18 Once-Essential Inventions That Are Collecting Dust Today

With the development of technology, there are many items we no longer need to use in our everyday lives. This can be because things have turned digital or because we have multi-functioning products. Here are 18 once-essential inventions that are collecting dust today. 


old male tech
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Landlines were once essential when it came to contacting a person via phone, but they were completely different from the smartphones we’re used to today. For example, Best Life writes, “They worked just like any other phone, except there was no screen or Internet connection,… it didn’t tell you the time, and it had zero apps.” 

Dial-up Internet

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While it used to be an essential invention many years ago, today, dial-up internet is seen as slow and noisy. It has now been replaced with broadband and mobile internet, which is much more convenient as it doesn’t require a phone line. Some people will never be able to forget the nostalgic sound of dial-up internet. 

CD Binders

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Before the advent of digital music, people used to have to play CDs. This meant that when it came to long car journeys, CD binders were essential for holding all of the music that would be played. Thanks to streaming services, CD binders are no longer needed. 

Fountain Pens 

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These pens were mainly used for creating fancy and cursive writing. There’s been a decline in teaching people how to use fountain pens and cursive writing because digital communication has taken over. Now, people prefer to type emails rather than write with a pen and paper. 

Floppy Disks

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Floppy disks used to be the primary way to store and transfer data in the late 20th century. With the invention of CDs and USB sticks, floppy disks soon became a thing of the past. However, the same can now be said for these items, as cloud storage has taken over. 

Library Card Catalogs

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Cheapism writes, “Most Millennials have never rifled through a wooden chest of drawers filled with numbered index cards in their local libraries.” This manual search was done via the Dewey decimal system, but now people can search for library items in digital databases, something that’s much easier. 


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These inventions used to be essential for mathematics and finance before smartphones came along. People no longer need to buy calculators because they have everything they need on their phones. Remembering items such as calculators makes you reminisce about when specialized devices were more common. 


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Pagers were crucial for on-the-go communication, especially in healthcare. These once-essential devices have now been replaced by instant messaging and smartphones. It shows just how far personal communication technology has come in the 21st century.  

Phone Buttons

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Physical buttons on phones have become a thing of the past, but they were once essential for typing and navigating cell phones. The majority of phones in modern times are all touch screens, making them more interactive and easier to use. They also look sleeker and are more efficient.  


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If a person wasn’t able to pick up the phone, then a caller would often leave a voicemail, which was picked up on an entirely different machine. There’s been an overall decline in the use of voicemail, as a person can now send a text. It’s an invention that very few of the younger generations use. 

GPS Navigation Systems

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Standalone GPS systems used to be considered a breakthrough in technology because it became hard for a person to get lost. However, GPS is now integrated into multifunctional smartphones, meaning standalone devices are rarely used. This is supported by GPS World, which writes, “GPS is now in more than 300 million mobile phones, at the very least.”

Alarm Clocks

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Before smartphones were invented, alarm clocks were needed to ensure a person woke up on time. Alarm clocks have now been replaced by cell phones. These phones have alarms that have either been integrated into the phone or installed through an app. It reveals just how reliant we are on smartphones.  

Parking Meters

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Coin-operated parking machines are becoming a thing of the past, with the majority of them accepting either contactless or app payments. Physical cash isn’t needed like it used to be, especially since COVID-19. Now, companies are preferring card and contactless payments.

Internet Cafés

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Internet cafes used to be public access points for Internet use before connectivity became widely available. There’s been a significant decline in Internet cafés due to personal laptops and public Wi-Fi. Internet access is now available to most people at any minute of the day through their own personal devices.  

The Walkman

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This portable music player popularized personal music listening before the digital era. It was a symbolic device of the personal electronics revolution, but now it’s collecting dust. Walkmans were replaced by MP3 players, and these were then replaced by streaming services on smartphones. 

Rotary Telephones

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Rotary telephones dominated telecommunications for decades with their circular dials. This was before the telephone was updated with buttons, and now phones are predominantly touchscreen and portable. This change in telephones represents the evolution of telephone design and user interaction. Now, rotary telephones are mainly bought as decorative items in the home. 

Film Strips

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Film strips were widely used in education and training before digital media became popular. These once-essential inventions were replaced by videos, DVDs, and then online streaming content. It shows that there’s been a huge shift from analog to digital, helping to make life much simpler.  

VHS Tapes

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Kodak Digitizing writes, “The best thing about the VHS tape was the ease with which users could access their video.” These easy-to-use tapes were the primary format for home entertainment in the late 20th century. However, this once-revolutionary invention is no longer needed thanks to digital streaming platforms.

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