without commercials it was a breath of fresh air, except for the knowledge that you would miss a minute of movie time when you were switching tapes!

That\’s right – it\’s a top load VCR in that picture!

Photo Credit:  N1500.jpgColin99 (Colin McCormick) at English Wikipedia and /


I left phones for last, because they have emerged as the leader in the technology revolution. A phone has become a necessity more so than any of the previously listed items. Manufacturers have also found a way to include all those other things into your phone. These days, it\’s practically the only piece of accessory technology you need.

It\’s been years since you\’ve needed an actual phone line to send and receive faxes, and, if you\’re like me, you\’ve also ditched the home phone in favor of VOIP, or maybe even a Google Voice number.

Today, your phone has caller ID, call waiting, call swapping, call conferencing, call blocking, automatic redial, contacts built right in, voice searching, text-to-speech, maps and navigation, calendars, email, cameras, clocks, flashlights, photo galleries, internet, music, movies, books, and… it can also let you call other people and talk to them…you know… like a phone.

Back then:

Twenty to thirty years ago, phones existed in cars, but they were non-removable, and VERY expensive to use – think on the order of several dollars per minute. They eventually got smaller and more mobile – that is, if you consider lugging a battery pack in your trunk mobile.

In the early 90\’s we progressed to dual band analog/digital phones like the one shown in the picture here – the Audiovox cell phone, which I used for two years before trading it in for a Motorola that fit neatly in my palm. Remember pull out antennas? Ah, good times.

I don\’t remember how much my cell phone plan was back then, but I can tell you what the salesman told me when I bought it: \”Eventually you\’ll feel naked if you leave home without it.\” Truer words were never spoken.

If you are old enough to remember what a busy signal sounds like, we salute you!


Hope you got a good laugh from this post, and if you remember a totally outdated piece of technology that makes you laugh now, please leave a comment and let us hear your story.



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