15 Obsolete Items That We Couldn’t Have Lived Without

Not everything stands the test of time, but if you took these now-obsolete things away from us back in the day, we would have crumbled.

Published June 7, 2023

Everyone feels a little nostalgic from time to time. And while the music or fashion come right to mind when you think about the past, these obsolete items from your past might not. Memory is a fickle thing, and when you don't see them every day, common stuff like this just fades away. Discover, or rediscover, the gadgets and tools we couldn't live without - but can't find anywhere today.

Answering Machines


"Just let it go to the answering machine" isn't a phrase you've called out in a long time. Oh, what a time to be alive where you had to wait all day to come home and check the machine for a blinking light to tell you if someone had called and left a message. If only past you could see you now with your highly connected phones today, they'd be so jealous.

Magazine Baskets


A mid-century home wasn't complete if you didn't have a magazine basket in every room. From sitting on the toilet to taking a break in between chores, magazines were the one-stop-shop to quick entertainment. And you collected them for guests to read, too. You wouldn't be caught dead without a rattan or whicker basket to store your magazines - after all, where else could you possibly put them?

Credit Card Imprinters


Banking in the 20th century is something people really forget about. You've got immediate access to all of your account info and can get your card shut off with a swipe of your finger. Back in the day, every cashier's worst nightmare was dealing with a credit card payment.

Remember whipping out those credit card imprinters and having to wait on the phone to get through with all their information? Credit card imprinters walked so tap-to-pay could run.



We worked so hard to stop having to travel using boats, and yet, for some reason, went right back to riding the waves in our sleep. For a time, waterbeds were the height of luxury, and rolling into the edge of the bedframe every single night didn't seem to phase us. Never mind waking up to the blistering cold when your heater went out. We'll stick to memory foam, thanks.



Until the 2010s, you couldn't step foot into a house without clocking the landline plugged into the wall. From dainty cordless sets to extra-long corded wall hangers, landlines were one of the most important pieces of tech you could have in your house. It was how you contacted the outside world, and just maybe, they'll make a comeback in the next few years.



Gen Z and Gen Alpha are blessed to not know the pantyhose era. With each decade, we shed more and more of our traditional undergarments. The girdle, the garter, and finally pantyhose. You weren't properly dressed unless you had a pair of hose on underneath your clothes - jeans included. Why we sweated and suffered with that slightly itchy layer for so long, we'll never know.

Rug Beaters

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Rug beaters of old look like miniature tennis rackets with their swirling designs and unique shapes. Before we could send our Roombas off on their carpet cleaning duties, we had to take our decorative rugs out back and beat them. Getting covered in old tv dinner crumbs and pet dander was all in a day's work.

Hand-Crank Pencil Sharpeners


There was something so special about getting up to show off an outfit or a new haircut by taking the long way around the classroom to get to the hand crank pencil sharpener. As you sharpened, you couldn't help but sniff out that woody, pulpy smell that emerged with every crank. Although they can't give you quite the precise tip that electric sharpeners can, their tactility makes them stand out in our minds.

Contact Lens Disinfecting Machines


Living in the late-20th century with bad eyes wasn't an easy task. If you didn't want coke-bottle lenses, then you had to remember to disinfect your contact lenses every night lest you get an eyeball eating infection. You think squirting the wrong solution into your contacts hurts? Think about putting in gritty, dry multi-month-old contacts in the morning because you forgot to disinfect them.

Baby Bottle Sterilizer Holders

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Modern baby brands have turned caring for kids into a science. There are so many fewer steps to take. Tired moms of a few decades ago lament over filling a pot full of water, setting it on the stove to boil, and stacking all the used bottles into the bottle sterilizer holder. If you had a baby in the house, you definitely had one or two of these metal cup holders on steroids laying around.



If you need to clock in or request time off, you're doing it through some online or digital tool. You'll be hard pressed to find a business that still uses timecards. These physical cards that accounted for your comings and goings at work was your lifeline to getting a proper paycheck. And losing your timecard was a hassle that you never wanted to go through.

Library Card Catalog


Looking up books in a library can be a five-minute task today; but in 1970, it was a multi-step process that had you wanting to leave empty-handed. Armed with your intimate knowledge of the Dewey Decimal system, you had to flip through card drawer after card drawer to find the card for the book you wanted. Only to discover that it'd already been checked out.

We are so glad these old things aren't used anymore, and libraries have gone digital.



What was your childhood home phone number, or your best friend's who lived down the street? If you grew up before cell phones, we're sure you can whip those numbers out at the drop of a hat. And if you can't remember, all you'd have to do was consult the family Rolodex. They were a staple for any desk set and there was nothing as pleasant as rolling those cards back and forth.

Car Antennas


Pressed into the front seat of a station wagon, it was hard to take speeding through traffic seriously when you had an antenna screwed to the hood flopping about in the wind. What's the fun in driving around if you can't listen to music or a new radio show? So, while they were necessary evils, the spotty reception and having to take them off before going through a car wash makes us glad they're stuck in the past.



Smartphones have killed a lot of tech from the past, but the most vicious murder of all was doled out to the PDA. Every serious businessperson or someone who wanted to look like a serious business person had a personal digital assistant. Basically, they were the clunkier, less effective version of the smartphone that died a fast death thanks to Apple changing the world.

It All Comes Back Around


Everyone has that random thing from their past they'd love to bring back. From landlines to manual pencil sharpeners, there are too many to count. Why leave the magic of the past in the past? Add a little vintage flavor to your everyday life by bringing your favorite obsolete items back from the dead.

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15 Obsolete Items That We Couldn’t Have Lived Without