Obsolete tech: 40 things on their way out

A fond farewell to once-common tech-related activities that soon we'll do no more

By the time you read this story, the Internet may be obsolete.

Okay, maybe not. But you never know. With technology evolving at breakneck speed, no one can say for sure what's around the next corner -- to say nothing of the one after that. The circle of life, however, remains constant: When a new high-tech creation is born, something else may die as a result. Sometimes, the loss is a good thing -- who wants busy signals or staticky TV? -- but at other times, the departure stirs bittersweet feelings (remember saying farewell to your trusty old C:\ prompt?).

We've compiled a list of 40 once-commonplace activities that are rapidly approaching extinction. Some are in danger of disappearing, while others have already vanished. So join us for a spirited send-off.

1. Playing Video Games at an Arcade

Status: On life support

Once a favorite activity of geeks worldwide, going to the arcade to play video games began fading away in the mid-1990s, just as going to the arcade to play pinball had done a decade before. A few arcades survive, but the days of gamers lining up to toss quarters into Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat are long gone. It's easy to see why: The advent of advanced gaming systems allows you to experience the same action at home, minus the dungeon-like lighting, the deafening game noise, and the premature exhaustion of your lunch money for the week.

2. Running Out of Hard-Drive Space

Status: Deceased

With terabyte-size drives now selling for less than $70, hard drives that exceed your storage needs aren't exactly hard to come by these days. But remember when an 80MB drive was the pinnacle of luxury and a 1GB drive would have seemed as spacious as Carlsbad Caverns?

3. Getting a Busy Signal

Status: Nearly deceased

Thanks to advances in voicemail and call-waiting technology, you rarely hear that annoying broken tone any more. Unless, of course, you're voting for American Idol or listening to Pink Floyd.

4. Going on a "Blind" First Date

Status: Deceased

What with Google, dating sites, and a slew of social networks, it's not difficult to get to know a person digitally before choosing to interact with them in a brick-and-mortar environment. Heck, you might even get to know them intimately before ever meeting. Or instead of ever meeting.

5. Needing to Be 18 to Have Access to Porn

Status: Deceased

It may sound crazy, but in the old days a fella had to be 18 to get his hands on prurient materials -- either that or have an easily bribable older brother. Or a friend with such a brother. Or a dad with an obvious stash. Not that I know anything about such matters.

6. Chatting With the SysOp

Status: Deceased

The SysOp -- short for system administrator -- was a figure of power beginning in the late 1970s and continuing into the early 1990s. As the creator and overlord of the local bulletin board system (BBS), the SysOp watched over the users who dialed into his pre-Internet electronic communication system. He chatted with visitors, kept the system running smoothly, and occasionally hit the disconnect button when someone remained logged in for too long.

7. Paying for Long Distance

Status: Nearly deceased

Once upon a time, people had to pay expensive per-minute fees for long distance. Then, the big bad cell phone came along and blew those charges away like a straw house. The end.

8. Getting Fuzzy TV Reception

Status: Deceased

When the United States flipped the switch on an all-digital broadcasting system this summer, it also effectively sent the fuzzy "white snow" to the graveyard. So long, annoying static; we always loathed you.

9. Hearing the Sound of a Modem Connecting

Status: Nearly deceased

How a familiar series of sounds could simultaneously be so grating and so gratifying is a mystery that man may never unlock. Jonesing for a fix? Try the 56K Modem Emulator.

10. Shooting Polaroids

Status: Nearly deceased

Polaroid plans to stop selling its signature instant film at the end of this year.

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