A 21st-century kid trapped in a 20th-century family.
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
— Popular Mechanics, 1949
So little Timmy is watching a show from a mere 15 years ago. In one episode, the characters are all excited because of a new computer game that will be released very soon. A computer game — on CD-ROM!
And Timmy says, "'CD-ROMs?" and, depending on his age, may respond with either "How obsolete", "What's a CD-ROM?" or "CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, what's the difference anyway? I just call them discs!"
You see, Technology hasMarched On, and things like CD-ROMs and VHS cassette tapes and so on have relatively recently become either so little-used as to be obscure, or obsolete altogether. This isn't Zeerust, which is about futuristic tech becoming old rather than about modern tech becoming old. The important qualifications of this trope are as follows:
Show takes place in modern or modern-ish times, usually the not-so-distant past.
Show makes reference to something, usually a form of technology, that is "The next big thing" or "state of the art", and indeed it was — at the time the show was made.
Said technology has since proved to be impractical, has become obsolete, is at least gradually on its way out, or it is just not in the spotlight anymore.
Cue Hilarious in Hindsight for those who remember when said tech was either very common or hyped as the next big thing.
As far as that last point is concerned, remember that there have been spectacular technological leaps in just the past twenty years — within the lifetimes of many (read: most) Tropers, in fact!*
And if you haven't experienced it yet, don't worry. The first time will hit you completely by surprise sometime within the next five years.
For the most part, once a technology is invented, it tends to develop at warp speed. Remember, it took only about 65 years (1903-1969) to go from one rickety plane barely able to get off the ground to putting a man on the MOON. So this can lead to some odd moments for those who grew up watching certain things go from "absolutely essential" to "taking up space in your basement".
To clarify, an excellent example would be a scene in Friends where Chandler gleefully describes all the awesome features of his brand-new computer:
"Twelve megabytes of RAM, five hundred megabyte hard drive, with built-in spreadsheet capabilities and a modem that transmits at over 28,000 bps!" *
Episode "The One With The List", first airdate November 16, 1995. At that airdate, those features were quite impressive.
There was a time when these specifications would be mockingly contrasted with a modern counterpart. However, technology has moved on so far and so fast that Chandler's computer is now almost unimaginably primitive; these days, an average cell phone is several times more powerful than that in every way, while fitting in the user's pocket.
Somewhat related are those moments, during not-so-old films, where you realize the entire plot could be resolved with something the world takes for granted today. (Cell Phones, perhaps.) A related and increasingly-common source of humor shows down-on-their-luck characters as only able to afford the kind of older technology found in thrift stores today. Additionally, shows set in the past will often Lampshade this for humor.
A Long Runner might even have its earlier episodes/books/etc. have one level of technology, and later installments have more up-to-date technology with little or no Hand Wave at all.
Often turns a work into an Unintentional Period Piece. Can sometimes be a Trope Breaker: a change in cultural context that affects Tropes. A cousin of sorts to Our Graphics Will Suck In The Future. See Magic Floppy Disk for cases when the tech onscreen in a futuristic series was dated when the show was made.
See also Science Marches On, and some examples of Aluminum Christmas Trees. Long Runner Tech Marches On is when this happens In-Universe. Contrast I Want My Jetpack, where the writers overestimated the advance in technology.
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Nobody, nobody saw the miniaturization of computers coming (with the possible exception of Richard Feynman — who was such a physics badass that he was talking about the true possibilities of nanotechnology in 1959, and Kraftwerk, who implied the possibility of said miniaturization in their album Computer World). Interplanetary travel will surely be easy, but desktop computers? Impossible! Netbooks? Are you on drugs? PDAs and smartphones? Whatever you're smoking, pass it over here. Handheld calculators? Handheld CALCULATORS?
Anime & Manga
A.I. Love You: Koube gets all excited because he finds an HDD that's one whole gigabyte. Also, he's quite clearly using 5-1/4" floppy disks, which are probably unrecognizable to anyone born after 2000. Ken Akamatsu, the series creator, commented on this five years later when the manga was re-released, well aware of how dated his earlier manga was as a result.
Averted by the original Astro Boy (created in 1952 or thereabouts) which mentions an Apache scientist developing a computer small enough to fit in the palm of a man's hand sometime in the 1970s which eventually led to the development of intelligent robots (the scientist's background is also interesting in the context of art imitating life, as there is now a reasonably successful Apache Software Foundation). Of course it looked like a tiny version of the Univac-style computers of that era and was said to run on Nuclear power, but it was still pretty groundbreaking for its time. Portable computers also show up a handful of times during the series proper, although they're still quite primitive compared to the modern laptop.
Despite being written in 1989 and taking place in 2030 (with a movie made in 1994), Ghost in the Shell is quite remarkable for still holding up extremely well. If anything, the technology envisioned by Shirow becomes even more plausible and likely, as developments of the last two decades make most of the machines and devices more feasable and he quite accurately predicted what designs would best suit the needs of militaries and health care in the early 21st century.
While not set in the future, Sailor Moon both averts and plays this straight with Sailor Mercury's Mini Super Computer that is about the size of a Nintendo DS (the series was made in the early 1990s). While it's shown to be quite powerful, its limits are never explored and the screen looks very dated now.
Lampshaded in the fanfiction Sleeping with the Girls, where the main character comments that with the advent of smartphones, palm pilots, blackberries, and iPads, the most extraordinary thing about it is how extra-ordinary the device is.
The computers in Serial Experiments Lain (1998) still lack the flat screens commonplace today and computer hardware seems pretty normal for late 90's technology. However, the internet or "the wired" has become interface-able with virtual reality, and the GUI looks like a crazy-cool animated wallpaper that conveys "futuristic" very well.
Mention is made of NASA's most advanced computer at the time, during a spiel where Lovell is also mentioning Saturn Rockets and Apollo 11 as things which people would have thought were impossible. The rockets are powerful, Apollo 11 worked, and the computer "fits in a single room!"
Lovell is panicking minutes after the explosion, and asks Ground Control if he got his trajectories right - the scene then cuts to a room full of engineers frantically moving slide rules to check his math. Ironically, slide rules couldn't actually be used to solve the equations, but hardly anyone knows what slide rules do these days anyway, so few people notice.
In Take The Money And Run (1969), Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen) attempts to bluff his way through a job interview, padding his resume with preposterous lies. Among these: when asked whether he's "ever had any experience running a high-speed digital electronic computer", Virgil answers in the affirmative, adding, "My aunt has one." Cue laughter.
Parodied in Mystery Team, where the "wacky facts" book Duncan reads from includes the fact "Did you know that one day, computers will be as small as your own bedroom?"
Duncan: "How old is this book?"
Cruelly lampshaded in the last few minutes of the third Terminator film. After the heroes arrive to blow up Skynet's mainframe, they discover that due to all the changes they've made to the timeline in previous films, this current iteration of Skynet is now merely software that has gone viral due to the internet. Oops.
The Sands of Mars, includes a journalist taking a commercial space flight to the colony on Mars. A journalist who uses a typewriter.
Into the Comet is even worse: A spaceship exploring a comet loses its navigational computer, and the complex orbital calculations cannot be performed by hand. There is not a single calculator on board. The ingenious solution? Building dozens of abacuses, and implementing a production line of crew members using said devices.
Clarke had a massive Author Appeal for broadcast satellites well before they actually existed. Technology Marches On because all of his stories set during this pre Space Race period that feature this technology have it being used on mannedSpace Stations with crews required to install and run the broadcasts. One of his stories involves a famous broadcaster deciding to stay up in space to do weather reports because of how much he liked being up there.
In Rescue Party, a story written in 1946, highly-advanced aliens find an abandoned Earth. These aliens discover, amongst other things:
"The great room, which had been one of the marvels of the world [...]. No living eye would ever again see that wonderful battery of almost human Hollerith analyzers and five thousand million punched cards holding all that could be recorded on each man, woman and child on the planet."
Isaac Asimov ran up against this one a lot. He wrote in the 1950s and 1960s, and liked to write about computers, so this was pretty much unavoidable. One story, The Feeling of Power, featured the use of humans with calculators in guided missiles to be an improvement on computers because computers are oh so very bulky — and expensive — in the far future. However, pocket calculators were used, and Asimov foresaw that they would have the effect of eliminating basic arithmetic skills. The story was based on the exciting new science of multiplying by hand.
More to the point, computers powerful enough to make decisions (rather than just make calculations) were expensive. People were much cheaper.
Other example is Multivac, a supercomputer of the size of many kilometers, that in some stories had enough computational power to solve the problems of mankind and in one story called "All the Troubles of the World" was able to predict when, where and by who every crime will be committed based only in psychological information. Oh, yeah and it worked with either vacuum tubes or relays.
There's a U-turn on this is Asimov's Foundation Trilogy: In the first volume, two psychohistorians have palmtop computers capable of the massively complex math used by psychohistory, but in the last volume (centuries later), the protagonists are using slide-rules — futuristic slide-rules with lots of whizzy sliders, but still... This is because the first story of the original trilogy was the last to be written; the others originally appeared in Astounding Science Fiction as short stories, but "The Psychohistorians" was written specifically for the book collection when it was first published.
Somewhat averted in The End of Eternity. One of the biggest mainframes fits in the leader's office (and there is still room for a desk), and there are numerous laptops. It all uses punch tape, however.
Beautifully averted ... almost, by his short story The Last Question where multivac continues to get smaller and smaller until it all but disappears ... but it's actually getting bigger and taking up room in hyperspace. Years later he lamented that he 'almost' got it right in this story.
The young adult novel Tunnel In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein showed a character who, contemplating the flow of people through wormholes transporting them between planets, decided to calculate how long it would take the current population of the earth to go through, accounting for deaths and births along the way. He uses a slide rule.
In his other juvie Have Spacesuit Will Travel, the hero makes a big thing out of receiving a top-of-the-line slide rule as a birthday present.
Actual line from that book: "Sliderules are the best thing since girls!"
Starman Jones, also by RAH, has starship navigators using huge tables of 8-digit binary codes for navigation data, because the starship navigation computers have an 8-bit binary interface practically identical to the Altair 8800 computers that would come out in the early 1970's, 20 years or so after the book was written, but a couple centuries before it was set. Also, personnel records were indexed with punch cards.
It was even worse than that: not only the computers in this novel were apparently unable to convert the data between binary and decimal system, but so were the people. All conversions were done through precalculated reference tables, and the hero's ability to remember them verbatim was a large plot point later on when the navigation tables were destroyed, and the protagonist remembered them as well: apparently they were too massive to fit in the computer memory, and they haven't thought of things like magnetic tape, for example.
To make matters worse, devices that were internally binary but converted to and from decimal in hardware at the external interfaces already existed at the time. They also weren't even using the computer for navigation per se, but just to do raw computations to speed up the work of the human navigators, while it would probably have been more efficient to build a machine to do it directly. And this technology had literally not changed in a generation, since the hero's memorized tables were from the books of a deceased relative.
In another Heinlein work, The Puppet Masters, the main character has the equivalent of a modern Bluetooth earpiece implanted in his skull, people travel around in aircars, and major cosmetic surgery (at least for government agents) takes at most a couple of hours. All well and good, but when the main character goes to do research at his local library, the data is all stored in microfilm spools.
Citizen Of The Galaxy is guilty as well: targeting computers for the cee-fractional missiles that the spaceships shoot at each other were able to calculate the targeting solutions almost immediately, but were utterly incapable of such things as following the target and even roughly predicting its movement, thus necessitating a quick-witted human operator.
Could be considered justified by Burnside's Zeroth Law of Space Combat. Readers relate more to other people, and having human intervention adds suspense and someone readers can relate to.
Gay Deceiver, the onboard computer of the protagonist's groundcar/aircar/spacecraft/trans-universal conveyance in The Number Of The Beast (1980) is described thus - "She stores sixty million bytes, then wipes last-in-last-out everything not placed on permanent. But her news storage is weighted sixty-forty in favor of North America." On top of that, the computer is a limited AI and has speech capability and voice recognition. It's programmed using semi-natural language with specific command words, which can be redefined or created on the fly; for example, "Gay, bounce!" instructs her to translate extradimensionally to a point ten thousand meters "upward" relative to her own frame of reference. (The command is just "Bounce!"; "Gay" or "Gay Deceiver" is used as an attention word, to let Gay know she's being given a command.) Many times during the course of the story, the computer is quickly and easily programmed by all four main characters. At one point they clean things up due to all the multiple programs they've input, which might cause unpredictable conflicts. All that with "sixty million bytes"! In other words, about 57 megabytes, about a tenth of Chandler's computer in that 1995 episode of Friends discussed above.
Note that the 60 MB is not the total memory of Gay but just the amount dedicated to storing news. Even so, that is a relatively small amount by today's standards — on the other hand, Heinlein was almost certainly thinking both of heavily compressed data, and of a much sparser metadata scheme, probably a binary one specifically designed to describe news information, than one tends to encounter today with highly general, directly human-readable XML RSS feeds and HTML 5 markup.
Also of note, RAH describes a near future where Ford Motors has build a roadster that runs on a reaction-less drive, and can make orbital insertion. And a computers with less storage and CPU as in your cellphone (that is, Gay Deceiver) can be programmed with 'turing test' software to become self-aware. Wonderful optimism.
If This Goes On has the hero mentioning a late 21st century autopilot built out of discrete components and without printed circuits. And later a family-car equivalent helicopter with a piston engine (with a valve knock the hero doesn't like at all), that also has an autopilot that would, if permitted, have kept up his terrain-following orders right across the Grand Canyon.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Big blocky things with ticker tape spewing out. On starships. However, Eddie's ticker-tape enthusiasm could be a satire of the Trope, and of the assumption of the time that printed records would be needed forever because nobody would ever come up with the idea of storing information electronically. Remember, Eddie exists in the same universe as the Guide itself, a 1970s Wikipedia-equivalent.
Hitchhiker was always a parody of bureaucracies first and a speculative fiction story second. It was almost certainly intentionally inefficient.
Especially bearing in mind that the ticker-tape is fed directly into a bin without ever actually being read.
And given that Douglas Adams himself was apparently a cutting-edge technology buff...he reputedly had the first Apple Macintosh sold in the UK.
Roger Zelazny wrote a series of stories about an agent that who was able to 'blank' his existance, because he was part of the team that created the first world-wide person database. He did this by ripping up his punchcards!
EPICAC also appeared in a short story named after the device (included in the collection Welcome To The Monkey House). It goes into more detail about the computer - gargantuan, slow for almost every task, all of its output was on ticker-tape, and it apparently could become sentient and an incredible poet if the dials were set just right.
Slide rules are apparently still being used for course calculations for interstellar space flight.
New York City has an AI collectively known as the City Fathers, which reside in a set of self-reconfiguring servers so large they ride around on their own system of train tracks.
City Fathers: We conclude that we are the city.
In the A. E. van Vogt novel Star Cluster, they are even connected via antennae (radio?) to the otherwise room-sized server.
In the 1988 Star Trek novel Spock's World, data storage allocation is a high enough priority that changing it requires Kirk's signature. Early in the book, he significantly increases the allocation for the Enterprise's message board, saying that the extra cost is worthwhile. This is shown to be a simple forum and message board. In the same novel, the problem of running out of onion dip is solved by cloning the culture to make more sour cream, but 430 people on a message board can overload their system.
The novel Venus, Inc. has a mission to Venus where they decide the required computer would be too large to be practical, so instead they just use a midget. The book being about an ad exec creating a marketing campaign for Venus, that's not the only case.
Averted by Murray Leinster's short story A Logic Named Joe, written in 1946. The story comes close to correctly predicting the use of small home computers interlinked into a global network, along with search engines, parental filtering, using the internet to find weather, stocks, useless trivia, and YouTube.
Also, since the books were written before the invention of computers (as pointed out in the above example), spaceships are run entirely manually.
Crystal Singer, set in the distant future, mentions the discovery of a crystal that permits miraculously high-density data storage, at 1 gigaword per cubic centimeter. Assuming today's standard 32-bit word length, this equals 32 gigabits per cubic centimeter. Impressive when the book was written in 1982, but less so in 2010 with modern hard drives approaching 160 gigabits per cubic centimeter. However, word length does vary between computer designs and the book never does mention what word length is common in that setting...
Then there's Andrew M. Greeley's novel God Game, a rather forgettable piece of fiction apart from the assertion that a computer with a 286 processor apparently can do enough calculations per second to simulate an entire world, right down to blades of grass.
Pretty much any depiction of an artificial intelligence from before the 1960s or so will involve vacuum tubes. Then after that there are transistors. For example, in the original Astroboy, at one point Astro is put out of commission because one of his tubes is damaged in battle and in a later story Professor Ochanomizu says "All you really need for a robot's head is a bunch of transistors". These days, most writers have abandoned this sort of thing, as it's unlikely that even modern microprocessors can support a true artificial intelligence and rely on ill-defined fictional Applied Phlebotinum to explain how their robots can think and feel the way humans can, such as the Transformers' mystical "Sparks" and later incarnations of Astroboy's "Omega Factor" and/or "Tenma Chips".
In Ivan Efremov's Andromeda Nebula (written in 1955) the crew of the latest Earth starship compute their trajectory on what amounts to a programmable calculator, but takes at least a large desk and a couple of cabinets. They are aware of its shortcomings and complain that fully functional computers that are able to completely automate their vessel are too large and fragile to be mounted on starships.
The irony of the story lies in fact that it's an entirely true description of the situation of that time: in 1955 a programmable calculator would indeed take a large desk and a couple of cabinets at best, and the universal computers only just have started to appear and indeed couldn't be put on any moving vessel.
In Jack Vance's short story Sail 25 a ship's computer's hard disk is sabotaged on a training flight in the asteroid belt. The students apparently have only that one computer on the entire ship, and no calculators or similar electronics — they get home by computing their orbit on abacuses.
Referenced and royally mocked in the short story "The Aliens Who Knew, Like, Everything": the titular aliens use vacuum tubes to run their spaceship. Needless to say, they're more than a little interested in trading their knowledge of space travel for modern hardware. (As for how they're intergalactic when humanity's advanced tech hasn't gotten out of the Solar System, well...)
In an odd non-SF example, Rachel in Pet Sematary (which was written in the mid-1980s) recounts a lecture about the human brain's superiority over computers: "He made a persuasive case for this incredible assertion, telling them that the human mind was a computer with staggering numbers of memory chips - not 16K, or 32K, or 64K, but perhaps as much as one billion K: literally, a thousand billion.". In other words, a terabyte. In 2010 a terabyte hard drive can fit in your pocket. If you want to go smaller and money is no object, a terabyte of thumbnail-sized 64 GB MicroSDXC cards fits in a stack 15x11x16 millimeters in size.
In Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity and Star Light (as in 'not heavy'), the humans in the stations orbiting the supermassive "Terrestrial" type planets Mesklin and Dhrawn use slide rules. "Star Light" was published in 1970.
Although, Truth in Television is that people did use slide rules for regular work until well into the 1970s. It wasn't until about 1980 that handheld and desktop calculators and computers that could be readily used 'on the fly' for calculations began to be more efficient than slide rules.
The desk computer, not desk top computer — i.e., the computer is actually small enough that it can be fit into an executive size desk. Seen in John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit (1969) and many others into the 1980s. Some computers in the 1970s actually were built into office desks.
The Adolescence of P-1 by Thomas Ryan. A 1977 tale of an artificial intelligence that propagates itself by way of punched cards, acoustic coupler modems, and reel-to-reel tape spools that necessitate signaling human operators to change tapes.
In Pendragon, Bobby uses a 5000-6000 AD holographic computer. While we still don't have holographic computers, the use of the computer (like an encyclopedia), can be accessed today using That Other Wiki
In Evil Genius Trilogy Cadel's first major challenge is that he has to make himself a computer phone-one that even connects to the Internet! There's an app for that but no-Cadel does it the hard way, developing some new DNA-based technology so that it will all fit in his cell phone.
Justified in the Dune series in that, due to a religious proscription against the use of advanced computers, complex calculations are performed by hand or by mind; "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind" is the most common religion's primary commandment, and specially bred and trained "Mentats" carry out the sort of computational tasks which would be performed by electronic computers in Real Life — and also in the far past of the Dune universe, up until the AI revolt which nearly wiped out humanity and occasioned the aforementioned commandment.
In Robert L Forward's Dragon's Egg (written in 1980), at the university in the future year 2020, there are no personal computers and no internet. Indeed one of the issues is the department has to pay for computer time - one professor even dips into his personal bank account to help a student, which is rather hilarious knowing how widespread and easy to come by computers actually were long before 2020.
In the original Traveller starship design system, the cheapest computer weighed a ton and occupied 14 cubic meters. The most powerful and advanced computer weighed 26 tons. This all in a starfaring society at least a thousand years in the future.
This cannot be pointed out too many times, since it never seems to sink in: In Traveller, the "tons" used in starship designs are measures of volume, not mass. That "one ton" computer fills - including the desk it sits on and a chair for the user - about 2x2x3 meters. The really big ones run warships the size of modern aircraft carrier, or larger.
Personal Computers in Travelleroften look outwardly like today's computers. Arguably this at least is justifiable as the outward design of the systems used today is reasonably user friendly. Furthermore there are other possible designs mentioned.
In the first edition of Rifts published in 1991 and taking place about 300 years in the future, the hand-held computer listed in the equipment section is described as having a "dual drive system, 150 megabytes hard drive with 4 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM) and uses one inch disk." Later reprints removed specific capabilities on the computers and simply had it state that they are simply a lot better than the ones that are used currently.
Which is actually rather strange, as Rifts is a sort of After the EndScavenger World where much of the planet is struggling its way back to some semblance of technological civilization in the face of unrelenting attacks by various extradimensional threats, and has explicitly lost a huge amount of technology.
Ace Attorney is set between the years 2016 and 2026. And people still use cellphones the size of a small notebook with monochrome screens and monotone ringtones and call them "modern". A reasonably modern (by 2009 standards) phone appears in Miles Edgeworth's spinoff, set in 2019, where it's still treated as a novelty.
Though, it must have been invoking this deliberately, establishing the world's alternate history tech development as different from our own, or highlighting the Luddite nature of the characters involved, since the original games (even the original Japan-only GBA versions) were made recently enough that handheld phones and computers were common... obviously, since the game itself ran on one!
Also, Case 1-2 featured a Mobile Phone which would record every conversation you had and store it automatically. Phones nowadays can't do that, yet, or can they?, so it's a bit of a mish mash.
There are apps that can do it available for some phones, but you have to be careful as recording someone without their consent is a criminal offense in some jurisdictions (while in others you only need permission from at least one person in the conversation).
Ultima VII largely takes place in Britannia, but has a little bit which betrays its time period in the opening cinematic when "you" as the Avatar thump the old CRT computer screen, which has gone static-y. Also in the game the "Save" Icon is a floppy disk - a 5.25 disk, which wasn't even the floppy disk's last incarnation.
Lampshaded heavily in a Cute Wendy strip when Wendy describes the specs of her new computer. "It'll only be a matter of months before this comic is completely dated! Funny, huh?"
This whole concept is lampooned in The Simpsons in a flashback where a circa 1975 Professor Frink states "I predict that within one hundred years, computers will be twice as powerful, ten thousand times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." This is in turn a reference to the 1943 Thomas J. Watson misquote, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." (The integrated circuit hadn't been invented back in his day...)
The transistor hadn't been invented in 1943, either. It was going from tubes to semiconductors (and, once the bugs were worked out, their vastly greater reliability) that made really interesting and powerful computers possible.
"Could they be used for dating?" "Theoretically yes, but!! the results would be so perfect as to eliminate the thrill of romantic conquest!" Computer dating didn't work out exactly like that...
Thanks to the espionage conducted by Paul Smart, a super-advanced, AI-driven Robo-Buster X1 was set to put The Real Ghostbusters out of business. At its unveiling, the robot revealed it had an incredible 20MB of on-board memory.
Believe it or not, having a powerful computer that was the size of a (large) book like Penny's was actually considered REALLY cool when Inspector Gadget was on the air.
In fact, lots of people knew from very early on that computers would become very small and very fast in a relatively short time; the famous Moore's Law was coined in 1965. What they didn't know was just what you could do with them. It was simply assumed that they'd remain as calculating machines for scientists, while the possibilities for ordinary workplace-use — let alone entertainment — weren't even dreamed of for many years.
By most people — but Spacewar was created in 1961 on a PDP-1 at MIT. Family members of the staff who visited the lab were supposedly entranced by the game.
And in the very early 70s, students at Liverpool university in England would stay up into the early hours to play an early "lander" style game on their university's computer (which weighed several tonnes), using punch-cards for input and ticker-tape for output! They would also marvel at the computer's ability to let them send "instant" messages to colleagues at Manchester university at speeds only several minutes slower than using a telephone to just talk normally!
As far back as 1945, in the article "As We May Think" for The Atlantic, Vannevar Bush discussed his idea for a device called the Memex. This device could fit on a desktop and contained a personal library of up to a million books but also had the ability to call up other works through links between works when related information comes up. That's right, this guy came up with key ideas on hyperlinks (which make up the World Wide Web), personal computers, and even e-books, years before anyone else!
Netbooks started a phase of "small, cheap, inexpensive computers for going on the internet." Small indeed, as they started with 7" screens. However, this is now inverting itself as the concept took off and people were making bigger Netbooks that were more comfortable to use. Netbooks are now, on average, 10".
Same with the Personal Data/Digital Assistant (PDA). What started as literally, a palm sized computer has marched in the form of smartphones (essentially a PDA with cellular phone capabilities) and tablet computers, such as the iPad. Though with tablets, the size inverted itself since most tablets are at least 7".
Rules for keeping your kids safe on the Internet usually start out with keeping your computer in a public area. After all, there's no way your kid can drag the computer off to their room - the network cable is too short. Of course now with Wifi and tablet computers, it's all to easy to sneak off to your room...
You could block the computer based on its MAC address, assuming you knew how to do that on the wireless router end.
Computer Speed and Internet
Nowadays, as in the Friends example above, computer processing speeds and Internet capabilities often fall victim to this:
Anime and Manga
For being humanoid computers in Chobits the specs of persocoms weren't so great. Although very rarely do you hear about the capacities of persocoms (especially Chii) those that you do learn are rather contemporary for early 2000s computers. Could be a case of Alternate Reality.
Though, of course, Chii and Freya are packed with honest-to-goodness indistinguishable from human Artificial Intelligence, which still makes them much more advanced than modern computers (as of this update).
Mnemosyne has a fantastic scene set in 1990 where Mimi says that with a computer this powerful, the guy they're tracking really knows what he's doing. Keep in mind that the show was written in the 2000's, so they were definitely playing the trope for laughs. Although in-universe, it really was top of the line for the characters. Since they're both immortal, they keep up with technology as it happens just like anyone else normally would.
Mimi: "This is a top of the line 16-bit 40MHz CPU and 128MB of RAM with a 300MB hard drive with all the bells and whistles."
The modems in War Games. Then again, most mainstream moviegoers didn't even know that you could communicate over long distances using computers back then — only just under thirty years ago!
Wonderful, wonderful example from the 1995 hacker movie Hackers. The characters are in awe of somebody's new, super-fast 28.8k modem.
Hackers is full of examples, like the main characters talking very highly of the RISC architecture (which is commonly used today in smartphones and tablets, but before those it'd faded into insignificance from a consumer point of view for about a decade and a half), or the "battle of the tapes" scene - nowadays tape is pretty much unknown and they'd be fighting over digital files.
Word Of God is that they hired a genuine hacker to help them with technical stuff and reasonable techie dialog...who proceeded to see just how much bullshit he could get the production team to swallow. The results are...entertaining in a completely unintended way. 'Gibson' indeed...
The conspicuous absence of the Fate computer in the film adaptation of V for Vendetta. Understandably, a computer network where someone can just Google your arse is not going to have the same impact as it did in 1982.
Back to the Future Part II predicted something like today's heavily inter-connected and information-driven society, but assumed it would be based around the fax machine.
Fridge Logic ensues when in Episode 5 of the video game, Doc and Marty are using Xbox Live headsets from "Verne's 21st Century video game cache".
The 1985 film Weird Science shows navigating through a computer to be something akin to a video game, complete with digital corridors. This is also true for Jurassic Park (see below).
In GoldenEye, Natalya goes to an IBM office so she can contact Boris via the internet, and gives the sales rep a purchase order as a rather clever lie to use their connection. Computers using 500 megabyte hard drives, with 14.4 kbps modems, seem woefully underpowered today. Although those were impressive specs at the time the movie was made, the fact that Bond films are always "present day, present time", essentially makes this an Unintentional Period Piece.
The novelisation cleverly averts this by changing the setting of this scene to an independent retailer, and noting that the equipment on offer is significantly behind the cutting edge.
A particularly good example is The Face On The Milk Carton, a baroque horror story/thriller/teen melodrama where every single thing the teenage heroine believes is a lie. The story is the long, painful process she goes through to find the truth... a process that would take ten seconds if online search engines had been invented at the time the book was written (1990).
The Hyperion Cantos (1989) is a surprisingly accurate aversion of this. Not only does the Internet exist but it is enormously fast and something that people use constantly. In fact loss of their version of the Internet causes massive problems.
The existence of Google renders the main character's job in Foucaults Pendulum (finding the obscure connection between seemingly unrelated pieces of information, using a cardfile) completely unnecessary. Much of the rest of the plot is connected to how computers would go on to change the perception of information, as well, with one character spending half a chapter gushing over his new typewriter that let him delete words at will.
Averted in Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home (published 1985, although some was serialised earlier). The setting is a far future non-industrial society, but they have an Internet connection, used very occasionally for communication with other tribes. (The Net, called the "City of Mind", is run by orbital machines, independent of humans, which allow humans to use the network as long as they feed it data about themselves.) There is a piece in there that looks just like a BBS chat transcript.
William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer was one of the first works of Cyber Punk and popularized (or updated) common tropes and sci-fi setting elements like virtual reality, networked artificial intelligences, cybernetics and computer hackers. Today, though, its depiction of the "matrix" as a collection of brightly colored simple geometric shapes seems laughably old-fashioned. The countless sci-fi movies that shamelessly aped the look didn't help. The use of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) is also extremely dated, as they pretty much died out with widespread Internet, and especially Web, adoption.
The BBS didn't die, it adapted, diversified and became many things, including wikis. Always keep in mind that the internet is a connection system, which is simply better than dialing into a dedicated BBS.
Also from Neal Stephenson, his 1999 novel Cryptonomicon has a couple of scenes showing Randy connecting to the internet on his laptop with a dazzling fast, state-of-the-art 56k modem. Sometimes he connects with a cutting-edge cell phone modem (which would now amount to a 3G dongle). Said laptop also has a makeshift webcam.
Most of the time he's using this equipment he's either travelling or in places where the cell-phone modem (still used today, in the form of tethering) is the best or most practical option, though. Lots of business travellers continue to have laptops with modems in them, because there are lots of places in the world where traditional telephony is all that is readily available.
In the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card, there is a character who has artificial eyes. He explains that he has to deal with a lack of depth perception, because only one of the eyes is actually a lens; the other is where the "jack" plugs in so he can download what he sees. Bluetooth, anyone? These books aren't that old, it is surprising that Card didn't see more widespread uses for wireless.
Parts of the Harry Potter books would be a lot shorter if wizards had some version of the Internet or at least if the Hogwarts Library had some kind of magical search engine to look up books on. Hell, if the first book weren't set in 1991-92 according to the official timeline, Hermione could have just Googled Nicholas Flamel (a real historical figure) on a Muggle computer while she was home for the holidays.
Justified at Hogwarts by the fact that electronics don't work there, so the Internet wouldn't have been useful. At home is a different story. Some fans consider it a They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot when in Deathly Hallows a visit to a Muggle library is mentioned in an aside.
The Michael Crichton novel, Congo, at one point mentioned that some people thought that one day all of the world's computers would be connected. It also made reference to a counterargument that there might not be enough resources on earth to pull that off. About that...
It gets more plausible as the story goes on, but the first stage of Hari Seldon's plan in Foundation involves publishing an encyclopedia, with updates every *ten years*, which seems a little quaint from a post-internet point of view.
Justified by the fact that the Empire was extremely stagnant at the time, and the Foundation was yet to overcome its inertia.
As well as the fact that the Encyclopedia was a smokescreen for the true purpose of the Foundation. Hari Seldon says in the first book that he doesn't care if the encyclopedia ever gets published.
P.S. Longer Letter Later (1998) and Snail Mail No More (2000) by Ann M. Martin and Paula Danziger both date themselves just by the use of letters. The books are a series of letters between friends Tara Starr and Elizabeth after Tara moves away. The second novel introduces e-mail (hence the title), but is still dated, since it came out when e-mail and the internet were still relatively new technologies. Nowadays they would probably use social networking sites, cell phones, or even video messaging.
Paula Danziger's "This Place Has No Atmosphere" is even funnier on this score. Written in 1986, set in 2057, this book features a society where people live in malls and on the moon, take classes in ESP and telekinesis, get their music by video disks and holograms and watch TV on their watches, and write letters home to update their family with how it's going on the moon. An amusing interlude features the main character practicing writing backwards during downtime in class, and she notes that this is what she usually does at school when the projector breaks down. One of the overall themes of the book (mused upon by the main characters when putting together a school production of "Our Town") is that while times change, people are about the same as they have always been.
Alex Packer's teenage-aimed etiquette book How Rude! may have been up-to-date and devoid of Totally Radical when it was first published in 1995, but by 2011, its 'Netiquette' section has not aged well at all. Gems that come to mind include keeping responses as succinct as possible, staying away from images, and not using allcaps in emails, a common early-internet practice.
In You Suck by Christopher Moore, published in 2007, Craigs List [sic] is obscure enough that it's necessary to stop the action and explain what it is. The book also notes that Craigs List is limited to the Bay Area. This was probably dated when it was first published; although Craigslist was created in the Bay Area, that was in 1995, and it had branched out to 14 cities by 2001. May be justified if the characters talking weren't particularly tech-savvy though.
Completely justified in that the first book, "Bloodsucking Fiends" was published in 1995, and "You Suck" despite being published in 2007, takes place immediately following the events of the first book.
1988's Chess With A Dragon presumes that none of the thousands of alien races who participate in the InterChange have a clue how to dig up the exact information they want from this gargantuan, out-of-control galactic data library. In retrospect, the humans could've dodged the whole indentured-slaves-and-meat-animals crisis by signing up as data-retrieval specialists and using search engines.
Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, while spanning entire decades in the making, surprisingly averted this most of the time. Characters would identify their timeline's tech and most of Midworld's futuristic Lost Tech would be blurry enough to get a pass even after the obvious advances in our world. Not to mention that by the series' setting, centuries and even millennia have passed and the remaining tech is in various stages of disrepair. However, Wolves Of The Calla plays this straight when The Mole has a video conference. Modem tone sounds are described; the described future tech would require much more than simple 56 kilobaud bandwidth to work as shown.
A story written about baseball in the year 2044 has newspapers as the main source of news in the year 2044, severely underestimating television and completely missing the idea that there could be new types of mass media in the future. The author, like just about everybody else, hadn't seen the internet coming.
Actually sort of inverted in Scott Adams' book The Dilbert Future, where he speculates (based on the work of some computer scientists at the time) that improvements in internet technology might render most hard drives obsolete. Adams predicted that coming generations of computers, at least the portable ones, would eschew drive space in favor of more powerful network connections and massive RAM caches, downloading and running temporary applications as needed from central servers. Of course, this turned out to be the exact opposite of the way computers ended up evolving, as nearly everything from cellphones to coffee machines has a hard drive now, with capacities skyrocketing higher and higher each year, while connection problems and RAM shortages still plague users everywhere. To be fair, Adams is cautious with his predictions and notes it's only one possibility. May also tie in to the above section, due to underestimating how quickly and cheaply high-capacity hard disks could be miniaturized.
Live Action TV
Current viewers of Seinfeld probably wonder why George doesn't just ebay that book he took into the bathroom with him at the bookstore. Then they'd probably think... what's a bookstore?
Inverted in a flashback scene of episode The Betrayal, where Nina tells Jerry about the World Wide Web and how you can send email to anyone. ("What are you, a scientist?")
The season one Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "I Robot, You Jane," which was created right in the middle of the panic that online chat rooms were crawling with horrible perverts that wanted to kidnap you. Then there's the scene where Buffy doesn't quite catch on to Willow saying she met a guy online, thinking they were "on line" for something. Most amusingly, the demon Moloch ends up in a deliberately cheesy and ridiculous robot body to demonstrate how much he doesn't belong in modern times, except that it's almost impossible to pick this out from all the unintentional cheesy and ridiculous stuff around it.
In Wishbone, the episode "One Thousand & One Tails" features a bad '90s understanding of the Internet. Joe and Sam ooh and awe as David logs onto the Internet for the first time, repeatedly gasping "Go to that one!" before he's even online. Also, the Internet is apparently a Viewer-Friendly Interface, labeled "Internet Online Access" and consisting of a few icons. David accesses a coded chatroom run by cybercriminals by clicking on the oh-so-not-suspicious icon of someone wearing a Conspicuous Trenchcoat, which is helpfully labeled "Private" and is apparently one of only four chat groups which exist on the Internet. He accidently logs into his dad's bank account while investigating this chatroom, which somehow causes three million dollars to get transferred into his dad's bank account. FBI agents show up at their house about five minutes later. Where to start??
Generally averted by Weird Al in his song "It's All About The Pentiums." Some of the jokes haven't aged well (Y2K, the trademark "Pentium" itself has moved from top-of-the-line CPUs to cheap bottom-shelf models, etc.), but the "Hundred Gigabytes of RAM" remains a ludicrously large amount, and the "Flat Screen Monitor Forty Inches Wide" is still huge.
In the "Weird Al" Yankovic song "White and Nerdy" the nerd sings, "My MySpace page is all totally pimped out/I got people begging for my top 8 spaces..." Not likely these days.
The screen issue in the song is an Averted Trope because TV companies have the same problem with TV sets as monitor manufacturers have - there's only so big you can make them. The ratio to human eyes and human perception remain the same. If the price for the bigger sets went down, they would have to introduce a room-size to be their top, money-making model, and living rooms are only so big. Getting back to Weird Al, he actually lampshades this in "Frank's 2000 inch TV". (A 2000 inch TV set would be 166 feet)
There's also the matter of putting the TV into the room, as doors are usually much smaller than the walls.
With regards to the RAM, the latest Intel architecture allows for up to 64GBs of RAM now. Granted, not quite a hundred, but as RAM chips are growing in capacity, 128GBs is likely not too far off. There exist computers with a thousand gigabytes of RAM, but they're considered Awesome, but Impractical luxury goods.
Or are used for specialized applications that need absurd quantities of memory.
One can only assume that 50 Cent was trying to make his listeners envious when he bragged his car that contains, among other things, a fax machine and a phone. For reference, this song, "High All the Time" was released in 2003.
Lampshaded by Kid Rock in "All Summer Long" when he sings "it was 1989" and "we didn't have no Internet".
In Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert, Scott Adams' commentary points out instances of this in early strips. For example, in one '90s strip the joke was that Dilbert and Wally were sending e-mail to each other despite their cubicles being right next to each other. Yes, that was considered funny all by itself. Also, when Adams started inserting his e-mail address into the strip in 1993, it was labeled "Internet ID" so newspapers wouldn't think it was an embedded advertisement. He further reports that much of the e-mail he got at the time essentially read "I contacted you because I don't know anyone else who has e-mail."
Some of the older Fox Trot comics are susceptible to this. For instance, there's one from the early 1990s where Jason has a dream about finding an unopened present under the Christmas tree, and when he unwraps it he's absolutely thrilled to have been given a Macintosh Quadra 950 with 64 MBs of RAM and a 240 MB hard drive. Those specs made for a nice high-end desktop computer system in 1992; in 2012 it would make for a nice high-end graphing calculator.
Inverted (!) in the Hollywood Hacking simulator Uplink, which takes place in 2010 and where 60 Ghz is considered slow. In Real Life late 2010 a quad-core 3 Gig is seen as solid.
That one could be accidental, a result of the industry standard changing from high-power single-core machines to multicore machines whose cores are individually slower but enable multiple tasks to run at once. Even so, 60GHz is still FAR more powerful than anything a multicore CPU today can offer. Uplink also did have some prediction of parallelism - one of the computers you can buy has 8 (or 16?) CPU sockets but only supports slower processors, while most high end ones have 3 or 4.
For the tech-savvy, this makes it a bit of a Period Piece. During The Nineties, computing power was mostly boosted by increasing the clock frequency and this prediction was no doubt based on that trend continuing, probably helped by the PC market focusing on the MHz as selling point. In reality, clock frequency didn't change all that much during other decades, and is unlikely to ever grow much beyond current values. For one thing, current clock frequencies are well within the microwave range, and microwave electronics is different. There is also the matter of clock cycle length putting an upper bound on the physical size of the computing device, by speed of light.
In The Legend Of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge, clicking on the Fish Queen's tic-tac-toe board will cause Malcolm to state his idea of a proper circa 1994 PC gaming system. Do we have virtual reality headgear sets yet? And cordless mice still aren't that common.
Cordless mice will continue to not be that common until they come out with one that won't possibly run out of juice midway through an MMORPG dungeon/important work stuff/etc.
Despite possessing artificial intelligence, advanced cybernetics and genetics, the ability to deconstruct matter and create it into something useful... The world of Fallout continue to use computers that boast a whopping 64KB of RAM and use a command line like interface. This is, of course, part of the game's Zeerust aesthetic, set in a world where nuclear technology advanced by leaps and bounds while computer technology stagnated (the transistor was never invented.)
However, it's also worth noting that the technology is hardy enough to withstand electromagnetic effects from a nuclear blast, as well as last through two hundred years of neglect and downright abuse. Also worth noting is that the primary storage medium is a tape that can be used to hold anything from an audio recording to programming instructions for a robot, and is compatible with practically anything that has some level of processing capability.
Played for laughs in TRON 2.0, set in the early 2000s. Jet Bradley has to retrieve some code written in the 1980s (after the first movie) from an old mainframe. One of the programs in the mainframe starts commenting on the specs, which were state-of-the-art in the mid-'80s, but a handheld console would be embarrassed to have them these days.
I-NO:EN 12-82, top of the line mainframe. Capable of 16 bit processing, full monochromatic display support, and a local storage of 128MB! I challenge you to find a more robust system!
Becomes a minor Tear Jerker later on when the mainframe is on the verge of breakdown due to the protagonists' actions and I-NO decides to stay behind and face deresolution claiming that the modern computing world has no place for an obsolete program like him.
Tycho: Alright. The modem works again, and I tucked in thirty-two megs of RAM. Gabe: Is that... is that good? Tycho: Let's put it this way. You'll never need to buy a computer again.
On an episode of the cartoon Birdz, Eddie Storkowitz has to explain e-mail to his friends. In 1998.
Lampshaded in several jokes about the internet in Futurama:
That it took Farnsworth years to log onto AOL (AOL!), which is accompanied by dial-up noises. That the future internet is pretty much virtual reality is a borderline example, as it's not impossible at this point but VR never quite took off despite ITS hype in the 90s. Plus there's a joke about having to wade your way through hordes of flying pop-ups ("My God! It's full of ads!") which is less of a problem for most websites today, as they realized that people just don't click on those things.
That it takes Farnsworth years to logon to AOL is a reference to an actual phenomenon. Back when most everybody was on dialup, you only received a certain allocation of hours per month in order to keep network load within reasonable limits. Eventually AOL abandoned this and permitted users to remain logged on as long as they wanted. While this was great for users who could get a connection, AOL's network hit capacity very quickly and people had to wait in a queue for long periods of time- hours, even- for enough users to log off. This was exacerbated by the fact that, freed of limits, many people simply remained logged in to AOL 24/7 so they wouldn't have to wait!
In an early, promotional interview for the series with Wired magazine, Matt Groening made some jokes about how his vision of the future was actually a lot like the present in many ways, including crime still being prevalent, politics still being crooked, and "the internet is still slow."
Parodied when, in his first appearance, Richard Nixon's Head made a joke about computers being twice as fast as they were in 1973. He said this in the year 3000.
Lampshaded to hilarious effect in Megas XLR, with the 50s era Area 50 robot's boast "There is no way you can defeat the superior power of my massive 56 Kilobyte processor!*
Processor capabilities are measured in hertz, bytes are for memory
" This giant robot also ran on magnetic tape reels.
In The Simpsons episode "You Only Move Twice," which aired in 1996, the Simpson family moves to a planned community called Cypress Creek. One example of how advanced the town is is the fact that its elementary school has its own website. On the episode's DVD commentary, Simpsons writer Josh Weinstein says this is one of the most dated jokes they've ever done.
In "Half-Decent Proposal" (2002), nerd Artie Ziff has become fabulously rich with a device that converts the sound of a modem dialing into soothing music. No wonder Ziff had hit the skids by his next appearance.
NASA still uses old fashioned DOS systems and computer chips with a few hundred megabytes of RAM for their spacecraft. Huh.
Should be noted this only applies to critical systems of the spacecraft or satellite in question. Mission control is up to date (where permitted) and when the scientists need to do actual work, they do it on modern laptops.
Any space mission has good reason to use rather primitive systems. Satellites and space probes have to operate for years, and the last maintenance most of them get is right before launch. Space is a really harsh place, so the hardware has to be as rugged as possible - much easier to do when a system is kept simple. Programming and testing these systems is much more straightforward, and sending equivalently shorter commands is faster, more accurate, and more reliable, especially when the distant end is millions of miles away. Upgrading the system would cost a lot (and NASA is often subject to budget cuts), mostly due to the exponentially increased time required to test every single potential problem — problems that will prove fatal out in space.
A lot of NASA's spacecraft are built with off-the-shelf equipment left over from previous missions (as spares, test articles, etc.) The space shuttle Endeavour, built as the replacement for Challenger, was almost entirely made of spare parts. To save both time and money, they use what's already been paid for, even if it is a little more primitive.
Similarly, nuclear power stations take a long time to update their controls software. The Darlington plant near Toronto Ontario only recently (within the past 5 years) networked all computerized controls in the plant. Even hardware is rarely updated with new wiring on top of or combined with old wiring to build in additional levels of redundancy and security. Considering that, barring a complete shutdown and removal of all potentially radioactive material, the monitoring instruments and controls of a nuclear plant can never be turned off this is a good thing. Some plants refuse to upgrade, fearing that even the slightest error would cause a catastrophe.
And even some businesses. It would cost more to train the IT department (who has probably documented all issues for the past 20+ years) and the normal users of the program than it would to just keep the old system. Upgrading hardware doesn't tend to be an issue thanks to DOS Box and virtual machines now able to run on consumer level computers (unless you happen to need DOS to drive some ancient hardware that uses a connector that no longer exists on modern computers). But so help you if your entire system was on a PDP-8.
A quite common connector-that-no-longer-exists problem is the parallel port, commonly used for printers before USB came along. There are a lot of high-end laser printers out there in commercial and industrial installations that will last for decades (because they were both very well made and were designed to be repairable). The solution is the USB-to-parallel adapter, essentially a parallel port that connects to USB. You can also gets USB adapters for serial, base-T ethernet, and just about anything else you can imagine. As well, the old PS/2 style keyboard and mouse connectors aren't likely to go anywhere on high-end systems, since they will work under conditions where USB won't (and yes, USB can and does have software failures that will lock you out of the system, but that doesn't happen with PS/2).
From 2005 to roughly 2009 mainboards with parallel ports were practically extinct, none could be found in ordinary shops, and the death of PCI and AGP ports had been predicted to happen next. After 2009, producers brought back the classic mainboard configuration (2 serial ports, 1 parallel port, 4 to 8 USB ports, 1 PS/2 port), due to public demand.
Despite all the stereotypes about Japan being on the edge of technology, most of the economy is still being run by the older generations who refuse to upgrade technology. This Cracked article has no qualms about shattering the illusions of many a Japanophile of how glorious the country must be by pointing out that most banks do not have outdoor ATMS, many businesses do not accept credit cards of any sort, and most businesses still operate using fax machines, paper, and a good old-fashioned #2 pencil. Much like the NASA examples listed above, many computers being used in businesses are likely to be primitive 80's or pre-Windows 95 systems just because they know that the systems work. It's like the old adage: "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."
In the early 1990's there were several big news stories about people who had heart attacks, strokes, etc and were saved by their online friends who called the person's home police department. The Internet is so prevalent today that while these stories can still make news, they aren't such a big deal anymore.
Most of the world's embedded devices (more basic than your cellphone), either uses Intel's 186 (1982), Intel's 8051 (1982) Freescale's 68MC000 (based on the Motorola 68000 from 1979), Zilog Z80 (1976), MOS 6502 (1975), and various 8-bit micro-controllers from PIC, AVR, etc. Why? Because they don't need features of a modern processor, they're simple to program, and they tend to use a lot less power (important for a sensor that needs to stay out for weeks without intervention). ARM has come out with cheap yet effective 32-bit micro-controllers, but it also comes with the complexities of such, so the 8-bit/16-bit guys will still be around for a while.
Pixar recently rewrote their animation software for Brave. It was the first time they had done this in 25 years.
Fax machines don't seem to be going away just yet...
Linguists - not that long ago - wondered where the various branches of English would go. Some people said that within 200 years or so, British and American English will have little in common. However, this was mostly said by aging linguistics scholars in the 1980's. Then the Internet came along, and we're talking to each other, watching each other's TV programs, talking live to each other on headsets as we play World of Warcraft... and it seems English is moving closer together rather than apart. Almost all similar languages are experiencing this now.
The same effect is intensifying the pressure against minority languages. Except for those groups that are intentionally insular (living among people who speak a different mother tongue, but not with them) many minority language groups are finding themselves dying out faster than ever.
Rather weirdly, branches of major languages are coming closer due to modern media (albeit slowly, as the German spoken in Vienna has plenty of different words and a funny pronunciation compared to Standard German), while languages who evolve apart from modern media (regional dialects which are not taught in school and do not creep into TV or newspaper speech) are going away from standard language. Centralized school systems prior to 1980 forced the standard language on all social groups in a country, which does no longer happen.
It is several decades ago by now, but the effect the invention of IC chips had on storage is more profound than its effect on the processing of data. Before IC chip memory, every single bit of RAM had to be built manually, which made the very idea of storing large amounts of data electronically pretty much absurd; if a computing device in fiction back then could store much data, it was probably a full-blown AI. When IC chip memory came into general use, memory size became very firmly hitched to the Moore's Law*
the classical Moore's Law, mind you; it's all about the number of transistors you can fit on the chip
rocket, and since then the sky is no longer the limit. Current trends of solid-state hard drives (which as flash drives are just another application of IC chips) replacing magnetic disks may be the final step in which older types of memory are replaced.
A.I. Love You has the protagonist getting worked up over the prospect of having a computer with one gigabyte of storage space on the hard disk.
Cowboy Bebop: Faye Valentine's home videos in the 2000's were taped on Betamax. 54 years later, she has to resort to raiding an abandoned museum to find a working machine to play them on — whereas VHS machines are still ubiquitous and readily available second-hand. Even in 1998, when Cowboy Bebop was released, Betamax machines were becoming scarce; while Sony managed to keep the format on life support in Japan until 2002, pretty much everyone had moved on long before that. Now, in 2011, Betamax machines are considered collectors' items, and it's already become difficult to find one in working order (much less one of the better ones from the format's early-1980s peak). However, VHS machines have not only not disappeared completely, they're still available new (as part of optical combo decks), and as in the show, they're a fixture at second-hand shops. It helps that VHS's wild popularity and Long Runner status (it's been available since 1977) means that there's huge libraries of tapes still in use.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: KaibaCorp is one of the largest companies in the world, and their supercomputers use floppy disks. This comes from the same company that has machines that can project holograms and other highly-advanced technology.
Pokémon has a character in the Advanced Challenge season's Castform showcase episode use a floppy disk to store information on Castform. The episode in question aired in 2004, when USB flash drives started to become commonplace among computer users, and computers began phasing out their floppy drives.
The forgettable and all-but-forgotten 2001 film One Night at McCool's features numerous characters oohing and awwing over the fact that one of the characters owns... a DVD player. (Annoyingly, everybody refers to it as a DVD.) It'd be a minor thing, but the movie just keeps harping on it, with two characters even deciding to rob the DVD player owner's house, and arguing heatedly about who get to keep this fine luxury item. This was bordering on dated even in 2001, when DVD players were falling rapidly in price. Might have made more sense circa '97-98 when they were still very new.
Johnny Mnemonic, a 1995 film set Twenty Minutes into the Future in which the protagonist sacrifices his long term memory to be able to transport 80Gb of data in his head, 160 if he uses a doubler. He finally squeezes 320, but spends the rest of the film having seizures and headaches and dying because of it. J-Bone also urges people to get their VCRs ready to record the story's MacGuffin from their pirate TV broadcast.
The original short story, written in the 80s by the same author as Neuromancer below, the units were megabytes.
100 terabyte by 2024? It looks like a lot today, but by then, it might very well look as pointless as an increased density floppy.
Could just be a case of the terminology outlasting the actual item. Recording engineers still talk of "tapes" even in entirely-digital recording studios, and a lot of people talk about capturing an event "on film" even though they were using a camcorder or a digital camera, and "hanging up on someone" is still understood to mean disconnecting a phone call no matter what kind of phone it is.
The makers of Free Enterprise, a 1998 film, were avid collectors of movies on LaserDisc, as were the film's characters. The movie includes a scene filmed on location in Los Angeles' premier LaserDisc shop, and the long-awaited LaserDisc release of Logan's Run even provides one of the movie's central metaphors. The format was already in its death throes while the movie was being made. By the time most audiences saw the film, it was quite dead, and those audiences almost certainly were watching it on... DVD. Free Enterprise also has the distinction of being one of the last films to be released in the LaserDisc format.
Used for laughs in SLC Punk when a wealthy punk rocker in the 1980s brags about his new LaserDisc player, a technology that would very quickly become obsolete.
There's a wonderful scene in the 1951 film When Worlds Collide: A rocket is built to rescue a small remnant of humanity from the impending destruction of Earth, taking with them the entirety of human knowledge. Queue a room full of people frantically scanning encyclopedias onto microfilm.
RoboCop predicted several pieces of technology that would become mainstays in later years (notably, the fact that VHS would be succeeded by videodiscs - a la LaserDisc and DVD, and Dick Jones' PDA-like tracking device). However, it also made it a point to show that Old Detroit's police department stored its records on the most advanced technology (funded by OCP) - tape-to-tape reels, which are shown as taking up a massive amount of space in the department. This concept carried over to the 1994 television series, even though the series had a Twenty Minutes into the Future aesthetic and computers were in the process of minaturization.
In Tim Burton's Batman Returns, a big deal is made about the Batmobile having an on-board CD recorder. At the time, this seemed incredibly futuristic; now, after the rise of flash memory storage for music, it seems more pointless than anything else. Imagine the kind of Bat-Suspension the laser would need.
Hackers, made in 1995, has many examples. First and foremost is that the main storage media is 3.5" floppies. While Dade is fiddling with Kate's brand-new laptop, she mentions that it has an internal 28.8 kbps modem (an impressive amount at the time; for an internal modem, doubly so). The tech-savvy team of hackers mostly have pagers rather than cell phones. And also, the trick of using recorded dial tones to spoof pay phones into accessing pay-to-call numbers was obsolete even when the movie came out.
In the first Wayne's World, Wayne puts a CD in his dashboard CD player and Cassandra asks him when he got a CD player. He responds "With the money!" (that he had gotten from selling the rights to his cable access show). Portable CD players then were still pricey and status symbols - cassette tapes were still big in 1991.
In the 1990 film Taking Care of Business, Jim Belushi plays an escaped prisoner. At one point, in a bid to flatter some guy, he acts all impressed by the guy's IBM PC, specifically mentioning, in awestruck terms, its "20-megabyte hard drive".
Also, the entire plot hinges on the fact that Belushi's character is able to impersonate a stuck up advertising exec due to having found...his filofax.
In Men In Black, K shows J a miniature (about thumbnail sized) disc and says "they're going to replace cds soon". Not only were mini-discs larger than that, when they did come out they didn't exactly catch on, and nowadays we have pretty much abandoned discs entirely for music.
Timothy Zahn's The Cobra Trilogy has mostly no indication that it was written in the 1980s... then a character mentions storing computer data on a cassette. On the other hand, still nothing beats tape in the term of the long-time archive storage of large amounts of data.
The Novelization of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan features a scene where some researchers on a space station orbiting an alien planet are enthusing over the brand-new, high-tech magnetic bubble memory storage device they've invented. It's the size of a filing cabinet, and stores an amazing 40 megabytes of data. Later Star Trek works introduced the fictional quad unit of computer memory capacity to avoid this sort of problem in the future.
They Just Didn't Care. 500 pages of printed text is about 1.5 MB. Depending on how the data is presented and exactly how big a file cabinet they were talking about, they could a much better data-to-space ratio with paper.
Notably averted (to date) by Iain Banks in Consider Phlebas: the Mind awaiting rescue amuses itself by calculating its data storage capacity, and gets up to a thousand yottabytes before giving up the metaphor because its capacity is too many thousands of times greater than that (as of 2010, the entire internet is estimated at half a thousandth yottabyte).
For a storage device of a different kind, some of the Myth Adventures novels show minor characters being stunned by Skeeve's incredible wealth because he carries (gasp!) a credit card.
An early plot point of William Gibson's Neuromancer involves the hustler protagonist moving "three megabytes of hot RAM" — enough, apparently, to kill for. Life's cheap in Gibson's future Chiba City, but probably not that cheap. Other stories set in the Sprawl feature things as complex as human memories recorded on tape.
In Dream Park, the Griffin boasts of being the best thief in the world. One of the examples he facetiously cites, to prove his credentials, is his claim of having procured the only existing copy of Star Wars. Pre-digital media and mass-market home video, this probably did seem impressive.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of the first murder mysteries to feature the use of a sound recorder as part of the murder plot (written in The Roaring Twenties). Specifically a Dictaphone is used, and part of the reason the murderer is found out is that he needed to move furniture to conceal the large machine.
The End of Eternity uses punchtape, film - which takes two meters to store a bookcase, and a molecular recorder - sixty million words in less than a cubic inch. The last one would have been still impressive by today's standards had it been recording words as sound, but an attached transliterator is described.
Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey series makes this list again. In 3001: The Final Odyssey, the current method of data storage is a glass-like block that holds 1 Terabyte. While having it use a transparent medium is still out of reach, 1TB of storage is nothing special in 2012, let alone 3001.
Actually, the storage device of the future was a 1 petabyte data block, which could hold 1000 terabytes. The character explaining the device that a petabyte is "where [they] start," implying that it is the equivalent of a 2GB memory drive.
In Gerard O'Neill's 2081, a 1981 futurist treatise incorporating fiction segments, the orbital-colonist narrator marvels over various high-tech gadgets he encounters while visiting Earth. One of these, a "slate" that functions as an e-book reader, can store at least a hundred thousand words; not only is this a much lower capacity than a present-day Kindle or Nook, but it's hard to believe anyone from an orbital colony would've grown up reading non-digital books.
The novel Jurassic Park has the program which tracks the dinosaurs. It stops counting when it reaches the target numbers, as that is all that's necessary to make sure if all the dinosaurs are in their enclosures, to save processor cycles. This, of course, comes back to bite the heroes when it turns out the dinosaurs have begun to breed. For the time, it was a reasonable, if slightly shortsighted, set-up. For the modern reader, whose cellphone has more processing power than the park supercomputer, it seems mind-bogglingly stupid.
Live Action TV
In the 1980s revival of Mission: Impossible, Jim Phelps' trademark reel to reel tapes are updated to a small CD-Rom device. In the pilot episode when he gets his first mission, he takes a second to marvel at the small disc in his hand saying to himself "Time DOES march on."
This process is justified in Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (2009), where DVD were rendered obsolete and VHS tapes were phased back in when it was realised that nobody could get the DVD back into their cases. This may also be an in-joke since video boxes frequently appeared in earlier series, which were filmed in the late-Eighties and Nineties. Then there was that time they once digitally stored Lister's mind on an audio cassette.
Not just any audiocassette, either, they used a microcassette from a dictaphone. These are still around today, outliving their larger cousins, but are generally even shorter.
Which, presumably, was the whole point of the joke.
Two notable examples from the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1997-98. When Angel loses his soul and reverts to evil, the information that Willow needed to restore Angel's soul was stored on a 3 1/2 inch floppy disk that fell between desks. Earlier, Joyce's boyfriend Ted, who worked for a computer company, curried favor with Willow by giving her freebies from work, including a new hard drive with a gargantuan capacity of 9 gigabytes - a tad more than a $15 USB drive could hold little more than a decade later.
Examples from Babylon 5 (written in 1994-99, happens in 2257-62):
Reports are routinely passed around on paper. This was supposed to be more realistic than Star Trek, in which paper has disappeared from common use. It remains to be seen which show's depiction of the 23rd century is more realistic, but bear in mind that the "paperless office" has been confidently predicted as imminent since the early 1970s. The series itself Lampshaded this in one episode, where a character bemoans the fact that "every time someone tells me we're moving to a paperless society, I get three new forms to fill out."
One thing that is pretty jarring to modern eyes is the frequent use of Universe Today (a reader-customizable Captain ErsatzIN SPACE! of USA Today), as a print newspaper. A decade later, and print journalism is a dying medium. Whoops.
In "Deathwalker", Garibaldi refers to a character named Abbut as a "vicker", a cyborg who acts as an all-purpose recorder (Kosh hired him to record Talia's thoughts). According to Garibaldi, the term "vicker" is a phonetic pronunciation of VCR. One wonders what they would have called him in the DVD and Blu-ray era. (A "daver"note from DVR, maybe?)
"Data crystals" are commonly used to carry important data, and seemed pretty cool and futuristic at a time when the CD-ROM was just starting to be widely used and "multiple floppy disks" was still a common storage method. But today, the data crystals are larger and a bit more clunkier than a USB drive, with no clear advantage in capacity over that 21st century storage medium.
The original Star Trek references tapes as data storage. The later series, did, at least, take measures to specifically avoid this trope by inventing their own fictional unit of data storage, the quad, and avoiding giving any quad-byte ratio, in the light of data storage capabilities constantly rising quicker than people might initially predict.
One aversion (though it might not be in a few years' time) was when they gave the storage capacity of Data's positronic brain in Star Trek: The Next Generation as "eight hundred quadrillion bits". In other words, one hundred petabytes, which is still one hundred thousand times larger than the average computer hard drive in 2011. Quite brave considering the episode was written in The Eighties.
The Disney Channel original movie Twas the Night (released in 2001) has Santa, Kaitlin, and Peter going to the computer store to use a top-of-the-line computer there to hack into the sleigh's computer. Kaitlin comments that the computer has an 8 GHz processor, a 1 terabyte hard drive, and... 512 megabytes of RAM. The former two avert this trope as they are still quite high-end, while the latter one is fairly low-end today.
In the Doctor Who episode Logopolis the highly advanced aliens who are holding the world together with pure mathematics use bubble memory. As the Doctor puts it, "Bubble memory is non-volatile. Remove the power and the bit patterns are still retained in tiny magnetic domains in these chips!" The writer was a computer scientist and bubble memory was quite cutting edge in 1981. Nowadays, not so much. This still isn't as bad as The Ark in Space where the entirety of human knowledge on a space station built in the 30th century is stored on microfilm.
In a 1970s episode of Columbo, the murderer was a rich TV actor played by William Shatner who faked an alibi using an amazing high-tech wonder called a VCR. (He tricked an acquaintance into thinking they were watching the ballgame together at the time of the murder.) Columbo was appropriately awed when Shatner showed the VCR off to him and explained how such a device would cost about three thousand dollars. (Today you can get a DVD player for less than a hundred dollars and that's without taking inflation into account.) At the end Columbo commented that it was "very brave" of Shatner to show him the VCR, saying "you certainly like to take a chance."
A 1980s episode has Columbo fascinated with a fax machine in much the same manner.
In an episode of The X-Files, a FBI computer expert tells Mulder and Scully that the information they got from... somewhere would be enough to fill "seven 10 gigabyte hard drives". Not one seventy gigabyte hard drive, no, "seven ten gigabyte hard drives".
This might be more subtle than it appears. Until the early 2000's, you had to make a rather strange choice in hard drives for big systems: You could go for the types of hard drives used in P Cs (which were rapidly growing into the hundreds of gigabytes in size) or you could go for the smaller but faster SCSI drives, which were limited to 10 GB for a long time. The latter largely died out when the former got as fast as them.
In a 1980 episode of Buck Rogers, Buck is put on trial for evidence taken from a Betamax videotape from 1987. The show seems to have assumed that VHS would have been supplanted by Sony's Betamax as the dominant video format by this time. In fact, by 1987, VHS had clearly won the format war, and in early 1988, Sony effectively surrendered when it announced the production of the company's first VHS-format VCRs. That said, Betamax didn't really die in the US until the mid-1990s, when Sony stopped selling blank tapes for it, and even had one more decade in Japan.
On the other hand, the tape in question was never specifically referred to as a Betamax tape by any of the characters, so this is probably just a case of the production staff using whatever props they happened to have lying around at the time and figuring the viewers wouldn't notice or care. (Seeing as how this was one of the last episodes filmed before the series was cancelled, it's likely the production staff didn't care, either.))
This, of course, assumes that the videotape (and the equipment needed to play it) was either preserved or restored in such a way as to render it playable five centuries into the future. Most magnetic media would do well to last 50-100 years under controlled conditions.
The grand prize for contestants who caught Carmen on Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego? was a desktop computer with an 850 MB hard drive. 850 megabytes. Yeah. Now, those lucky winners can fit their whole computers on USB drives and still have space left.
JAG: In 3rd season episode “Impact” (1998), when escaping from the Bradenhurst facility, Harm captures a 3.5” floppy disc containing digital photos of the UFO-like UCAV, taken directly out from a digital camera.
No Aphrodisiac by the Whitlams (released 1997) contains the opening lyric 'A letter to you on a cassette...' Still a great song though.
"Somebody That I Used To Know", the Gotye/Kimbra duet that has (as of this writing) become the biggest selling single of 2012, has a line in the chorus: "But you didn't have to stoop so low / Send your friends to collect your records and then change your number". I grant that Gotye wrote the song about a relationship that was some time in his past, but even well before 2012 there probably would not have been many actual "records" to collect (assuming that it means in Australian English what it means in American English, i.e. the vinyl kind).
Some might argue that "record" isn't a format but a general description of music, and works better lyrically than C Ds or MP3 files.
In the first edition of Rifts published in 1991 and taking place about 300 years in the future, the hand-held computer listed in the equipment section is described as having a "dual drive system, 150 megabytes hard drive with 4 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM) and uses one inch disk." Later reprints removed specific capabilities on the computers and simply had it state that the computers in Rifts are 100 times better than the ones that are used currently (which is still bad; Moore's Law predicts computers reaching 100 times better in just over 13 years).
The song "Mix Tape" and accompanying scene from Avenue Q, which debuted on Broadway in 2003. The term "mix tape" itself is still commonly used, even though said "tape" nowadays would most likely be an MP3 playlist, but Princeton specifically tells Kate that he went through his CD collection and made her a tape, and later on they both mention "side A" and "side B" while they look through the songs he picked. The most recent off-Broadway and touring productions of Avenue Q have changed and updated some of the other lines and dialogue in the play in order to stay as current as possible, but so far this charmingly dated little scene remains untouched.
Parodied in Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, when Minuteman brags how the Freedom Fortress' computer (which is made from alien technology, mind you) can store "hundreds of kilobytes of information" (the game itself requires over half a million kilobytes).
Note: that game is set in the 1960s.
Many DOS-era games (Duke Nukem, Jazz Jackrabbit...) had floppy disks as collectible items. (Often said to carry a copy of the game.) CDs were used briefly like this as well before the 3D age took over.
Done intentionally for some 1980's nostalgia in World in Conflict, when one of the U.S. soldiers shows his buddy the latest and greatest gadget of the day....a portable CD player.
The episode of Futurama where they must perform an episode of Single Female Lawyer for aliens because all VHS tapes were destroyed during the Second Coming of Christ. No DVDs or YouTube in the future?
In "I Dated a Robot" the people at KidNappster have Lucy Liu's personality copied onto a floppy disk, which they use to create evil duplicates of her. Of course this also might be Rule of Funny. It's pointed out in the DVD Commentary if you want to take a look.
Though Word Of God is that because the world has ended before, technology is a little...funky.
Played with in another episode, "Mother's Day", when Mom gathers all robots together and declares she won't be around forever...When a cassette player goes "Oh, shush."
For some reason, any attempts to update the Transformer Soundwave's alt mode from tape deck to a more modern audio storage device is very likely to be flat-out rejected before coming to fruition, which is odd, since - as a communications specialist and spy for the Decepticons - you'd expect him to keep with the times and alter his alt mode, accordingly to keep from being spotted due to how Zeerust his original form looks. Even a recent toy of his that doubles as a functional MP3 player is modeled wholescale from his original tape deck form. Evidently, his underlings aren't as picky as he is.
This is parodied in a Robot Chicken sketch where Soundwave is sent to infiltrate a science lab. He disguises himself as a boom box; the scientists are quick to laugh at the out of date equipment. Rumble, labeled as '1985 Summer of Love' has his tape pulled out and dies, and Soundwave's D batteries are removed and he's sold on Ebay.
Shockwave:Request permission to buy it now!
Part of the problem is that Soundwave's G1 toy was insanely iconic and popular, that changing him to a new vehicle (like a car or satellite or drone aircraft) eliminates why people love him.
An issue of the Marvel comic takes the cake, though, by ending with Optimus Prime's mind being copied onto a floppy disk.
In the South Park episode "Here Come The Neighborhood", circa 2000, the kids mock Token for being from a rich enough family to have a DVD player and not knowing what a VHS is. New viewers could soon have the same question.
Arthur used the record player joke in the episode where Francine plays Thomas Edison in a school play.
Mr. Ratburn: Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph. (deadly silence) The ... record player? (more silence) It was before CDs. Plastic hadn't been invented yet.
Anyone remember Digital Audio Tape? Thought not. Think of them as digital 8-track tapes...Oh, you don't remember 8-tracks? DAT seemed to be around in the early 1990s in radio/audio, as a more stable digital recording format than CDs, which tended to scratch and skip. DATs were replaced by minidiscs. Oh, forget it...
Well, not quite — DAT and MD (MiniDisc) actually hit the market at roughly the same time. DAT died fairly swiftly in the consumer-audio world due to the RIAA throwing a hissy-fit over how its ability to make perfect bitwise copies would promote piracy (sound familiar) and threatening lawsuits if it was marketed to consumers, but it hung around in the professional-audio world for quite a while, and as a data-storage and backup format as well. The MD, on the other hand, was quite popular in Asia and Europe, but didn't do well in the US due mostly to some mis-aimed marketing by Sony which made people think MD was supposed to replace the CD (this in the early-to-mid-90s, when most people hadn't even finished making the leap from LP to CD yet!) when what it really was, was the logical successor to cassettes because you could record and erase them at will on a portable device, which couldn't be done with CDs back then.
A common complaint about "obsolete computer entities we still use" (the fifty-cent term for which is 'skeuomorphisms') is the floppy disk icon for saving. A lot of people probably don't even know what it is now.
Funnily enough, it feels like optical disks are going this route, due to the cheapness of external hard drives and the capacity of thumb disks. When was the last time someone asked you to burn them a CD/DVD for data?
If you work in the US Department of Defense, probably last week.* The ban on USB drives on government computers dates back to an infected drive that introduced a worm into the network. The situation was not helped by Brad Manning (who ironically used still-approved CDs to leak classified information). USB drives are slowly coming back, but only in restricted circumstances.
If you need to send a lot of data (like >1 TB) probably the courier service and harddrives is better option then using connection.
Averted in some open source programs, which now use an icon of an arrow pointing down at a hard drive. As far as we know, these aren't going anywhere.
Inverted with Emacs, which uses an icon of an arrow pointing down at a file cabinet — although any real Emacs user knows the toolbar is for newbies, and that the proper way to save a file is by pressing Control-x Control-f, or Control-x Control-w to "save as".
This may seem backwards, but it's deliberately so; it takes an order of magnitude less time for a seasoned typist to enter those keystrokes than it takes anyone, however practiced, to reach for a mouse or touchpad, maneuver a pointer over an icon, and click a button to issue the same command; the former can easily be done in less than a tenth of a second, while the latter's difficult to do in less than a whole second. When the command in question might well be issued hundreds of times over the course of a working day, such differences matter — especially because pausing to use the mouse is a distraction from the deep concentration and unbroken train of thought necessary to write good code.
Similarly, Lotus SmartSuite, last updated in 2002, uses an icon of an arrow pointing into a file folder. Naturally, in its successor Symphony, ever-state-of-the-art Lotus has replaced that icon with...a floppy disk.
LibreOffice has also reverted to the floppy disk icon as of version 4.
Computer Science has a trend on this:
Hard Disks are usually represented as a tall cylinder on disk activity LEDs. There haven't been hard disks shaped like this in decades. Similarly, some logical HDD addressing schemes still use cylinders, heads and sectors.
Databases are still represented by the tall cylinder as well, referencing the old HDD symbol.
Actually, it's probably closer to the other way around: the flow chart symbol for data store is a cylinder, referencing types of persistent storage that were common before magnetic disks (floppy and hard alike).
Eventually, hard disks themselves will be this trope, as Solid-State Drives are making headway — although SS Ds' uptake will continue to be limited by the fact that flash memory can't be written non-destructively, meaning that every time you save a file to that shiny new SSD, you're measurably shortening its remaining lifetime. Mechanical hard disks, in spite of those who disparage them as "spinning rust", have no such inherent limitation; especially when power cycles are avoided (i.e., the disk is kept constantly spinning, which is actually easier on the hardware than stopping and restarting it would be) it's not unusual for a server-class hard disk to remain continuously in service for ten years or more.
Some PCs identify Ethernet ports with an icon showing 2 or more PCs connected to a single line. The bus architecture represented by such icon is no longer in use, and current Ethernet interfaces don't even work like that anymore.
Unfortunately for John Logie Baird, his AVD was a no-starter. Still, recording an actual image on something other than a roll of film was really something for the 1920s.
Around the same time the leading Soviet electronics magazine, "The Radio", discussed recordingmechanicalTV programs on the blank phonograph disks or celluloid tape, with sound.
Baird made it work; the Soviets didn't.
In 1956, this was the modern day equivalent of a flash drive.
Never mind the size, note the price - it leased for $3200 a month. For $2500 you could own, outright, a new Chevy convertible.
As of 2011, motion pictures are still often called films, despite the fact that a large number are no longer shot on or projected with film. Similarly, directors often talk about filming a scene.
Editing is done digitally now, but we still use terms like left on the cutting room floor. Traditional animation is sometimes still called cel animation although actual cels have mostly been replaced by digital ink and paint.
As anyone with eternal (or near-eternal) archive legal requirements knows, in the 80s, it was popular to microfilm important documents for easier mass storage. As anyone trying to digitize these archives knows, these neat, little microfilms are a pain in the neck to use and quite time consuming to transfer to computer.
Brazil had a magazine called Revista do CD-ROM (Magazine of the CD-ROM), which had an attached CD with programs. 15 years and 175 issues later, it evolved into Revista do DVD-ROM in 2010. Then in 2013 it became Revista dos Apps, ditching the bonus media for only web and computer journalism.
Old computer interfaces certainly didn't look like a modern one; computer programs came in the form of punch cards, and they were ugly. It mostly applies to works from before the 90's.
Live Action TV
The creators of Star Trek: The Next Generation were aware of how outdated it looked by having starships in the future being run by dials, switches, sliders, knobs, and buttons (really, The Original Series has not aged well in this regard,) so they decided to invent a new interface to run the starships and computers by: The LCARS interface. This let the actors look like they were controlling the ship entirely through a touch interface, and that touching the same small series of buttons could read out numerous different functions. The catch is, back when this was first envisioned, Windows had only just begun it's fight in becoming the most preferred interface to use for computers, so all the starships and computers in the future are run by what is basically a touch screen version of DOS.
This in turn, was intentionally Inverted in Star Trek: Voyager by history and pop culture enthusiast Tom Paris. When given the task of inventing a new type of shuttle craft for Voyager, he intentionally designed the cockpit with an entire section of knobs, switches, and a flight stick to control the craft with because of the nostalgic feel it gave, despite being pointed out by Tuvok that it was functionally unnecessary since the LCARS was still just as efficient. Paris also included this because he was well aware that the computers could fail, and having a flight stick for manual control would allow him to fly the craft better during an emergency.
The bizarre 3D interface in Jurassic Park that has been mentioned in passing above is actually a subversion, as it was a real file-browsing tool made for a custom UNIX distro that shipped with Silicon Graphics workstations. Its presence on the security system is explained, too - the machine running it (or at least managing it) is sitting under Nedry's desk, and it's an SGI IRIS Crimson, which will in fact run fsn.
"Spared no expense!"
Of course, fsn itself was little more than a gimmick designed to show off the then-remarkable 3D rendering capabilities of SGI hardware - many early 3D movies were rendered on SGI equipment, and Open GL was born there. Then, as now, real work was generally done in a terminal emulator, then as now most often the venerable xterm — even today, The Other Wiki lists xterm first among the most commonly used software of its type. (Occasionally one hears the complaint that xterm hasn't gained a feature since 1990, and this is quite true; the error is in regarding it as cause for complaint, when in fact the true reason why xterm hasn't gained new features in two decades is because it's been that long since it needed any.)
Isaac Asimov's The Fun They Had mostly avoids this trope, aside from the digital books being on a TV screen. But when the only things keeping school days from being utopian is the computer being large and ugly and the tedious punch cards (the elimination of a facet of society doesn't count, as the main characters don't mind that and it eliminates many, many problems.) this becomes a Plot Hole. And the computers are glitchy and require an actual repairman to come in and fix problems. You'd think that Asimov would expect such problems to be fixed by the 24th century in which this short story takes place.
In The End of Eternity, everyone walks around with a decoder for punch tapes - and no one thinks to put one in a mainframe.
Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress has Mike, a computer that can be programmed from multiple locations!! However, when he gets glitchy, they have to call in a computer repairman (who got expensive training in microcircuitry back on Earth) who can program him at the main computer using the powerful microtools of his mechanical arm.
A computer with 1 1/2 times as many circuits as there are neurons in the human brain is going to be big. Maybe in 20 or 30 years time it will seem laughable, but by today's standards this is about right.
Stanislaw Lem's old fifties novel Astronauci ("The Astronauts"), set in 2003, features a spaceship's computer which has no textual interface at all, instead displaying all its output as wavey graphs without any numbers or words. The operators must specifically learn to read these.
Those would be analog computers. Unlike digital computers, which solve scientific problems by number-crunching (not unlike manual computations on paper), analog computers compute by forming an electrical circuit whose behaviour matches the mathematical formula of interest. The output device was typically an oscilloscope or a roll of graph paper. Due to imperfections in the electrical components (in particular, they tend to be sensitive to temperature) the results were always only approximate, but the same is true for slide rules. The number of components needed to do useful scientific calculations with analog computers are orders of magnitude lower than for digital computers, so before integrated circuits were invented, analog computers were a more natural match for manned spacecraft.
Command Line Interfaces (CLI) still exist, despite the fact that only a small fraction of computer users can use them effectively. While commonplace up until the early 90s, they're a mystery to the mainstream world, so much so that some people actually think such interfaces are magical tools capable of Hollywood Hacking. Which is actually kinda-sorta-somewhat true; a well-used CLI handily outdoes a GUI for whole categories of tasks - like, say, making a text file listing everything in a given directory, or batching a hundred repetitive jobs into one single instruction.
For the curious, the UNIX commands to write a file listing everything in a directory are script output.txt, ls, and control-c.
Can be averted/subverted in the case of OS's, due to their longer adaptation rate over technological improvements.
Averted in the case of Mac OS X, even though there were some noticeable GUI changes over the years, the first cut of the OS (10 years ago) doesn't seem that bad compared to the current version.
Also averted with Windows XP, which, over ten years after its initial release, is still one of the most used operating systems in the world.
This has much to do with the fact that Windows XP was on the market for seven years, and when it finally had a successor, the world economy was noticed to be getting shaky and lots of companies were rather fed up with being shafted by Microsoft's bad habits in the upgrade department. (Specifically. Microsoft had sold contracts that promised all the new versions of your Microsoft products that came out during the three-year-run of the contract...and then took four to seven years to replace most of the existing products. It made it awkward for CTO's who had advocated buying what turned out to be entirely worthless contracts.)
"Check Out Life Before Cell Phones"
The widely-available cellphone is a major Trope Breaker, leading to many clumsy explanations for why cell phones don't work in particular circumstances. And far fewer characters get murdered in a phone booth these days, for instance.
The mobile phone is actually Older than You Think, though, especially in the form of a "car phone." While expensive and limited in many ways, commercially-available car phone technology dates back to the late 1940s, often with radio used to contact an operator, who then would patch the call into the regular phone system. An episode of the 1950s TV series Superman shows editor Perry White using the MTS radiotelephone in his car to call his office.
Related to the cell phone trend is Caller-ID, which has put a damper on the once-common childhood pastime of prank phone calls. On most phone systems, it's possible to override Caller-ID on a per-call basis... but then the problem becomes the fact that many people won't answer calls from "Unknown Caller" or "Blocked Number".
Anime & Manga
Lampshaded on Detective Conan, when Conan realizes something was amiss that a famous novelist is still writing plots that have been outmoded thanks to just about everybody and their brother having cell phones. It turned out that the said novelist's brother locked him into an attic and forced him to go on writing.
In the final arc of the Patlabor manga (written in the late '80s - early '90s, set in the late '90s - early 2000s) the bad guys attack the police station where the protagonists are stationed during a hurricane to force a Griffon - Ingram match. To prevent anybody from interfering, they blow up the bridges leading to the station and wreck any landline phones and radios they can find (including a car phone) so the protagonists can't call for help. Considering how common cell phones were in the early 2000s... Yeah.
Which is strange because they averted this in an earlier episode where the same bad guys use the Phantom, a robot with a retractable electronic warfare suite in its torso that jams communications.
Most cell phones probably don't have coverage inside the belly of a retrofitted alien warship that is currently somewhere out near the orbit of Neptune. Macross can also get a pass for having a history that diverges from ours beginning with a prolonged global war that only ends after the catastrophic impact of said warship in 1999. Technological innovation has simply gone in different directions.
In Sailor Moon, for something that is from the future, Luna-P is extremely dated in her (its?) function as a communication device. The sound quality is absolutely awful, and Sailor Pluto is barely recognisable on the screen. Could be excusable however seeing as how she's calling THROUGH TIME.
In Revolutionary Girl Utena, super rich and powerful playboy Akio drives around town (and pretty much everyplace else) in a souped-up convertible. Everything about the car is meant to emphasize extreme luxury, and its crowning feature is the inclusion of a car phone. When the show came out, this was an item only typically only used by powerful and wealthy businessmen, so it underscored what a well-connected player Akio was. Nowadays, it looks downright quaint, and makes the car look like a 20 year old model that Akio got second hand.
There was a time when Iron Man, maker and wearer of a flying super-strong suit of armor, had a rotary phone built into his armor. To be fair, although Tony Stark being a genius inventor might explain a tiny portable telephone, there was no way, at the time, that it wouldn't have looked like a Star Trek ripoff. So a phone built into his chest complete with dial and cord must seemed like a good compromise. It just looks very odd now; they could at least have given him a throat-mic.
Batman and Robin have been known to use a hotline to talk to Commissioner Gordon. Several stories implied that the Batphone worked off of a direct physical phoneline that went all the way from Wayne Manor to police headquarters. One example is an actual phone, cord and everything, in the glove compartment of the Batmobile. Also, they've used radios to talk to each other, but it was something hidden in their belts.
The iconic Bat Signal itself may qualify. Originally introduced in the 1940's, it was a handy way for Gordon to tell Batman he needed to see him when Bats wasn't near the hotline phone. Once tech rendered the Bat Signal unnecessary, later stories have dealt with the problem by implying that the real purpose of the signal is to inspire hope in the people of Gotham, and remind them that there is someone looking out for them.
The fan fiction "The Prince" is an alternate retelling of the story of Jesus Christ from the New Testament set in the Midwest USA and in the present day. It was originally written in the year 2000. In this fanfic, the character Lucas has a cell phone. Back in 2000, a 13 year old in the 8th grade was unlikely to have a cell phone- so the author included this to show that Lucas was the most scientific, intellectual, and techno-savvy of all of Joshua Christopher's friends. Nowadays, this would not work so well, since many kids that age do have cell phones. Author would have to have Lucas have at least an iPad in order to show his nerdiness.
In Back to the Future II, Doc and Marty use walkie-talkies with ridiculously long range. Had they been to the real 2015, they could've gotten cell phones. (On the other hand, they wouldn't have gotten a lot of cell phone service in 1955.)
In 1957, it actually wasn't new, it was just really expensive. It took three things to make these into cell phones as we know them: Electronics that were smaller and used much less power, batteries with much higher energy densities, and what's called Code-Division Multiple-Access (CDMA) that allowed small 'slices' of bandwidth on each channel to be shared out between multiple users at once, allowing the cost of the system to be spread over many more users. The technology used in 1957 for car phones was essentially available in 1942 (although they probably used transistors, invented in 1949, by 1957).
In A Clockwork Orange, Alex's gang's MO for breaking into houses is to knock on doors reporting an accident and ask to use the telephone. These days it would be more suspicious that no one has a cellphone in the supposed accident.
In Richard Lester's 1965 Swinging London movie The Knack, a pompous guy is using a limo phone. Tom, a rather mad young man, holds up a potted plant and taps at the window. When the guy rolls it down, Tom tells him "Pardon me, sir, you're wanted on the other fern."
The famous "Birth" sketch (also known as "The Machine that goes Ping") from Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life was, at the time, a cutting satire on what was seen as unnecessary spending on medical equipment. Nowadays, anyone who's seen a modern medical drama, with the surgeons surrounded by massive banks of electronic equipment, may wonder what all the fuss is about — to the point that operating without such equipment nowadays would be seen as unusual and dangerous. Other parts of the sketch though remain relevant.
However, this YouTube clip is widely circulated among pregnant women, as much of that technology in obstetrics (particularly the Continuous External Fetal Monitor, analogized to "The Machine That Goes Ping") has been discredited as ineffective and even harmful to the normal process of birth. For example, routine use of the CEFM has been proven to increase C-Section rates WITHOUT actually improving outcomes for infants or mothers, due to an enormously high rate of false positives for "fetal distress."
Further, they didn't bring in the equipment for any alleged benefit to the mother or child, but solely because the Director of the Hospital was seen to be coming their way and they wanted to impress him. He turned out to be an even bigger twit than any of the medical staff were. And at the end, they berate the mother for asking the sex of the baby, inform her that since she's going to have Postpartum Depression she's going to be on 'Happy Pills' and then all leave her there in the delivery room, surrounded by random equipment.
The film was made at around the time the Natural Childbirth movement was gaining serious traction in the UK- some (though not all) of its beliefs have since become othordoxy (it's more a case of Society Marches On)- it's now generally assumed (in the UK at least) that intervention in birth should be withheld until there's actually a problem. This hadn't quite sunk in when the film was made- in fact they are making the birth difficult by pushing the 'mother' into a position that's convenient for them but makes giving birth many times harder (again, normal practice in the late 70s.)
Soylent Green is set in 2022, and yet Thorn is forced to rely on police call boxes, opposed to a radio or a cell.
In Time Bandits Evil asks Robert to explain "subscriber trunk dialing", which is a means of direct dialing a long distance number (rather than going through an operator), which is now largely obsolete now that every call is direct dialed.
TRON: Legacy lampshades this with Allen Bradley telling Sam Flynn that he got a message on his pager from Kevin Flynn. Sam seems pretty much as surprised that Allen still has a functional pager as he is that the message came from his father, who disappeared over twenty years ago.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Floyd uses a video payphone. Payphones are obsolete now and video phones flopped, though video conferencing over computers is fairly common.
The rapid evolution of the cell phone is given a slight nod in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Among the things that Gordon Gecko gets back once he leaves prison is his (formerly) extravagant and top-of-the-line brick-sized cell phone.
Zoolander (2001) is an odd half-example. The joke is that Derek's cell phone is teeny-tiny, less than an inch long, again in reference to his pampered lifestyle and expensive tastes. But it's still a black, only-slightly-flattened brick, with its little antenna. It failed to anticipate that the advent of smart phones would stop dead the trend they were exaggerating.
Throughout Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Simon Gruber has John McClane and Zeus Carver driving all around New York City to answer specific payphones where Simon issues different instructions, and he bluffs the NYPD off their radios by insinuating some of the bombs were keyed to police frequencies... then he locks up the entire New York switchboard by calling a popular radio station about the fake bomb he planted in a school, to destroy the other means of communication the NYPD could've had. Cell phones would've beaten both in a second (but then, Simon would've probably had something forthateventually as well.)
In Scream Billy is taken to the police station and questioned as a suspect because he has a cell phone (the calls made by the killer were from a cell phone). The film came out just before cell phones were about to take off and Billy even tells the sergeant "everybody's got one".
The remake of The Haunting has Dr Marrow saying he has a cell phone in case of emergency. Naturally it gets broken and the characters can't contact anyone for help. These days the likes of Theo and Luke would definitely have one too. Eleanor perhaps not considering how repressed she was.
Lampshaded in The Hangover. When they're checking in, Alan asks if the hotel is pager friendly. The woman behind the counter plainly has no idea what he's talking about, even as he's waving his pager at her. He then asks if they have a bank of payphones he can use in case he gets a page.
Clueless (released in 1995) is a bit of an odd example: the teen protagonist and her friends all have cellphones...which was meant to show how ridiculously wealthy and privileged they were. Since nowadays every teenager regardless of social class has a cell phone, anyone watching the film today would simply comment on how dated the phones look.
Likewise, the scene where the girls are talking to each other on the phone while walking side-by-side isn't quite so hilarious because, even if they're overwhelmingly texting each other rather than talking nowadays, it's entirely possible to see people doing this in real life.
For all of Gibson's eerie prescience in Neuromancer, he didn't foresee the mass saturation of cellphones.
Averted by Robert A. Heinlein, who not only predicted ubiquitous wireless pocket phones in Space Cadet (1948), but also anticipated some disadvantages of being in constant reach by phone.
Cujo. The mother and son could have called animal control and gotten out of the car in an hour if they had a cellphone. Instead, they are trapped for a couple of days.
In the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, there was almost always a scene of someone scrambling to find a pay phone to call for help. In the newest books, they just zip off text messages. It makes trying to get a kid interested in the old books difficult when they keep asking "what's a payphone?"
Deliberately invoked in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel Business Unusual, written in 1997 but set in 1989. Mel's dad sees his G1 mobile phone the size of a brick as a bit of a status symbol (he's a businessman involved with computers). The Doctor is not impressed.
Ray Bradbury's "The Murderer" not only described a world with universal personal phones (though he imagined them on your wrist like Dick Tracy's wrist radio,) he predicted the drawbacks - being called at all times by salesmen and phony surveys, the noise of other people's phones around you - to the extent that the story is told from the POV of someone who's been driven mad by it.
In Back to Methuselah, written in 1918-20, the 21st century has videophones, but in the far future people communicate at a distance by holding a tuning fork by their head and speaking at the same pitch. No hint how it works: it's future tech, it's meant to be baffling.
The cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which ran from 1997 to 2003, would have been saved from many a scrape if they'd just had cellphones. Quite a few episodes use a character being in peril and unable to contact Buffy as a plot device. This wasn't a big deal in the earlier seasons, but the show hit it big just as cellphones were starting to become mainstream, so after a few years it began to seem rather odd, especially since the cast was full of teenagers (later, young adults), the group most likely to carry a cellphone. This was lampshaded at the start of the final season (in September 2002) when Buffy gives her sister Dawn "a weapon" to help protect herself, which turns out to be a cellphone. From then on most of the cast had cellphones - although ironically, they hardly ever needed to use them, since that season also saw every single character move into Buffy's house.
One episode reveals that Giles does indeed own a pager, joking that they should page him if the apocalypse happens when he's not around.
Angel. In order to hand-wave it, they explained it as Angel being a cranky old man unwilling to adapt to new technology. Also, bad coverage.
The first Red Dwarf novel from 1989 has Rimmer reminding Z-Shift to "stay by a 'phone" in case of emergencies and Petrovich trying to get through to Rimmer for "over an hour" because Rimmer isn't answering a pager-like device.
The first episode of the '60s series The Prisoner uses a cordless phone as an eerie, impossible-seeming device that the protagonist does a double take at. Though it does still have an odd Zeerust design so nowadays it can seem like that's what he's noticing.
The first season of Due South (1994) had Fraser track a drug dealer by triangulating the signals from the cell phone towers the dealer's cell phone was using. The script establishes Fraser's solution as innovative and clever, and has Fraser's partner loudly doubt that it will work. Cell phones weren't very common in 1994, and it wasn't common knowledge that they even could be tracked. Today, it's routinely done; and using triangulation is neither a quaint relic (Fraser introduces the idea as "the way we used to track caribou up north") nor especially obscure. In fact many modern Smart Phones can use the same technique as a local GPS equivalent.
In a Saturday Night Live Weekend Update, Kevin Nealon says "And a recent study indicates that cellular phone users may be more likely to develop brain tumors. The problem has gotten very little public attention, however, since most people don't care if people who use cellular phones die." Probably wouldn't get that much applause now.
One of the reasons the 1960s Batman show used the Bat-phone far more than the more well-known Bat-signal was because it was supposed to be cool that Batman would have a phone in his car and would let the show seem more high-tech. More recent comic storylines even lampshaded this, with Commissioner Gordon asking if he could just have Batman's cell phone number instead of having to turn on the Bat-signal every time he needed help.
The idea of a car phone was seen as a big deal in the 80s and 90s and some sitcoms would reference them as a sign of status. One example off the top of my head was an episode of Ellen, where she and her friends are in a limo for some reason. One of the characters wants to call someone to brag that she's calling from a limo, and another character retorts "Do you think Steven Spielberg calls his friends saying "Guess where I'm calling from!"
Mobile phones have been available in the US since 1946 (in some areas, that is), but before the advent of technology that allowed the sharing of the signal space between multiple users, were very expensive. Battery technology wasn't good enough and electronics not small enough for a true hand-held device for some decades, so for a long time they could only be installed into vehicles and were very much something only the rich could afford.
Seinfeld relies a lot on Poor Communication Kills, with various characters' inability to communicate vital information causing an unending series of humorous escapades. One memorable example would be George's frustration at being unable to use a pay phone at a Chinese restaurant because a patron is hogging it.
The "cutting-edge" technology seen in Miami Vice is quite funny to look at in retrospect. Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs have to pose as undercover drug dealers for the purposes of their job, and subsequently have access to all the latest tools and technology. The series establishes this early on in the third episode, with a scene shot solely to emphasize the fact that Crockett has a car phone (and the receiver looks like a giant brick).
The idea of the swingin' bachelor's "little black book" of women to call up was referenced in many 80s and 90s sitcoms, but this has been made obsolete by cell phone "contact lists". Which leaves the 2004 film Little Black Book with something of an Artifact Title for younger viewers, as the eponymous item is a PDA, not an actual booklet.
Not to mention the fact that, in the years since the film came out, smartphones have supplanted PDAs in almost every professional field.
A good one from The West Wing: Bartlet sees Leo after not being able to get in touch with him when he needed him, and does a little sarcastic speech about how "if only there was some sort of telephonic device with a personalized number we could call... perhaps it would look something like this, Mr. Moto" — he says, pulling Leo's pager off his belt.
Though this was also because Leo was old; most of the staff used and were comfortable with cell phones from the pilot onward, even in the flashbacks.
JAG: In "Sightings", Harm asks a ten year old girl: Do you know how to operate a cellular phone?
Read All About It had a bulky communicator about the size of a small beverage cooler that sends text messages in 1983. It's redeemed by its extraordinary range that not only reaches vast instances without the need of a cell network, but also can communicate into different time periods, perfect when you've been thrown centuries into the past via accidental Time Travel.
Ghostwriter was about a group of kids who solved mysteries with the help of a ghost who could communicate with them by rearranging letters. Distance was no issue and the kids could write messages to each other without being in the same place. A cellphone could have produced many of the same results.
Rescue 911's cases were all taken from The Eighties and The Nineties, and a lot could have been made much easier with cell phones. however; during that timeframe, cell phones were expensive, bulky, and all around uncommon.
One episode shows a woman noticing people breaking into her house run to call 911. She at first grabs the rotary phone (still actually existed in the 90s!) but decides it takes too long, before going to the digital phone.
Another episode about a five year old girl finding her house empty would seem like an Idiot Plot today. What normally happened was that she rode the bus to another school where her mom would pick her up. However; instead that day, her friend's parents gave her a ride home, and word didn't make it to her mother, who was at the other school. Nowadays; her friend's parents would surely have called her mom's cell phone if they were going to drive her home. Or, if she came home and found it empty, she should have thought to call her mom's cell phone to tell her she was home.
One case did involve a cell phone — and you can see just how big they were at the time.
Justified in Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) in that the Cylons were able to infiltrate networked systems, like cell phone networks, so the Galactica relied on very old tech, such as phones which are the size of a brick and powered by the human voice, so that there was no possibilty of being spied upon. Lampshaded in the miniseries by a tour guide (who ironically turns out to be a Cylon) showing dignitaries around the ship, who are also experiencing the effects of this trope.
Zack in Saved by the Bell has a cellphone in High School in 1991-1992. The joke at the time was that this kid has is such a High School Hustler that he's able to invest in a tool associated with big-shot executives. Now it's the size of the thing that's the joke.
This is seen in Switched At Birth; texting is the go-to means of communication among the main cast with the Deaf characters all having smartphones (specifically iPhones) with video-chat functions. Carlton School and some of the more established Deaf households have TTY/TDD machines (which could transmit text to each other over landlines but require a relay service for communicating with regular phones); these sit unused, being a clunky special-needs workaround obsoleted by the above-mentioned mainstream tech.
Parodied in That '80s Show, where at one point (and heavily used in the commercials) one of the characters is in a bar, yelling into a big gray brick "Guess what? I'm calling on a portable phone! No not a pay phone, a portable phone!" While cell phones were obviously not the ubiquitous devices they are now, they weren't mysterious space-gadgets and most folks would at least understand the concept.
Subverted with The X-Files; cell phones were commonly used by Mulder and Scully. Chris Carter himself stated that he made cell phone usage by the heroes a regular feature, in order to sidestep critics who would complain that the characters having cell phones would have allowed them to solve their cases faster.
Sheeler & Sheeler's 1990 parody of "Convoy", "Car Phone", is doubly dated: not only does it praise a type of phone which is long since obsolete, but it describes people freely using them while driving — even to call the highway patrol and report a drunk driver — without any suspicion that doing so will soon be illegal.
The coke dealer who narrates Steely Dan's 1980 song "Glamour Profession" subtly brags about having a car phone ("When it's all over / We'll make some calls from my car / We're a star"), as a benefit of having high-end customers like pro athletes. By the late 1990s even street-level dealers had their own cellphones.
Dick Tracy had his wrist communicators for decades before cell phones starting in the 1940s. Furthermore, they are upgraded about every twenty years for additional functions.
Lampshaded in one of the examples in the 5th edition Champions genre book. A villain cuts the phone lines to isolate the bank he's robbing, and everyone trapped by his mooks immediately goes for their cell phones.
Deus Ex: The game is set in the 2050s, but pay phones are still seen in in public. And this in the same world that has infolinks, which are pretty much radios built into your head. On the other hand, it's a Dystopia setting, and the large corporations and governments in the game are very secretive with their technology. Conceivably, they are attempting to deprive their citizens and employees of devices like cell phones in order to better subjugate them.
Possibly in reference to this, the prequel Human Revolution still has payphones scattered around Detroit, albeit high tech ones. This game came out in 2011.
Not that surprising, considering payphones are still ubiquitous in real life, despite almost everyone having cell/mobile phones or tablets/laptops capable of making calls. Payphones have been around for 120 years, and there's no reason to assume that they would become 100% redundant in the next 40. Any mobile technology will always suffer from limited reception and battery life, while a mains-connected, hard-lined phone booth will not (y'know, unless it's been vandalised recently). Just because there's a better, easier way of doing something does not mean the previous method becomes obsolete - after all, we still physically send documents and greetings cards in the mail despite emails being much faster, easier, and cheaper.
Grand Theft Auto II, which is set in Twenty Minutes into the Future, resorts to using phone booths as points where the player receives missions (as is in earlier GTA games). Being a game that incorporates Zeerust aesthetics, though, this bit of detail can be forgiven as being a stylistic choice.
Pay phones and pagers are the only communication devices used by the player in Grand Theft Auto III, a game set as late as 2001. While it's lampshaded in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas that the main character of GTA III is implied to be a man of few words, it doesn't fully explain how silent characters from both the first Grand Theft Auto (set in the late 1990s) and Grand Theft Auto London (set in the 1960s) also receive calls on mobile phones or walkie-talkies. Grand Theft Auto Advance (set a year before GTA III) is a similar offender.
L.A. Noire requires the player to call up dispatch on various phones, often using the witness or suspect's house phone without asking permission, in order to research names and information. The speed with which the clerk finds such information matches the speed of a Google search, however.
Lampshaded in Scarface: The World is Yours. Tony snags a box-shaped cell phone off the body of a high-level henchman early on in the game, and uses it to call various people throughout the rest of the story. Several characters (including Tony himself) reference how rare and top-of-the-line the phone is, and how lucky he is to have one.
A 90s episode of Arthur had Muffy, the rich girl, the only character who had access to a cell phone. There was another episode from the same decade that had Arthur lost downtown, and unable to reach home since he had no money for a pay phone (and apparently didn't know how to call collect). Recent episodes of course have everyone with a cell.
One of the pre-cancellation episodes of Family Guy aired in 2000 - "Brian Wallows as Peter Swallows" - has Brian singing a song to a shut-in about all the modern things she's missed over the last 40 years. One of the things he sings about is that a guy with a cel1 phone would make everyone think "that guy's life must rule!".
In The Simpsons episode "Lard of the Dance", new student Alex Whitney has a cell phone; it serves as an indicator of how mature and grown-up she is, or at least is attempting to act.
An earlier episode had Bart given one only because he was Krusty's assistant. If the episode aired today the joke of an elementary school student answering a phone in class wouldn't be as funny.
This was mentioned in a true-crime documentary about an unsolved homicide of a taxi driver near Edinburgh in 1983. Two teenage witnesses who saw the crime in progress cycled two miles to a nearby hotel to get to a telephone. One of the original case detectives observed that had mobile telephones been common then the police would have been alerted much sooner and the perpetrator perhaps would've been caught.
Many people today still don't wholly understand how profound the consequences of the cell phone age are. For example, lots of people still routinely get outraged to see homeless people with cell phones, thinking that they're enjoying an undeserved luxury, without stopping to notice how cheap prepaid cell phone service is these days, or more importantly, how valuable a phone can be to a homeless person. Cell phones mean that the homeless can now leave callback numbers for interviews or odd jobs, dial 911 anywhere they are, call their family and friends, etc. There are actually charities that accept used cell phones as donations and give them to the homeless.
Not to mention programs like SafeLink, which provide free cell phone service to anyone on federal aid (Medicaid, food stamps, and the like) or below the poverty line.
This point is raised in Polly Toynbee's book Hard Work, about minimum wage jobs in the UK, in relation to unemployed people having mobile phones. She points out that if you're looking for work you need to have access to your phone at all times: one missed call from an employment agency and a potential job opportunity is lost.
Along these lines, in some very poor developing countries, cell phones are more ubiquitous than most "Westerners" would imagine, because it has been cheaper to set up cell towers than to finish the extremely arduous task of running additional landlines to remote or poorly-maintained areas.
Wristwatches are falling out of style these days, as most people simply check the display on their phones. But didn't wristwatches replace such pocket watches in the first place?
But your great-grandfather's windup hunter-case probably does not play M P3s or have GPS function. Why carry two pieces of electronics when you can make do with one?
The 6th generation iPod Nano capitalizes on its small, square formfactor with a clip that accessory makers make wristbands for it so said iPod can become a watch. Not to mention there are dedicated wristwatches with cell phone functions like Dick Tracy, made practical through bluetooth tech.
It is still useful in areas where cellphones and other similar devices are prohibited, or if you turn your cell phone off for whatever reason.
Or for swimmers who want to time their performance while in the pool.
Old-style watches do have one massive advantage over cell-phone; battery power. A decent battery-powered watch can last months or even years before it needs to be replaced. Even a really, really good cell phone power supply won't last more than a few days to a week, if you aren't using it much.
Forget batteries: you can get digital watches with solar cells on the face so that you don't need to replace any battery, and analog watches can use old-fashioned winding or more sophisticated kinetic energy systems that store energy when the watch moves so there's no need for any electrical power.
In any case, wrist watches replaced pocket watches in the trenches of World War I because it was much easier and quicker to check the time on your wrist than to have to put down what you were holding (likely a shovel or a gun) and pull it out.
For the most part the actual telephone dial◊ became obsolete long before you were born, but the term 'dialing' survives.
Nor do you hang or place the phone on a cradle anymore to disconnect - you press a button. It's still called "hanging up", though.
The term "hanging up" for that matter. Hanging a receiver on a hook (instead of putting it unto the cradle) died even earlier that the rotary dial, except for a certain wall-mounted phones, which still have a specially designed cradle, rather than an exposed hook, and maybe certain pay phones.
An actually "hook" that held the receiver and also functioned as the switch control for accessing the network was generally used on wall-mount rotary phones. Rotary desktop phones generally had a button in the handset cradle that performed the same function. Interestingly, while modern residential touchtone phones (early models often just replaced the rotary dial with the touchtone pad) usually use something more sophisticated and harder to bypass (like a magnetic sensor and an embedded magnet in the handset), many professional phones retain a physical switch as well as adding external software control of this function, so office workers of different types can control their phone in the way best suited to the work they are doing.
While still around, highway call boxes are starting to fade out due to the proliferation of cellphones.
In the same vein, pay phones have disappeared from some areas but still remain in others. In some areas, the government has stepped in to prevent payphones from being taken out of service because they're still commonly used by the poor. It might also be cheaper to keep a payphone in operation than to erect a cellphone tower in a remote location where few people would use the cell service.
In many places, especially in railway stations and airports, phone booths have been replaced by public terminals, that still function as payphones if you really need one, but their main function is to allow Internet access for tourists without laptops.
In the past in North America, apartment buildings were equipped with buzzers that were basically columns of buttons; each button was hard-wired to a console in one of the apartments, where tenants would be advised of visitors by a literal buzz coming from the console. As buildings became larger (and as tenants balked at the ugly plastic consoles that disfigured their walls), a new system was devised whereby the buzzer on the main floor was instead connected to a telephone line and would send the buzz instead directly to the tenant's telephone. Unfortunately, tenants don't always have landlines, so the buzzer would often be connected to a cellphone number - which could be both expensive and insecure if the tenant were out of town or had an out-of-town cellphone number. This is why landlords often specify that tenants must have landline phones. (Apartment buildings outside of North America may still have the old style of buzzer due not just to the above problems but due to the fact that in many countries it can take months to get a landline telephone installed.)
In Canada especially the smaller provinces like Saskatchewan still use buzzers primarily.
The fear of burglars made (quite literally) all apartment buildings in Romania to install intercoms in the 1990s. Complete systems, with a separate (from the "true" numbered phone) landline phone for each apartment, digital buzzer panel and digital keyboard at each entrance. Economies of scale made the expense affordable even for the years of poverty after the fall of Communism.
Another interesting note is how shocked most Westerners are when they realize how popular cell phones are in the developing world. A common phrase from people who spend a summer "building schools in Africa" is how surprised they were to see "a man walk out of a mud house chatting on his cell phone." In actuality, in a country where landlines are uncommon and expensive to bring to rural communities, a cell phone is the best way to conduct business, even if that business is selling mangoes at the side of the road (call ahead to find out where the bus stops are). What's more, it's usually much cheaper for the local phone company to put up one cellphone tower for a village than to string miles of telephone line to reach every house. More info here and here.
It's becoming more and more common for people to eschew knocking on doors in favor of calling the person's cell phone for a couple reasons.
The front door of an apartment complex may be locked, and the resident is expected to answer the call, come to the front door, and unlock it.
It can be a safety issue. If a person is underage, elderly, or disabled, getting a knock on a door can be scary. It's a gamble between whether they should even look out the window (if there even is one) or just sit very quietly and hope the knocker goes away. A call telling them that so-and-so is coming over, or a call that so-and-so is sitting in the driveway gives a sense of peace and safety and is far easier for someone with limited hearing to understand than a shouted name.
Remember those strange chimes that used to be heard in department stores? Those chimes were actually used to page departments in the store (instead of using a PA system), though they are rarely used today. Sometimes those are used as Stock Sound Effects, such as the "perfume department" scene in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Shanghaied".
In 2000, the police department in Ontario, California, disciplined two of its officers for using their digital pagers to send personal text messages, some of which were sexually explicit, in violation of department policy. Since the department had obtained the messages by asking the pager company for transcripts to see (ostensibly) if the officers needed a higher character limit than the city had contracted for, the officers took the city to court, arguing their privacy rights had been violated. Ten years later, it had reached the U.S. Supreme Court, by which time no one was using digital pagers anymore. Appropriately, the court's unanimous ruling in the city's favor declined to set what might have been a precedent in its first-ever case involving privacy in personal electronic communications technology, citing the fluctuating state of the technology involved.
This trope shows a key difference in thought between generations. Most older adults in the West still have land lines, their "home" phone, and wouldn't dream of getting rid of it despite being redundant with cell phones (good luck getting your grandparents to drop the service they've had since 1958). Meanwhile, most younger adults don't have land lines in their homes at all.
The extremes of this are the term "cell phone" becoming less common, especially among younger speakers who assume the term "phone" on its' own refers to a device carried in one's pocket, and on the other hand senior citizens who still lease landline phone hardware from the phone company at monthly prices that would buy a landline phone.
Thrift Store Tech
There have been a few shows set in the far future which feature static-y TVs for added colour (Cowboy Bebop, for example). However, since digital television is replacing all forms of analog TV, the only way you could have old-style static or bad reception on future TVs is if you intentionally put it in. Bad reception does happen on digital TV, but differently; instead of static, you get you get horizontal strips of garbled blocks like a badly scratched, worn out DVD.
Somewhat related to the analogue transmission idea is the ubiquity of curved CRT screens in the future. A notable example is 2010: The Year We Make Contact, which used small CRTs everywhere on the sets for the Discovery. (This is especially ironic as Stanley Kubrick used rear-projection to accomplish the illusion of flatscreen monitors for the same ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
Similarly, the producers of Babylon 5 tried to hide their use of CRT monitors by embedding the screens in bulky, futuristic looking equipment with lots of lights and buttons. Unfortunately you can still see that the screens are curved, like the screens of CRT monitors in the early-mid 1990's.
Earth: Final Conflict, produced in the late 20th century and set in the late 2010's/early 2020's, also used bulky CRT monitors in government buildings, corporate offices, and the Taelon Embassy, despite flat screens becoming cheaper and more ubiquitous late in the show's run. Watching Earth: Final Conflict in 2010 was jarring for this viewer, as all the CRT monitors broke the otherwise excellent illusion of the show's near-future setting. While CRT monitors are still used today, banks, government offices, and major corporations are far more likely to use more modern equipment.
2010 has other examples of thrift-store tech. (i) HAL's "memory module" room was reconstructed for 2010, but alongside the original futuristic-looking memory modules, a previously unseen keyboard is used to interact with HAL (due to his damaged speech circuits). Not a dead tech, but unfortunately it looks like a typical early '80s keyboard, contrasting badly with- and looking more dated than!- the original film's inventive design. (ii) Floyd's secret failsafe cutoff for HAL is to be activated by him typing nine 9s on a hacked calculator. Again, not a dead tech, but one which would be a far less obvious "first choice" gadget for that use today than it would have been in the mid-80s when calculators were still (somewhat) new and high-tech.
In Kevin O'Donnell's novel ORA:CLE, published in 1985, personal names are replaced by alphanumeric strings encoding personal attributes (including allotted public time and computer-related knowledge [!]); for example, the main character's name is ALL80 AFAHSC NFF6 (Ale Elatey for short). However, it's set in a universe where all computers run unprotected operating systems like DOS and all news are shown in Bulletin Board Systems. In 2188.
On the subject of Cyber Punk, many of the genre's works (print and video) featured extensive virtual realities that today are being realized with applications such as Second Life. While we can see the usefulness of VR for entertainment, education or training purposes, is it really more efficient to walk through a fully rendered VR representation of an automated factory to control and maintain operations, or would a screen of text and numbers and a keyboard be sufficient?
The US Navy is actually incredibly enthusiastic about using VR and Second Life in particular to train servicemen and -women on things such as submarine operation. However some of their other applications reek of "we must retroactively justify this expense."
When you pull up next to someone in traffic and motion to them to roll down their window, what do you do? That's right. You motion like you're rotating a lever, despite the fact that a vast majority of cars on the road these days have buttons to roll down windows... not levers. Still, everyone knows what you mean, presumably because levers are recent enough that everyone driving today can remember the days when they were common and also lever controlled windows are still included on vehicles (mostly base-model trucks and very cheap subcompacts) without power windows installed.
"I don't roll down my window. Because my car wasn't made in 1997. I vsshh down my window."
Similarly, the accepted icons for saving (a floppy disc) and a movie (a roll of film) are both representations of entirely obsolete technology - but likely to last longer than the memory of the media themselves!
Theater movies are still largely released on film, digital distribution (and even projection) still being rather new and expensive technology. Downloading a feature film at a high enough resolution that it doesn't appear blurry when projected onto a large screen is a large file download even by early 2010s standards.
The editing is cheaper than it might appear. Editing on film requires large quantities of film, lots of chemistry, and lots of time. In contrast, you can do a year's worth of film editing in two weeks on digital editing equipment, meaning you can quite feasibly rent the editing rig instead of buying it, and the film processing lab, and hiring all the support staff needed for it, and come out ahead, even if you don't already have a more-or-less finished idea of how the film needs to come together (which is almost a necessity in editing on film). Home P Cs are to the point now where there's really only two things inhibiting private production of Hollywood-quality feature films: It's hard to get hold of the specialized video cards needed for the special image format used in high-end digital movie editing, and the cameras available on the home market usually have tricky restrictions built into the licensing agreements for the video and audio CODECs they use.
People still use the term "dial a number" when telephones haven't used dials for decades.
Similarly, we still "call" other people, whether it's on a telephone, cell phone, or VOIP services like Skype, even if it also includes video.
Many pictograms of telephones are also hopelessly out of date, ranging from the depiction of just the phone receiver, which looks a bit too clunky for today's standards, over the "classical" key phone with the receiver sitting on top like a torero hat, to the same design, but with a dial plate. Likewise, pictograms that tell you to switch off your cell phone can hardly keep pace with the rapidly evolving appearance of said cell phones.
We also turn our finger in a twisting motion when we're asking someone to turn volume up or down, despite the fact that most devices now have buttons with up and down arrows on them. Granted, some speakers have dials, and so do many MP3 players, but those are outnumbered by the buttoned devices.
The use of double-spacing at the end of sentences, like this.—This is a hold-over from the days of typewriters with their monospacing (where every character occupies the same amount of space), to help the period stand out. Such a necessity has long been rendered obsolete by digital word-processors and just plain looks silly when used nowadays, but a lot of older typists (or younger ones taught by them), still use two spaces after periods. Even on this very wiki, though That Other Wiki and other MediaWiki-based wikis generally format pages so only one space is displayed even if more than one is typed into the code for the page.
It's still a handy method for students to pad papers that are to be a certain number of pages long. Two spaces at the end of every sentence adds up.
And this practice continues to serve its original purpose if something is to be printed in Courier or another typewriter-like font.
Ever proving the ancient maxim, "There's the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way," The U.S. Department of Defense (which shows up on this page in several places) still uses the "two space" rule in official correspondence, even though the proportional Times New Roman is the mandatory font, and still has instructions like "indent three spaces," which don't make much sense when using proportional fonts.
Calling solid-state storage media a "tape":
In Cloak & Dagger everyone calls the game cartridge with the hidden data a "tape".
The Starfire books by David Weber and Steve White often has warship personnel say "on the tape" to mean they've recorded a message for transmission. The series is set several hundred years in the future but was written in the mid 2000s.
The "Sega tapes" of Homestar Runner. Like a lot of elements in the series, this is deliberate parody of this trope.
Who else here has ever talked about "taping" a show on to a hard disc, or "rewinding" a DVD?
The "DVD rewinder" even exists as a joke appliance.*
It's simply a base with a powered spindle and a button turning the motor on and off.
Even though Wheel of Fortune switched to an electronic puzzleboard in 1997, people still refer to the letters being "turned" as if they were still physical trilons.
Bill Cosby has an old and hilarious routine about how he wants Polaroid to develop a way to produce a baby quickly. "Kiss your wife, wait five minutes and BOOM - there's the kid! Of course you have to dip him in the lacquer or he'll fade..."
The trope page for Poor Man's Porn has a whole section (Type C), dedicated to people trying to watch scrambled porn on TV. This is now outdated (except in 80's-90's period pieces), as newer television sets recognized the scrambled signal and replaced it with a blue screen, and nowadays you simply get a screen saying you do not get that particular adult video channel.
"Hi-fi" used to mean a stereo system, and is a bit outdated in these days of MP3 players. (As a term for high-fidelity sound it is still used by people in the sound industry). This is a bit troublesome tech-wise for people having Fun With Palindromes because "If I had a hi-fi" is still a popular palindrome in books, etc.
In the Appleseed universe cyborgs and typewriters exist side by side.
When a factual show requires background music to suddenly end for humorous purposes, nine times out of ten they'll STILL put on the sound effect of a needle skating across a vinyl record. This even applies to kids' shows, where it is otherwise assumed that the audience won't have a clue what vinyl records are and need it explained every time they're mentioned.
An aversion appears in 1981's Escape From New York. A monitor displays a 3D model of New York as Snake lands his 'plane in the city. The film makers wanted to use an actual computer model, but since technology wasn't there yet, they compromised by building a physical miniature New York, outlining it with reflective tape, and filming the result. The effect looks pretty good even today.
Antique store saleswoman: Now this has an interesting feature - it has a dust jacket. Books used to have these to protect the covers. Of course that was before they had dust repellent paper. And if you're interested in dust, we have a quaint little piece from the 1980s. It's called a Dustbuster."
Funnily enough, the Dustbuster continues to enjoy popularity and has even taken on Brand Name Takeover.
And paper books may be on their way out, dust-proof or otherwise.
Kids who grew up with DVDs and digitally-downloaded movies probably won't get the locker-aliens' "Be Kind, Rewind" reference in Men In Black II. The "Adult section in rear" gag, teens can probably figure out, though it also dates the picture.
The joke works, though kids won't get the reference. The locker-aliens have been in there for about twenty years; they wouldn't even know tapes had been replaced.
In Time Bandits, the embodiment of evil explains that he knows better than the Supreme Being because he has knowledge of "Digital watches. Soon I shall have knowledge of video cassette recorders and car telephones. And when I understand those I shall understand computers. And when I understand computers I will be the Supreme Being." In 1981, those really were cutting edge and were meant to be. Now they can be considered evidence that Evil is a little out of touch.
In Trading Places, Louis Winthorpe tries to sell his watch at a pawnshop, mentioning how it's waterproof up to 3 atmospheres as proof of how top-of-the-line it is. Today, many watches are waterproof to as many as 50 atmospheres.
Lampshaded nicely in The Wedding Singer: Glenn brags about buying a CD player for around $1,000, and Julia promptly offers to get a record to play on it.
One Hour Photo was made in 2002, probably the last possible moment before it'd need a period setting to explain why they're not using digital.
Also appears in the Dragonriders of Pern series. The Skies of Pern, written in 2001, has cell phone-ish tech cropping into usage. All the Weyrs of Pern however, written in 1991, essentially has the Dragonriders saving the world by what amounts to handling ships' embedded electronics via console (Take That, graphical interface!) because the "real" computers were removed millenia ago. Funny part is that lots of things that are only one notch above PIC but run OS-s used to support telnet terminal access are already here.
A very strange example is the Tintin graphic novel Destination Moon, written in 1954. Captain Haddock spends most of the story getting "humorously" angry at Professor Calculus for creating a moon rocket because landing people on the moon is obviously so CRAZY...
The original (circa 1980) edition of Superfudge had Peter asking for and receiving a pocket calculator for Christmas. Later editions change the gift to a check from Grandma since, by about 2000, a regular calculator was a standard school supply and could be bought for about a dollar. He asks for a stereo in the original, but only in jest. Current editions have him ask instead for a laptop and mp3 player, and by 2010, it's hard to tell whether the latter was supposed to be an outrageous request.
In the original print of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume, Margaret is instructed in the proper use of a belt to secure her menstrual pad. The invention of menstrual pads with adhesive backing (something often taken for granted these days) had to wait until women's undergarments became snug enough for adhesive pads to be practical, which in turn required the invention of Spandex and cheaper methods of creating inexpensive fine-gauge cotton knits.
The protagonists in Ken Grimwood's Replay are stuck in a 25-year Groundhog Day Loop from 1963 to 1988, so it isn't surprising this pops up. The author had shown his work though, by pointing out that some devices could be procured before they caught on with the public (though they were expensive) there were appearances of the Wang 1200 and Sony VTR. The following quote happens in 1974:
"Near the window was a large desk stacked with books and notebooks, and in the center of it sat a bulky, greenish-gray device that incorporated a video screen, a keyboard, and a printer. He frowned quizzically at it. What was she doing with a home computer so early? ... 'It's not a computer,' Pamela said. 'Wang 1200 word processor, one of the first. No disk drive, just cassettes, but still beats a typewriter. Want a beer?'"
The famous quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that humans are so primitive "they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea." Funny in the late '70s, rather on-the-nose now.
The radio adaptations in the mid-2000s had novelty ringtones instead. Not quite as dated yet.
An instructor in Starship Troopers was blinded in combat. Towards the end of his class, he feels the watchface to see how much time is left. Maybe he couldn't afford a talking watch.
An inventor in The Dead Past by Isaac Asimov demonstrates his newest gadget, a time viewer. He turns on the monitor, then warns his impatient colleague to "let it warm up." When the story was written, televisions frequently took 30 seconds to a minute to display a picture after being turned on.
Jules Verne's Paris In The Twentieth Century, written in 1862 and taking place in the distant future of 1960, makes some rather impressive predictions about the future. One of the reasons it wasn't published had to do with the publisher finding stuff like electro-mechanical calculators, widespread use of automobiles, fax machines, skyscrapers, automatic security systems and remote-controlled warfare too unrealistic. On the other hand, people still writes using quills, records are still kept in books (that is, a colossal book apparently four meters tall, whose pages are turned with machinery) and there is apparently no air transport (except the odd airship or two, probably).
Live Action TV
In the pilot of Lois and Clark, the Kents' use of a fax machine was presented as evidence they weren't subject to the old-time "American Gothic" farmer stereotypes. Now it has the opposite effect of making them seem out-of-date.
On Rescue 911, the prevalence of carbon monoxide poisonings looks weird to modern audiences because carbon monoxide alarms are about as common as fire alarms. Possibly a case of Seinfeld Is Unfunny, as said poisonings were what led to demand for the development of an alarm that would detect carbon monoxide.
On an older episode of Law & Order Lenny got a lead by looking at the victim's pager. Remember pagers?
In an episode of Saved By The Bell, Bayside High decided to put their yearbooks on videotapes. Good luck to them finding a VHS player in the 21st century.
In the original Carrusel, video games were not present at all. While this was Mexico in 1989-1990, the Brazilian 2012 remake did insert them, since it would no longer be credible to have a show about children's school and daily life without video games present in any way.
Barely 10 years after the series Hey Arnold! aired, younger viewers seeing the show the first time would wonder what exactly Helga's father (the "Beeper King" of "Big Bob's Beepers") was selling.
When transistors came around in the 70s to do everything a vacuum tube could, it'd mean that the old vacuum tube would go the wayside, right? Or when integrated circuits came around, who needed a discrete transistor? Or hell, why are we even using electricity? Optics would be way cooler.
It's not uncommon these days to find audio amplifiers with vacuum tubes. The reason being is that audiophiles say it gives audio some kind of "warmth" to it. It's probably the same thing as an incandescent bulb does for light versus a fluorescent tube.
Apparently vacuum tubes also react to different harmonics than transistors, and overdriving a guitar on a tube amp sounds infinitely better than overdriving a transistor amp.
The difference is in the kind of distortion that gets generated when the amplifier stage is driven hard enough (or overdriven) that the amplified signal would exceed the actual supply voltage (which, of course, can't happen). Because of the way tubes work, their output can never actually reach 100% of the input-supply voltage; instead, as you approach the limit, a tube's output "rounds off" in an asymptotic curve (look it up :D ) known as soft-clipping. A transistor, on the other hand, will go all the way to the limit and then simply "hard-clips" any part of the signal that would drive it any higher. Both are, technically, distortions of the signal, but a tube's soft-clipping produces "low-order harmonics" which are more pleasing to the human ear than the "high-order" harmonics produced by a transistor's hard-clipping. (Transistor circuits can be designed to simulate a tube's natural behavior, but it vastly increases the complexity of the amplifier, and is a lot more difficult to pull off convincingly than you'd think.)
Tubes also amplify in a fundamentally different way than transistors. Tubes default to manipulating the current, while transistors default to manipulating the voltage. They both manipulate both, but the default is the primary way the output is manipulated for typical amplifier circuits. This means that tube and transistor amps sound different regardless of what you're doing with them, even if you aren't overdriving them.
Quite a few people prefer incandescent type bulbs versus florescent and LED lights. The first is that the warm light an incandescent bulb gives off is very pleasing (YMMV - if you're not used to it anymore, incandescent's yellowishness seems wan). The second is that florescent and LED bulbs flickernote Florescent tubes glow very briefly and need a constant hammering of electrons to stay "constant". LED type bulbs are driven by a PWM. For some people, this causes headaches.
The flickering part of florescent and LED bulbs is dangerous for machines that reciprocate. If the machine is going at the correct frequency, it may appear to be going slower than it really is, a phenomena called the Wagon-Wheel Effect.
The Soviet Union MiG-25 was built with vacuum tubes for a substantial amount of its electronics, mostly because it was more robust to the environment and could withstand an EMP blast better than transistors.
Never mind vacuum tubes: British Naval officers still learn to use slide rules and Morse signals, on the assumption that none of the fancy electronics can be relied on in a pinch.
They are, as far as it goes, correct. They also still teach celestial navigation in at least some navies for the same reason. Very simply, all your electronics can fail, for many reasons. If you can't use your sextant and slide rule, you're probably already dead anyway.
For the same reason, soldiers on the ground are taught to use a paper map and a magnetic compass, and artillery crews learn how to calculate their shots manually.
Drifting is cool, right? Keeping your head cool and your car in balance while on two wheels is the epitome of badass driving? It might have been ...until the 1970s. Most modern cars, not just performance cars, have tire sizes which a few decades ago were just for Ferraris and Porsches and the quality of tires and suspension is ages beyond. Even a humble modern hot hatchback may pull stunts which in the past were barely imaginable outside racetracks.
In GoldenEye, James Bond pulls a few stunts in his old companion the Aston Martin DB5 while street-racing Femme Fatale Xenya in a Ferrari F355. While impressive by 1965 standards, the chassis and suspension of the DB5 would have never held up to a modern GTI, leave alone a F355. To film the chase, the F355 had to be modified, otherwise it won't drift. Maybe this is the reason Q retires the Aston and gives Bond a BMW instead.
A lot of the old science fiction features a world with food shortage and rationing due to extreme overpopulation. 90% of the food is yeast or synthetic. Except that... the figures stated have been surpassed or near so, and there is significant overproduction. This is largely thanks to the Green Revolution, which, in addition to technology, also included breeding a lot of increased yield crops.
It should be noted that some of the agricultural technologies depend on petroleum and other materials which can soon run out... assuming we will not have enough energy to synthesize more, or develop alternatives. A society with no energy shortages depicted that way...
The Caves Of Steel. Everyone lives in megacities, almost all the food is yeast, efficiency is necessary to the point of a personal cubicle in the communal bathroom being a luxury, and there is strict Population Control. Population? Eight billion.
Foundation. Trantor needs twenty agricultural worlds to feed its forty billion people. Today, over half the population of Earth is urban, meaning the agriculture of a single planet should have little problem feeding four billion people who produce no food. If you take into account that later sources claim Trantor has significant artificial food production on its own...
Lucky Starr: Earth has a population of six billion. Enough to be dependent on food imports from Mars and Venus.
The Lathe of Heaven. The year is 2002. A man can afford an egg maybe once a month, and it's been twenty years since any grain could be spared for making alcohol. Seven billion population.
Now the oil is gone, the topsoil depleted and washed away, the trees chopped down, the animals extinct, the earth poisoned, and all we have to show for this is seven billion people fighting over the scraps that are left, living a miserable existence...