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Technology Marches On

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Smaller media. Larger capacity. Not Time Lord technology.

RECR: There's no way you can defeat the superior power of my massive 56-kilobyte processor!
Coop: I've got 10-year-old video games that are smarter than you!

So little Timmy is watching a show from the 1990s. 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?"

You see, Technology has marched 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.
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  • 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! note  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 a 1995 episode of Friends where Chandler gleefully describes all the awesome features of the brand-new laptop that he has received from his company. Then, it really was pretty impressive, the joke being that he'd just be using it to play computer games and type out lists. But now...

"Twelve megabytes of RAM, five hundred megabyte hard drive, with built-in spreadsheet capabilities and a modem that transmits at over 28,000 bps!" note 

There was a time when these specifications would be mockingly contrasted with a then modern counterpart. However, technology has moved on so far and so fast that Chandler's computer is now unimaginably primitive; these days, even a low-end smartphone is multiple orders of magnitude more powerful than that in every way, while fitting in the user's pocket and costing considerably less than he would have spent. Because of this, most writers nowadays don't get too specific about computer performance, to avoid sounding dated before... well, before next week, frankly.

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, for instance. A perfect example of this would be Home Alone — the film was originally released on November 16, 1990, however within twenty years, the entire movie likely would have lasted about half an hour at most once you realize that a power outage likely wouldn't have caused a cell phone's alarm clock to reset like a plug-in alarm clock would, and in post-9/11 America, the family would have had plenty of time to realize that Kevin was missing due to the very lengthy amount of time it takes to travel through American airports due to security screenings, baggage checks, and so on.note  And even if Cell Phones Are Useless, the fact that it's now stupidly easy to stay in touch with people these days means that someone could easily get in touch with Kevin at the touch of a button via a messaging app, social media or email (among other easy methods) as opposed to having to go through the hassle of placing an international call to Chicago PD to send an officer to the house to check on him.

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 Computer Equals Tape Drive, Science Marches On, What Are Records?, 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. A fictional world where technology doesn't march on despite the passage of time is in Medieval Stasis. The question of how "advanced" a piece of technology looks to a layman observer, and what that even means, is part of The Aesthetics of Technology.



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 mechanization of planting and harvest, also included breeding a lot of high-yield and drought- or pest-resistant crops. (Not all "technology" is machine-based.)

Related to Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale and Society Marches On when it comes to population growth; many of these examples have populations in the low billions and treat it as catastrophic overpopulation, not merely in terms of agriculture but in terms of population density. For comparison to many of the numbers below, Earth's population is 7.6 billion and climbingnote  as of this writing.

It should be noted that many of the agricultural technologies of the Green Revolution depend on agrochemicals whose precursor chemicals are usually derived from crude oil, which isn't getting any cheaper or easier to extract in the long run, so Post-Peak Oil settings do not fall under this trope. Whether this stays true depends how well various proposals for turning various waste products (ranging from plastic to sewage) back into crude oil pan out.

Can be justified by the world's agricultural breadbaskets having been contaminated by drought, pollution, radiation or disease, leaving too little viable land to farm even hyper-productive crops on.

  • 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.
    • Also, tens of millions of New York residents live off yeast that's nourished on wood pulp, which comes from New Jersey forests that have been harvested for more than a thousand years without pause.
  • 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...
    • A related problem is that Trantor is stated to be a single, planet-covering city hundreds or thousands of levels deep, and there are special observation towers that you have to use if you want to see the sky. There's absolutely no way that you need that kind of urban structure to house a mere 40 billion people when we have 7 billion on Earth with cities covering only a few per cent of the land surface and most of that you can't travel around in much without going outside. (Yes, there are places where you can travel around significant sections of cities entirely indoors, but you have to do it intentionally and it's both limiting and inconvenient in most places where it's possible at all.) Also, if the entire planet is underground, what exactly is stopping the Trantorians from putting the dirt back on the unused surface and growing their own food?
    • Compounding the problem yet again is that Asimov was self-admittedly bad at scale and bad at remembering how many people were supposed to live on Trantor, causing its population to vary from 40 billions to 4 trillions, depending on the book.
  • 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. Population, seven billion.
  • Make Room! Make Room! (the book on which Soylent Green is loosely based): the year is 1999. As stated in the book:
    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...
  • Spectacularly averted in Robert Silverberg's The World Inside. Most of the 25 billion people who live on Earth live in clusters of 3,000-meter-tall (almost 2 miles) "urban monads" that house almost a million people each. The rest live in the small farming communities that grow the food on the large expanses of land left over. This, as well as the minimal possessions everyone has, has allowed them all to not only survive but prosper and grow, since they value life and thus have large families starting in their early teens. Several times in the book, in fact, this aversion is lampshaded when characters laughingly reference the past and its fears of a starving, overpopulated world with a much smaller population.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun did not anticipate the advent of cultured meat, so soy is the main staple of the world's food supply, along with farmed krill. Nearly every possible permutation of food in the Sixth World has a soy substitute. Having regular access to natural food is rare enough that it merits being counted as a positive Lifestyle quality. It could be justified as the MegaCorps that control the world's food supply would want to make it as difficult as possible for people to get their meals from sources they don't control.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Zigzagged.
    • On the one hand, hive cities easily reach populations in the billions, but the reason they exist is that they're the only habitable (sorta) places on the planet (usually a Death World, in desert, an ocean, or so polluted and/or radioactive even bionic systems only last a few minutes variants), so a planet of ten billion people has them in three or four hives. These get pretty much all their food from off-planets, with other worlds entirely devoted to agricultural production (using both mind-bogglingly advanced machinery and manual labor techniques medieval peasants would have laughed at).
    • On the other hand Holy Terra is so densely populated that its soil is utterly barren and its atmosphere is a fog of pollution. Massive, labyrinthine edifices of state sprawl across the vast majority of the surface. Its oceans have long ago boiled away. Many mountain ranges have been leveled, perhaps all of them except the Himalayas, which seemingly remain all but untouched due to the laboratories said to be underneath and the chambers of the Astronomican that course throughout the whole mountain range. No specifics are given on the population anymore, just "billions", possibly at least a trillion depending on the source.


  • Schlock Mercenary: Discussed when the company finally has a mission on Earth, one of the most heavily populated planets in the galaxy. Energy production and "agriculture" are so advanced that they can fit two-hundred billion people on the planet using only ten percent of the available landmasses (and some of the seas) for megacities that are measured in cubic kilometers instead of square kilometers. The remaining ninety percent of the land is preserved sort of like continent-sized national parks.
    Footnote: There are other ways to fit 200+ billion people on a planet, but this is one of a very few ways to pull it off while still having it be useful as a planet.


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. Well, if a car still works well even after a decade, it can become What a Piece of Junk.

  • 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 wouldn't drift. Maybe this is the reason Q retires the Aston and gives Bond a BMW instead.
  • Used Cars' climax hinges, literally, on a license plate acting as a hinged flap to cover the gas filler which was centered on the rear of the car. That was somewhat common on '60s and '70s cars but abandoned because of safety issues.

  • Obviously, quite a lot of books were written before the automobile was invented. We could probably have a whole "Check Out Life Before Cars" section on how some classic works of literature might have easily resolved themselves if cars had been available.
  • While a period piece, in The Grapes of Wrath the Joads have to deal with a broken transmission — they have to find an old one in a junkyard and then install it themselves with only basic hand tools, something only the most hardcore car guys would attempt on a do-it-yourself basis and would require at least a hoist in any post-World War II vehicle.
  • Invoked in Booth Tarkington's Penrod (set and published in 1914), the 12-year-old title character temporarily has use of a small outbuilding since the family horse has died and his father hasn't decided whether to get another horse or a car. One later edition's professorial introduction describes it as "no longer a stable but not yet a garage".

    Live-Action TV 

  • In 1979, in the song "Rapper's Delight", Big Bank Hank of The Sugarhill Gang bragged about owning "a sunroofed Cadillac". Nowadays, a sunroof is actually considered behind the times, being displaced by the glass roofs, and Cadillac does not have the prestige it had in the 70s.
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" dates itself with the line about "chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected and steppin' out over the line", as today fuel injection is standard, not a feature found on customized muscle cars.

    Video Games 

    Real Life 
  • The pillarless hardtop body style. Introduced by General Motors in 1949, it quickly became very popular and was offered by pretty much every major American automaker by the dawn of The '60s. However, concerns about rollover safety in The '70s led to it being phased out alongside the convertible, and while convertibles made a comeback in The '80s with the introduction of roll bars (both built-in and retractable), the hardtop has stayed dead.
  • Fuel injection and variable-valve engine timing, features now pretty standard on most cars were once features found exclusively on high-end sports and luxury cars.

Electrical Components

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.

  • In James Blish's Cities in Flight series, written in the 1960s, the galactic economy runs on germanium as a treasure metal. Because it's essential to electronics.
    • As noted in Real Life, Blish gives the lower reliability of transistors as the reasoning for the titular Cities using mainly vacuum tubes for their computers, which was true at the time of writing. However, he failed to predict any advance in this area, and even in the far future vacuum tubes appear to remain state of the art.
  • Gordon Korman's The War With Mr. Wizzle was written in the early eighties, and as such the computer he introduces to MacDonald Hall is a monstrosity of a machine that has to be fed punch cards. The 2003 reprint updates this to the modern era, noting that the school would now be filled to the brim with computers. So Wizzle instead introduces software he's written to control the school.
  • The 1952 novel Limbo by Bernard Wolfe has nuclear-powered Artificial Limbs that still use vacuum tubes.

    Real Life 
  • 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 from 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) 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 e 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 from 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 fluorescent and LED lights.
    • The first is that the warm light an incandescent bulb gives off is very pleasing. This is due to the CRI (Color Rendering Index) of incandescents being closer to that of sunlight than any fluorescents and cheaper run-of-the-mill LED light sources. Though, if you're not used to it anymore, incandescent's yellowishness seems wan.
      • This is one area in which technology is unlikely to march on due to the laws of physics. An incandescent bulb works by heating up a filament to produce black body radiation. This produces a continuous spectrum with a frequency peak that depends on the temperature but that extends across a large range of higher and lower frequencies. A bulb filament is a bit cooler than the Sun (although not as much as you might think), but will always produce a similar shape spectrum. Fluorescent and LED bulbs instead work by producing light in very narrow bands by exciting electrons in atoms, which emit discrete frequencies when they decay. While newer version attempt to appear similar to incandescent bulbs on casual inspection, it's physically impossible for them to ever reproduce a continuous spectrum.
    • The second is that fluorescent and some older LED bulbs flicker: fluorescent tubes glow very briefly and need a constant hammering of electrons to stay "constant", while older LED type bulbs are driven by pulse width modulation (PWM), where the LED shifts rapidly between on and off, the proportions of which give off a certain level of light. For some more sensitive people, this causes headaches, and it can be very irritating to many people on the autism spectrum, who can see the flicker and hear the constant humming. The flickering of fluorescent and LED bulbs is dangerous for machines that reciprocate or rotate. If the machine is going at the correct frequency, it may appear to be going slower than it really is, or in the opposite direction, a phenomenon called the Wagon-Wheel Effect. This problem is made worse by the fact that some electric motor designs want to spin at a speed directly related to the AC power line frequency (which is what LED and fluorescent lights normally flicker at). While all three can also be made to not flicker at the line frequency, it takes extra components (and extra cost) so it's not normally done unless there's a reason.
    • However, Tech Marches On once again: newer LEDs are current-controlled and as such flicker-free save for minimal amounts of noise, PWM technology has been improved to the point where the pulses vary at tens of thousands of hertz, far above the most sensitive human's perception. CRI has also been taken into account, and LED's can come in colors varying from a milder version of fluorescent lighting (cool white) all the way to a 60w incandescent bulb's (warm white).
    • Pinball machines can be modded to accept LEDs instead of the incandescent lights they were designed for, but the ones made prior to 2006 were programmed to coordinate the lights with incandescents in mind. A few of them, such as Fun House and Ripley's Believe It or Not!, will cause the LEDs to strobe constantly instead of blinking on and off, blinding the player. Hence, even in the days where LEDs are largely replacing incandescent lights in everything from street lighting to filmmaking, some pinball machines from the '90s and earlier still undergo maintenance using incandescent bulbs. With the United States phasing out sales of incandescent bulbs in 2020, however, this will soon become averted, as pinball fans who do programming are hard at work reprogramming these machines so the LEDs function in the same way their incandescent counterparts do.
  • 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.
    • Vacuum tubes are also much easier to manufacture than the types of transistors that are more reliable than vacuum tubes. The early (and most easily manufactured) types of transistors are actually less reliable than vacuum tubes under normal operating conditions, and are particularly prone to failure due to vibration (which is almost impossible to avoid in an aircraft, especially a relatively small one that travels extremely fast).
    • 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.
      • Schizo Tech: There are many apps for modern smartphones which turn the magnetometer inside into a magnetic compass. Reason: Data transmission needed for maps may fail or simply you're too far away from a cellphone tower, GPS signal may be too weak, but the Earth's magnetic field is still there.
      • The same goes with leisure boating, especially blue-water voyaging. Electronics not only can fail; rather, they will sooner or later fail, especially when least desired, and knowledge on how to use sextant and slide rule has saved many long distance sailors. This is especially crucial in single-handed sailing.
    • It is the case that old-fashioned clocks, with hands moving around a numbered face, are sold in stores in a way that capitalises on a quirk in human psychology. If the hands are set approximately to ten and two, they evoke a happy smiling face and it has been demonstrated that people are more likely to buy clocks if they see, at least subliminally, a smiling face. This is known in marketing as the "ten-o-eight" phenomena. Observational comedian Dave Gorman wondered if this is still the case today when so many clocks and watches are digital. What he discovered was that in sales photos and displays, clocks/watches with a digital face are 95% of the time set to... 10:08. in numbers.

Storage Media

Who else here has ever talked about "taping" a show on to a hard disc, or "rewinding" a DVD? Some media applications call it "seeking" or "skipping", but those are even older terms, even if they're not tied to specific medium. It's also still a trend to call any solid-state storage media a "tape", after audio cassette-tapes and video-tape formats like VHS.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Dr. Lazarus' Hard Light AI experiments seems very advanced on the surface, as they try to build a representation of a person or animal via a computer observing recordings of the target subject. However, the storage medium of the recording are VHS cassettes, stored in shelves taking up most of the lab, and the scientists store results on floppy discs.

    Fan Fiction 

  • Shooting films on, uh, film, pretty much died off. By the early 2010s digital video cameras had improved to the point that the average viewer couldn't tell the difference between the two formats. Shooting to digital video is far cheaper than buying film stock, as well as eliminating the need to develop and scan the film.
    • Distribution has moved entirely digital as well, as hard drives cost far less than printing thousands of reels of film. Theaters had to upgrade to digital projectors or close due to movies no longer being distributed on film reels.
    • Compared to editing actual film on a flatbed, editing digital video files in an editing program is far faster, and most modern programs can run on off-the-shelf PCs. For example, Gone Girl was edited on off-the-shelf Macs using Adobe Premiere.
  • The creators of 9½ Weeks seem to have wanted us to be impressed with how John sets up the famous striptease scene using his CD player, and indeed that probably was the first time someone used one in an American film. Today it looks quaint.
  • In Cloak & Dagger everyone calls the game cartridge with the hidden data a "tape".
  • 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.
  • In A New Hope the whole plot about the Death Star plans suffers from this on several levels: for one, no one in universe thinks to make copies of the plan and send it to every Rebel base, likely because the writers didn't know this was possible. Also, as the film was made in 1977, there is nothing akin to the Internet in universe (the prequels would eventually add the Holonet as an equivalent) where the Rebels could just keep uploading the plans so people could keep downloading them even if the Empire succeded in shutting down some of the download sites. There's also an unintentionally hilarious bit where Admiral Motti refers to the "stolen data tapes", suggesting the galaxy (which seems to be several centuries ahead of ours technology wise) still uses something akin to video/casette tapes. Though, to be fair this could just be a term the use for convenience rather than a literal description (akin to how we refer to "folders" on a computer even though no manilla envelopes are involved).

  • In 3001: The Final Odyssey, is the final book of The Space Odyssey Series. Continuing with obvious descriptions, the book was written in 1997 but takes place in 3001. The standard means of data storage is described as a small object that holds approximately one terabyte of data. Ignoring that the object in the book is transparent in places, a storage drive meeting its other specifications runs for around $200 in 2020, a full 981 years ahead of schedule!
  • 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.

    Live Action — TV Series 
  • In an episode of Saved by the Bell, Bayside High decided to put their yearbooks on videotapes. Good luck to them finding a VCR to play them on in the 21st century, as the last one was manufactured in July 2016.
  • In early seasons of Red Dwarf, it has the Characters watching Films on V H S Tapes (though, different shape ones). This gets lampshaded in “Back To Earth”, where the crew supposedly travel to Earth of 2009 and find a D V D Box. It is then explained that, in the future, people began to use V H S again, due to constantly forgetting to put the D V D's back in their proper casing and therefore would misplace them, V H S Tapes were just too difficult to loose.
  • Played for laughs in Runaways (2017), where the teenage Molly finds the important message her parents left for her is on a VHS tape, and she stares at it like it's something from Mars.

  • The "DVD rewinder" even exists as a joke appliance.
  • Topps' Wacky Packages has exposed tape sticking out of the package of "Stupid Moron Bros. 2".
  • The Transformers franchise has a few characters who in the original incarnation of the brand turned into at-the-time current technology, most famously Soundwave and his minions (who respectively turn into a (micro)cassette player and cassette tapes). Owing to the fact that no-one uses cassettes anymore, most new toys of the characters either refer to their alt-modes by different names or give them entirely new (or slightly different) alt-modes entirely.
    • Soundwave, being such a distinct character, thanks to both his cassette minions and his distinct voice, is generally an exercise in creativity as to how to render him for a new day and age. The consistent themes that he needs to hit are audio communications and Creepy Monotone. Such themes were covered by Predator Drones, Stealth Planes, Communication's Satellites, bats, and the Nissan Cube (one of the first cars designed with MP3 music devices in mind).
    • The IDW series initially solved the problem by having Soundwave arrive on Earth in the 80's, scan a micro-cassette player, and get trapped in his alt-mode.

    Video Games 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven Jotaro Kujo time travels from 1989 to 2011 to team up with his Kid from the Future, who's dealing with a villain that can steal people's memories with special CD-ROM's. Jotaro...understandably doesn't know what a CD-ROM even is (even though the CD had already been out for seven years from Jotaro's perspective).
    Jotaro: "Wait, did you say disc? Is it like a cassette?"
    Jolyne: "Generation gaaap!"
  • In World in Conflict a Running Gag is Mike's inability to find batteries so he can show off a high-status gadget of his, a portable CD player. Granted, World in Conflict is a Period Piece set in 1989, but in the modern day, when CDs have gone the way of the dodo, it stands out.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, made in 1998 and set in 2005, the Briefing segments are presented through the inserting-ejecting sound effects and screen artefacts as a series of VHS tapes (in a world which also has fully immersive virtual reality simulations). Otacon also has the original PlayStation in his lab, though it's not out-of-character for an Otaku to be into retro games.
  • The Ace Attorney series tends to use technology more or less consistent with the time the games were made, despite generally being set 15-20 years in the future. By 2009, when Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth came out, DVDs were common enough that any security footage was presented on DVDs, even in the flashback case that took place chronologically earlier than any case in the series to that 2012, still shortly in the future. Earlier games, however, frequently used VHS despite being set even later.

    Web Original 
  • In Half in the Bag, Mike and Jay run a VCR repair store, and their main source of income is from Harry Plinkett, who they defraud and lie to in order to have him constantly return his VCR for repairs.
  • The "Sega tapes" of Homestar Runner. Like a lot of elements in the series, this is deliberate parody of this trope.

    Real Life 
  • For people that work in facilities that deal with confidential information there is actually a battle to get CD players. Since facilities trying to protect confidential information may not allow phones or MP3 players, for fear of someone saving information on them and walking out the door with it, but generally will allow older CD and tape players. The problem is some areas no longer stock CD players, so if you want to be able to listen to music at your office you're going to have to find an old player that still works. If your office is large you may be fighting hundreds of other people who are also stalking the local thrift stores for this outdated technology. Still, it's a pretty niche need.
  • A lot of modern software still uses an image of a 3.5" floppy disk to indicate the save feature. One suspects that a lot of people born after 1995 have no idea what the image is supposed to represent.
  • CNC machines are specialized manufacturing equipment that are extremely expensive workhorses for most businesses that use them. CNC programs are text files that are typically only a few kilobytes in size. Due to the expense of replacing or even retrofitting a CNC machine (and the downtime such a retrofit requires), it's common to see CNC programs written on modern computers using USB 3.5" floppy disk drives to interface with the machines, or else for a company or school to maintain a very out-of-date computer as a programming terminal. Quick and dirty retrofits are also common (they can be performed in less than a day) that replace the floppy drive with a USB port, but the machine still internally refers to the drive as a floppy.


TVs have changed a lot and tropes that applied to analog black & white models don't always carry over to the digital HD and 4K multipurpose display devices of the present.

  • Numerous shows and comedians use to make a joke that "in the future there will be hundreds of channels, and nothing to watch". Congratulations, it's officially the future.
    • In fact, it's likely that the future referenced here is now the past, given the rapidly-declining viewership of cable in favor of streaming for precisely this reason. Unfortunately, streaming is not immune to the same problem.
  • A TV without signal, even on most modern media, is shown with TV static. This has largely fallen out of favor due to the shift to digital TV, where one without signal is usually just given a "no signal" message (although it can still be seen if you try to get over-the-air analog stations). Even many analog TVs since the late '80s have the ability to mute static and blank the screen if there's no signal. Of course this can be partly justified, as it's much easier for the audience to notice an entire screen being covered in static, and they're of course conditioned to know that it's broken if that's what they see.
    • There have been a few shows set in the far future which feature static-y TVs for added color (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 horizontal strips of garbled blocks like a badly scratched DVD. (This is known as "tiling.")
    • Unless the video was a recording that had at some point in the past suffered decay in analog transmission or storage — converting a static-y analog recording to digital is going to perfectly preserve the static. That's no excuse for live transmissions, though.
    • In the days of analog TV, if another appliance in the house was running at the same time as the television (typically something like a vacuum cleaner or a blender), that would cause the TV to get static-y. Nowadays, while vacuuming or making a smoothie while your family member/roommate watches TV might be annoying for other reasons, it's not going to cause the picture on the TV go static-y or "tile."
  • Recently, many thrift and second-hand stores have stopped accepting cathode ray tube televisions — and in some cases, video cassette recorders — because of their outdated technology and lack of interest by the public. Most of the old CRT TVs and VCRs sit on the shelves for months, unsold, before the stores wind up taking the items to an electronics recycling center (often at a financial loss to the thrift store), and signs at the stores often direct people wishing to make such donations to go to the nearest electronics recycling center. (Although most stores do still accept VHS videotapes, much like it's relatively easy to find eight-track tapes at thrift stores.)
    • In countries where analogue transmission has been turned off in favour of digital (a large chunk of Asia, Europe, North America, and Australasia), CRT televisions are outright worthless without a set-top box, which has added to second-hand and thrift stores turning them away.
    • That being said, if you do still happen to have one hanging around your house and it still works, it is still possible to use it. You just have to be aware of its limitations, and you probably won't want it as your main TV in your living room (maybe in a bedroom or something). CRT televisions have in fact taken on a second life among the retro gaming community for a number of reasons, all based around the fact that, prior to the mid-to-late 2000's, console video games were designed with these older monitors in mind thanks to flatscreen TVs being either rare & expensive or outright nonexistent depending on the game's age. Among other features, CRTs have faster refresh rates that allow for considerably smaller input lag, can properly process the 240p signals that the vast majority of retro games were built aroundnote , and tend to handle lower-quality analog video signals much more cleanly, the latter of which was key in making a number of visual effects work with limited graphical capabilities (most notably with the use of dithering to fake gradient shading and translucency over muddy RF and composite signals).
  • 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 '80s-'90s 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.
    • For that matter, the very concept of Poor Man's Porn is mostly obsolete. Actual porn is freely available, in huge quantities, over the Internet, everything from "vanilla" sex to very niche hardcore fetish porn. Admittedly, you're probably not going to be viewing porn at the local library, so you do need your own computer and Internet service. Still, the most common users of Poor Man's Porn weren't the poor, but children who weren't allowed to view anything else. Nowadays, like it or not, any kid who has hit puberty has probably looked up or stumbled upon some illicit porn at some point.
  • The advent of the DVR and On-Demand services (along with streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and, to an extent, YouTube) changed things in a lot of ways. Nowadays, kids (and even some adults) will struggle to grasp the concept of only being able to watch TV shows while they were actually airing. That being said, a new problem has emerged: Streaming services can only afford to have so many shows available, and some will inevitably get removed from the service due to a variety of reasons (disputes, lack of viewership, controversy, and so on). As some shows are available only through streaming, once these shows are removed from the service, their availability will drop drastically. The decline of Appointment Television has also made many feel that the Nielsen ratings have become obsolete, since those only measure viewership of live broadcasts and Nielsen has resisted counting streaming in their ratings since those do not feature the same advertising as on broadcast television and they are stuck using measurement standards that were last updated in 2006.
  • Another thing people tend to forget these days is that before the year 2000, basic cable was both more prevalent (to the extent that roughly half of the households that even had cable in a given neighborhood only had the basic package) and didn't include major networks like USA Network, the Sci-Fi Channel, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network (which was a big part of why, to name a random example, WCW Monday Nitro maintained its ratings stranglehold over WWF Monday Night Raw for nearly two years, because TNT was on basic cable).
  • Before the days of digital cable and satellite, in order to know what was on television, one either had to wait for information on a particular channel to roll by on a repeating scroll (such as the Prevue channel, which became the TV Guide Channel at the Turn of the Millennium), or use the listings in the local newspaper or the print-copy of TV Guide. As digital cable became more and more prevalent, cable and satellite providers began adding interactive guides, which let consumers look at listings themselves, often much further out than the old rolling scrolls did. This digitalization is also what made it possible for high-speed Internet to come to more and more homes.
  • Back in The '70s, The '80s, and The '90s, satellite dishes were large, clumsy things. (They were, and in places where note  they're still around, still are referred to as "BUDs," an acronym meaning Big Ugly Dish.) Now, the dish part of it can be barely larger than a dinner plate, thanks to digital TV making things much more efficient than the old analog dishes.
  • Back in the days of CRT sets, alot of people would brag about having one in the 32-inch range, which can nowadays seem laughably small.
  • Getting information from a PEG Channel. Previously, if you wanted information on the goings-on in your community, or were attending a Correspondence Course, you would watch these channels. Nowadays, all that information and that classwork are all online. As for people who want to make and share videos about...well, just about anything, they can do so through video-sharing websites such as YouTube or Vimeo. (Without needing to take any classes on how to produce television.) However, PEG channels offer an advantage over these video-sharing sites: when you record at their studio, or using their camcorders, you are using actual TV recording/editing/etc. equipment. (Which is something your average YouTuber might not have access to.) And they can be a good place to start if you're hoping to get into TV production as a career.

  • Lampshaded in Back to the Future as Marty is in 1955:
    • First, when Marty dines with his future maternal family, Lorraine asks whether his family owns a television set, to which Marty says, "Yeah, you know we have two of 'em...", making her younger brother say "Wow, you must be rich!", to which their mother says, "Oh, honey, he's just teasing you. Nobody owns two television sets!"
    • Later, Marty tries to explain his knowledge of an episode of The Honeymooners as having seen it as a rerun. In several non-English dubs of the movie, the word 'rerun' doesn't exist (usually because the country concerned had not adopted the policy of re-airing episodes of television shows as of the mid-eighties), so Marty says instead that he saw "The Man from Space" episode of The Honeymooners "on tape".
    • As the 1955 Doc looks at Marty's camcorder, he says "Now this is truly amazing: a portable television studio. No wonder your president is an actor, he's got to look good on television!"
  • A notable example of the ubiquity of curved CRT screens in the future 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.)
  • Men in Black II: Kids who grew up with DVDs and digitally downloaded movies probably won't get the locker-aliens' "Be Kind, Rewind" reference. The "Adult section in rear" gag, teens can probably figure out, though it also dates the picture.
  • One of the Alien Nation TV movies had people using CRT monitors well after flatscreen monitors had become cheap and readily available in the real world. This was deliberate on the part of the filmmakers... while they were still using CRT monitors, they were using much more advanced interface devices and streaming video was slightly ahead of where it is even today, several years later. This was to highlight that technology had developed in entirely different ways due to the Newcomers.
  • Lampshaded in X-Men: Days of Future Past when Hank is showing off his room-filling device that enables him to record ''...all three networks and PBS."
    Logan (Sarcastically): All three? Wow!
    Hank (Not getting it): And PBS.

  • A passage in Atlas Shrugged (written in The '40s and The '50s and set in something like an alternate crapsack Diesel Punk universe) mentions a "super-color-four-foot-screen television set" being "erected" in a public park like it was some sort of monument.
  • In Red Dragon, the killer works as a film developer for home movies, a profession now decades obsolete. The film updates this to him working in film-to-video transfer... another profession that, if not yet completely obsolete, is now so obscure that it's a story-breaker: if both victimized families had been having old filmstrips transferred to video, the FBI's investigators would have noted this incongruity as an immediate common link without the profilers' help.
  • At one point in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Dudley is complaining about the fact that Vernon taking the household to a rickety old shack on an offshore rock in an ultimately futile attempt to throw off pursuit by Hagrid means he'll miss one of his favorite TV shows. This happens in late July of 1991. If it were set today, while Dudley, being Dudley, would still complain, it wouldn't mean quite as much. If anything, a first-time reader (especially if they aren't aware of the time frame, which wasn't firmly established until Deathly Hallows) will simply be confused about why Dudley is so upset at all.
  • The Beverly Cleary novel Mitch and Amy, which is set in the 1960s, features a number of diatribes from the title characters' father. He not only takes a great deal of issue with his children watching television, he seems to object to the fact that the family owns one. Viewed through a modern lens, this comes across as exceedingly strange.
  • The iconic intro to Neuromancer, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel", is somewhat spoiled by the fact that on many modern TVs, the color you see when you turn your TV to a dead channel is bright blue. (In 1984 when the book was written, it would have been an ugly gray static.)
    • This is referenced and lampshaded in the first line of Neil Gaiman's book Neverwherenote : "The sky was the perfect blue of a television, turned to a dead channel."
    • Same in Robert Sawyer's Wake: "The sky above the island was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel - which is to say it was a bright, cheery blue".
      • And even that's an anachronism because modern video monitors default to black when no signal is present.
      • Although, Direc TV and its sister service U-Verse use a blue screen to depict channels you don't get.
  • In the The Pendragon Adventure's third installment, The Never War, Bobby Pendragon makes the mistake of asking his local counterpart Vincent "Gunny" Van Dyke where the TV is in a 1937 hotel suite. Naturally, Gunny has no idea what he's talking about, but notes that there is a radio around there somewhere when asked about it.

    Live Action — TV Series 
  • One of MADtv's earliest regular sketches was "Lowered Expectations", a video dating service for extremely maladjusted individuals. Despite being hilarious, the sketches quickly became dated due to the rise of online dating, which rendered video dating services obsolete. As a result, the sketch was quietly retired by the late '90s.
  • 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 1990s.
  • Earth: Final Conflict, produced in the late 20th century and set in the late 2010s/early 2020s, 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.
  • The signature opening Control Voice lines for The Outer Limits (1963), about how "we are controlling transmission", specifically reference a number of technical glitches - misaligned images, blur, color distortion, rolling or flickering - that commonly afflicted early analog television sets. These days, glitches typically involve pixelation, scrambling, or judders between adjacent channels, and even the idea of "transmission", i.e. broadcasting, seems archaic in the era of cable, satellite, and streaming video. In addition, the opening monologue's most well-known lines are "we control the horizontal, we control the vertical". This referenced the fact that TVs of the era actually had controls that adjusted the vertical and horizontal width of an image, a feature that was dropped from TV sets by the end of the 1970s.
  • There's an episode of Married... with Children that goes around Al's desires to watch his favorite John Wayne movie Hondo that, according to him, airs every 17 years, and of course as he's Al Bundy he missed the film after getting trapped in a store due to a computer malfunction and then after getting knocked off by said computer. When he awakes he hears the channel advising that they schedule the film to be presented again... in 2011 (the episode aired in 1994). Nowadays modern audiences will have problems grasping the concept of not being able to watch a movie whenever they want.
    • In fact, the joke was ruined almost immediately: Hondo got a VHS release a few months afterwards.
  • There are at least two episodes of Cheers that exemplify this:
    • The one where all of the barflies (and Lilith) get really, really excited when Sam buys a whopping (Cliff's wording) 32-inch TV for the bar.
    • The one where Sam buys a used satellite dish and it's one of those giant things people would expect SETI to be using nowadays.
  • On Everybody Loves Raymond, when Ray gets a satellite dish with all the sports packages to help with his job as a sports reporter, everyone in the neighborhood (including his parents) starts acting nicer towards both Ray himself and Debra, so they can come over to their house and watch TV.
  • In one episode of Everybody Hates Chris, when the family celebrates the fact that they could finally afford to buy a 19 inch TV, Adult Chris explains that in the early '80s', when the episode takes place, a family owning a 19 inch TV was a big deal, even though in the mid 2000s', when the episode aired, a 19 inch TV was a common staple in every college dorm room.
  • An episode of Adventures in Wonderland features Alice wanting to watch a show, but she has to do her homework. A modern viewer might wonder why she doesn't just watch it on demand, while others might wonder why she didn't just record it. Even in the early 90s, when a VCR was commonplace in a lot of households like this, she might not have had a blank tape available.

  • In a MAD article about the fifty worst things about the Internet, one panel showed a family huddled around their computer watching a movie on Netflix on their tiny monitor, while their large beautiful flatscreen TV sat in the background unused. The issue came out in 2009; nowadays there are several ways to watch streaming sites through your TV (even back then, the family could have used an HDMI cable to plug the computer into the TV if they really wanted to). Hell, many TVs now have online connectivity, eliminating the need for a middleman altogether.

  • In Pink Floyd's "Nobody Home", from The Wall, the alienated rock star complains he's got "thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from." Bruce Springsteen claims "57 channels and nothin' on." These days it's more likely to be hundreds of channels of shit.
  • In the song "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, Big Bank Hank brags about having a color TV, which is decidedly unimpressive by modern standards. Color TVs were already common in the late 1970s.

  • Our Miss Brooks: A particularly glaring example of Technology Marches On occurs in the episode "The Tape Recorder". Walter Denton causes trouble by purchasing an outrageously expensive tape recorder ($385 in 1950 funds!) for Madison High School — in the grips of Mr. Conklin's latest economy drive. A circa 1950 tape recorder, incidentally, isn't a small device, but one of the huge reel-to-reel affairs seen here. Hilarity Ensues as Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin are forced to explain the purchase to school board head Mr. Stone. Even more Hilarity Ensues when the records Walter Denton made are played back in a mixed-up state.
  • Journey into Space: In Journey to the Moon / Operation Luna, the Moon landing is broadcast to Earth over the radio on October 22, 1965. However, there is no mention of it being shown on television. When he wrote Journey to the Moon in 1953, Charles Chilton failed to anticipate how ubiquitous television would be by 1965. Since television was already very common in the UK by the time that Operation Luna was broadcast in 1958, it was already dated even then.

    Video Games 
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Psycho Mantis's television-breaking powers imitate the Video mode on a specific brand of '90s Sony CRT TVs, making the holdover quite odd when they reappear with Mantis's cameo in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, a game released on consoles made primarily for HDMI output.
  • Final Fantasy VII has enormous white '97 CRT monitors appear here and there between fantastical SF designs; it's especially striking in the control room in Junon, which is wall-to-wall with them (and just outside a biomechanical gas chamber with no resemblance to real technology).

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons had the Simpson family using a CRT television from their 1989 premiere up until they transitioned to HD in early 2009, adding a new intro sequence that featured an HDTV in the end. Though, the show itself wouldn't have the family owning an HDTV till the next season.
  • The Family Guy episode "FOX-y Lady" kickstarted with the Griffins throwing their old television away and replacing it with a new high-definition flat-screen after Peter becomes unsatisfied with the quality of watching Rhonda Latimer (which ends up backfiring). The flat-screen remains for the rest of the series.

  • In a El Goonish Shive comic from 2003, Ellen, Nanase, & Justin go to a video store to rent a movie. They meet Susan there, who invites them to watch it at her place.
    Susan: I have a 64'' widescreen TV with surround sound and a DVD/VHS player.
    Ellen: Sweet!

Other Thrift-store Tech

  • When a work 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.
    • Also the phrase "you sound like a broken record".
  • 2010 has various 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.
    • Credit to comedian Steve Hofstetter for trying to bring everyone forwards...
      "I don't roll down my window. Because my car wasn't made in 1997. I vsshh down my window."
  • 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!
    • There's a joke floating around the Internet about a kid seeing a 3.5" floppy for the first time and asking "Who 3d-printed the save icon?"
  • People still use the term "dial a number" when telephones haven't used dials for decades.
  • 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 party game Charades has a standard action to indicate a film that consists of holding one hand as a fist in front of the face (the camera lens) while the other makes a winding motion nearby, mimicking manually winding the film through a camera. Needless to say, even film cameras haven't needed manual winding for many decades now; that dates back to the very early days of cinema.
  • The use of double-spacing at the end of sentences. 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.
    • It's also a handy habit when texting or writing notes on a cell phone, as adding the second space after the end of a sentence will cause the text function to automatically insert a period.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • A third party Dungeons & Dragons book (not quite SFW) refers to Polaroid pictures with the spell "Irnar's Polaroidic Pregnancy" (shortens the pregnancy to 9 hours). The guide isn't quite complete, and the name is yet to be changed.
  • "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.
  • People are often told to cut the doors off refrigerators before throwing them away, to keep playful children from being locked inside and suffocating. However, this only applies to older fridges with latch handles that are impossible to open from the inside. Fridges built since the '80s, however, use magnetic strips to hold the door shut, which can be easily opened from either side.
  • In April 2016, the National Weather Service announced that they would stop "shouting" at viewers. For decades, they transmitted their weather reports using teletype, essentially a typewriter connected to a phone line, which only allowed for all-caps, MEANING THEIR FORECASTS WOULD ALWAYS LOOK LIKE THIS. It worked fine for most of the 20th century, but once the Internet took off in the '90s and teletype became obsolete, using all caps implied yelling, especially in forecasts posted to social media. They wanted to start using mixed cases back then, but unsurprisingly for a government agency, it took them an extra twenty years to completely phase out the old equipment that only accepted teletype.
    • This is why the Weather Channel, back when they actually showed weather forecasts, looked like this.
  • The folk-legend that vampires don't show up in mirrors or photography is because mirrors used to consist of a thin sheet of silver protected by glass, and silver compounds were used in film, in addition to the reflex mirror inside the camera. Silver is considered a holy substance, hence why nothing undead would show up in it. But mirrors nowadays use cheaper aluminum for its reflective surface, a much less "picky" metal, and digital photography has all but replaced film and the silver-based emulsion fluids that went with it. There's also the fact that a vampire who doesn't appear on camera means not appearing in security footage, smartphones, or the media, which would remove the dramatic tension of maintaining the Masquerade in the modern day. As a result, this has become a Forgotten Trope in vampire fiction.
    • Some Vampire stories have taken the 'Vampires don't show up in things' and run with it. In the TV series Ultraviolet, for example, a Vampire wouldn't show in any mirror, camera, or even sound equipment. Vampires had text-to-speech devices to allow them to use telephones, whilst the show's Vampire hunters had guns with a small camera and TV screen attached - point it at a room full of people and anyone who didn't show up on the screen was a target. One episode even features a woman who was pregnant with a Vampire child, with Doctors constantly telling her it was a false pregnancy because nothing showed up on their ultrasound.
  • A once-popular method of suicide that still occasionally comes up in fiction is sticking one's head in the oven. Young people might see this and get confused ("Is he going to cook himself to death?"), but older gas ranges didn't automatically light. Turning the knob simply released the gas, and you'd light it yourself. That is, unless you're suicidal, in which case you'd lay your head on the oven floor until you drifted off to eternal slumber. Furthermore, until the 1970s the gas was coal gas (also called town gas) and contained significant amounts of toxic carbon monoxide. Natural gas used currently is nontoxic, though it can cause asphyxiation by displacing oxygen. Presumably, locking one's self in the garage with the engine running will fall prey to this trope as well if electric cars ever fully supplant fueled ones.
    • It already has, with CO emissions so well-scrubbed in modern gasoline cars that people attempting suicide by this method have fallen asleep and woken back up with the engine still running.
  • Banking. Back in the day, most transactions required paper checks and people had to "balance the checkbook" to track their account balance, as the bank would only provide it once a month by mail. Nowadays, banks do all the math and provide live balances online. Deposits and withdrawals used to require going to a bank branch during banking hours and interacting with a teller, then ATMs made this possible 24/7, and now checks can de deposited with a smartphone by taking a picture. For the most part paper checks have become obsolete, most employers can direct deposit paychecks into bank accounts, credit and debit cards replaced paper checks for merchant use, and payment apps like Zelle and Venmo for personal payments. Nonetheless, registers in grocery and department stores are still equipped to receive checks, mostly for elderly customers who had grown accustomed to using checkbooks for decades. On the other hand, large purchases like cars and home down payments often still require a paper check, and landlords might require them as well. But even this may be phased out, with the aforementioned Zelle and Venmo apps, PayPal, and even card-swiping devices such as Square for phones and tablets. It is unlikely, however, to disappear completely, because one group does rely on paper checks: the government, and just check the rest of this page to determine how good they are at quickly updating their technology.
    • This is in countries which had only had the check-based banking system. In countries with the giro banking system, everything was initiated by the payer instead of the payee: the former had the knowledge of the latter's bank account number, went to the bank and told the teller they wanted to transfer a certain amount of money - one could even directly "transfer"note  from one account to the other (which could in theory be with the same bank or with another bank), without the payer having to cash out of their account and then into the payee's account - and the bank took care of the remaining bureaucracy, automatically balancing the account(s) (taking out the money from the payer's account, if it had been there in the first place, and putting it in the payee's) and the payee had his money right in his account the next time he went to the bank, without needing to previously authorize/later accept or even previously know of this deposit.note note note  Technology has blurred the lines between the check-based and giro systems a bit, although there are still differences: deposits still have to be authorized/accepted by the payee, there is no "between-accounts deposit" and there is higher use of PayPal-like apps in banking systems vs. the situation in giro systems. Actual checks see much more use even today in check-based systems than in gyro systems.

    Anime and Manga 
  • One-Punch Man has an internal version with remarkable turnaround time. In the original manga (both ONE's webcomic and the Yusuke Murata remake), published in 2013, Saitama and Genos' mail is delivered via air drop because City Z is considered too dangerous for mail carriers to visit. In the Animated Adaptation, released in 2015, this is changed to a mail drone.

  • A positive variant is depicted in The Magdalene Sisters, which the notorious Magdalene Asylums, de facto Irish gulags for women who didn't conform to local religious mores (like being raped), earned their main income from doing laundry which had to be done by hand in earlier years. Later, the first washing machines were installed and although the Nuns and their prisoners didn't know it then, the very ubiquity of these relatively inexpensive and obviously practical appliances in personal residences would destroy the economic viability of those prisons.
  • In 1981's Escape from New York, a monitor displays a 3D wireframe model of NYC as Snake lands his glider in the city. The filmmakers wanted to use an actual computer model, but since technology wasn't there yet at the budget they had, they compromised by building a physical miniature New York, outlining it with reflective tape, and filming the result. This was the budget option.
  • Seen in a 2015 era antique store in Back to the Future Part II:
    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.
  • 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.note 
  • 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.
  • One Hour Photo was made in 2002, probably at the last possible moment before it'd need a period setting to explain why anyone would need to take pictures somewhere for them to be developed.
  • In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris' line "I asked for a car, I got a computer. How's that for being born under a bad sign?" seems strange today. A typical teen in 1986 wouldn't know what to do with a computer, but every teen in modern times would like his or her own private computer for social messaging, file sharing, and pornography.
  • The characters in Tomorrow Never Dies have to repeatedly exposit what a GPS is, because in 1997 that was obscure military technology. Nowadays, virtually every new car and phone has access to GPS.

  • 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.
  • The original (circa 1980) edition of Superfudge by Judy Blume 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.
  • When Repairman Jack first appeared in The Tomb, written in the early 1980s, Jack had to put in a lot of work to maintain his anonymity but still find customers and stay off the grid. Actually renting an office under an assumed name with nothing in it but a phone and an answering machine, multiple mail boxes under multiple names that he would check for mail daily, always using pay phones, etc. Jump ahead to the present day and he's ditched the office and the answering machine and the mail boxes and just uses a web page with a phone number and email address displayed, buys cheap no-plan phones that he pays cash for and replenishes the minutes with using prepaid credit cards, etc.
  • 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, a bit baffling by the early '90s (they had marched on from being impractical high-tech gadgets to a commonplace item nobody would call "neat"), rather on-the-nose now.
    • The radio adaptations in the mid-2000s had novelty ringtones instead. Not quite as dated yet.
    • Douglas Adams defended the original line from a copy editor who wanted to modernise it to cellphones. According to Douglas, digital watches are inherently ridiculous (in the middle of a period defined by finding visual ways to show information clearly, we took the graphic display we'd had since medieval times and replaced it with a string of numbers, just because we could) in a way that cellphones aren't. As long as humanity continues to believe there's a point to digital watches, he considered the "pretty neat idea" dig valid.
  • In The Space Odyssey Series, by the year 3,000 humanity has developed technology to match song lyrics to the Ear Worm stuck in your head for you for a fee. Uh... it's called a search engine and it's free.
  • 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.note  Soon it's likely that readers will be asking why he didn't get prosthetic eyes.
  • 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 used vacuum tubes and 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 write 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).
  • In The Stars My Destination, tattoo removal becomes a plot point. The main character needs to remove a clearly identifying facial tattoo forced on him by a Cargo Cult, and the removal process involved bleaching out the tattoo by injecting acid into his skin while he is awake and screaming. The book was written in 1957, three years before the invention of the laser, let alone laser tattoo removal. There is some dialogue in the book suggesting that tattooing is a lost art in the future, and tattoo removal would not be a priority in a culture without tattoos.

    Live Action — TV Series 
  • Game Shows: Watch any classic episode of a game show that offers prizes, particularly prior to 1990 (or even 2000), and you'll see electronics and other items that were cutting edge then that are today outdated.
    • Examples include the countless video cassette recorders (first offered circa 1978, when they cost $1,000 or more and were considered a "grand prize"(!)), the Muntz projection TV (the "deluxe" style of television viewing, with a (gasp) 3-by-4 foot viewing screen) and the large satellite dishes (from companies such as General Instruments). Cellular car telephones, which were worth $3,000(!), was a common top-level prize, as were portable telephones.
      • Several shows also offered an "entertainment center" – basically a stand with several dividers, which went along with the TV, VCR, audio equipment, connectors and remote control – whose components today would be worthless (except for perhaps the audio components, even though there's virtually no market today for cassette tapes and even compact discs are declining in share).
    • Computers are another common example. Take a look at, for instance, a Tic-Tac-Dough episode from 1979, when the Apple II computer was offered as a prize (worth $2,000-plus(!), counting the disk drives, monitor and printer that came with it) ... state of the art for the time with its 64K memory (expandable to double it), and people were truly excited about winning one. Today, it's a museum piece, and even low-end modern computers have several gigabytes of RAM. Commodore, Radio Shack and Texas Instruments also saw their computers given away as game show prizes (with and without the other items), and likewise, except for hobbyists, these computers have long since become obsolete.
    • Speaking of Tic Tac Dough, each of those video screens on the big board was generated by its own Apple II, in stunning 16-color 40x40 lo-res graphics, with the nine Apples networked by an Altair 8800. Compare, at the time, the 1978-79 version of Jeopardy!, which still used printed cards on their big board! By 1984, when the Alex Trebek edition of Jeopardy! debuted, its 30-screen board made Tic Tac Dough's board look quaint by comparison.
    • Years before Skype and other no-cost proprietary voice-over-IP services, there were videophones. At least one episode of the 1980s version of High Rollers, which is uploaded to various video sharing sites, offers video phones (a $500 item) as a prize; it was touted as state-of-the-art way to see and hear the people you're talking to. Videophones differ in one key respect from all the other items in this entry in that nobody really wanted them. Video chat systems, the modern equivalent, are nothing like as popular as voice only or text chat.
    • Speaking of music devices, one Sale of the Century shopping-level prize was a $12,000 video jukebox. Users deposited their money into the jukebox and chose one of several selections which the machine would pick out and play on the video screen. They date back to the 1940s and have seen several evolutions over the years, from the 1940s Soundies on black-and-white 16mm film, to the 1960s Scopitones on color 16mm film, to the 1980s Rowe International videocasette jukeboxes offered on Sale of the Century, to the current models that stream videos via WiFi and are much more compact than the physical-media-based models of old.
  • Central Park West had characters use a very primitive form of email (which had just been introduced into the workplace around the time the series was created), and didn't have any modern functions such as inactivity timeout, password protection or full text editor. A large part of stockbroker Gil Chase's storyline is that several characters (including his ex-girlfriend and a romantic rival) are able to access his email without any password and nearly destroy his reputation by playing havoc with his contacts.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard:
    • "Double Sting," from the first season, sees Rosco using a large "field telephone" to communicate with Enos. The field telephone was typically used only by law enforcement (and in large cities, more populous counties and state agencies at that) and the very rich in 1979. Today, everyone – even in the most backwoods of communities – is using cell phones and iPhones, perhaps videophone sites like Skype just like the rest of us.
    • "Uncle Boss," taped in 1979 but aired during the third season, sees Boss Hogg's corrupt nephew, Hughie, introduce Boss and Rosco to the state-of-the-art technological marvel ... the video cassette recorder! Quite a bit of time is dedicated to explaining how one of these contraptions work. Although its purpose in the plot is to attempt to frame Bo and Luke for bank robbery (as a security camera is attached to the VCR), there may have been a subliminal message in it all – buy a VCR and you capture the Dukes on tape ... every week! In any case, the VCR has long met its match, and banks typically now use hard drives and hidden security cameras to monitor banks. In addition, note that Boss and Hughie hand-deliver the videotape with the incriminating evidence to the FBI ... but get detoured into a junkyard and are held up briefly by Cooter's magnet(!), which erases the tape; today, Boss could simply send the footage of his "bank robbery" to the FBI via a private Internet connection (such as file transfer protocol, or ftp, site), making his favorite scheme of hiring impersonators to pull off a "Duke boy bank robbery" even easier to accomplish without Bo and Luke even having a clue what's going on ... until federal authorities converge on the farm with warrants for their arrest.
  • Sesame Street: Around the mid-1980s, Oscar the Grouch owned a "grouch computer." The buzzword back then was "friendly computer," which simply meant easy to use; of course, with Oscar involved, the "friendly greetings" were replaced by "grouch" ones. Other Sesame Street residents (notably, Luis and Maria) also owned a computer. All segments with computers were used to teach basic computer skills and workings of computers. And of course, these were computers that were state-of-the-art for the era, at a time when they were far less common.
  • In the pilot of Lois & 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?
  • Beepers were parodied in the 2006 series 30 Rock via character Dennis Duffy the "Beeper King" who just knew that they would make a comeback.
  • 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.
  • On Murder, She Wrote, Jessica's practice of recording audio versions of her novels was slated to be discontinued, because her publisher claimed there weren't enough blind people to maintain demand. The notion that sighted people might want to listen to novels on digital media - or even a personal cassette-player, already commonplace when the series aired - evidently hadn't crossed anyone's mind.
  • An episode of Airwolf revolved around a Vietnamese boy who might have been the son of Stringfellow's missing brother St. John, and the end of the episode has Archangel lamenting the fact that they may never know if the boy really is St. John's son and String's nephew. Within 10 years of that episode airing, taking a cheek swab of both would have answered that question in a few weeks. In the current day, with the technology the the Firm presumably would have access to, it could have been answered in a few hours.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • At ECW November To Remember 95, November 18, 1995, during the Tommy Dreamer/Terry Funk vs. Raven/Cactus Jack main event, Dreamer hit Raven over the head with a VCR, then with the remote to the VCR, which would be much harder to find today.
  • Another example involving Dreamer. On the 2007 Halloween Episode of WWECW, Dreamer dressed up as Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) for his match with Nunzio, who was dressed as Dracula, and hit Nunzio with a cell phone, much like Paul E. had done as a manager from the mid-1980s until 1995. However, because of this trope, the phone Dreamer used was much smaller than the big bricks Paul used during the 1980s, which qualifies as Badass Decay.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII, despite having plenty of futuristic Magitek like giant robots and holographic arcade games, has Cloud owning a "PHS" and using it to contact the other party members. This was a stripped-down Asian cellular phone service based around CDMA technology aimed at the personal market, which had a reputation for only being used by children or poor people. PHS became obsolete around the time that anyone could get powerful mobile phone coverage for extremely cheap, and few people remember it even in its home market — in the West, where PHS was never used, it's Lost in Translation.
  • Resident Evil has typewriters acting as save points and a slide projection for a puzzle hint. The game takes place in 1998, which wouldn't make typewriters and slides look too out of place, but typewriters had already fallen out of common use by that point. It makes sense in the setting of the first game though, which took place in a seemingly abandoned old mansion, but the franchise kept using typewriters throughout the sequels, with many of them spread out throughout Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Resident Evil 5 would be the first game to abandon the typewriter system in favor of simply having auto-saves after each checkpoint. Resident Evil 7 did away with auto-saves, but didn't bring typewriters back; instead, saving is done in tape recorders.
  • Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom: Shifted back a couple of millennia, but over the course of the campaign iron will replace bronze, and in turn be replaced by steel, bronzeware utensils will fall out of fashion and be replaced by lacquerware, charioteers will be replaced by mounted cavalrymen and paper will take over from wood as the writing material of choice. Also, things like irrigation, currency (first copper coins, later printed paper money), and new crops like tea and rice will appear over the course of the campaign.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 has Mr. X give Raiden a phone, described in its description as an ordinary cellphone. However, it's an ordinary (good quality) cellphone as would be in 2001; by the real 2009, phone technology had gone in a broadly unexpected direction. The script actually notes this: Raiden stares at the cell phone (a current, therefore old, model).

    Western Animation 
  • 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. Lampshaded in The Jungle Movie, where thanks to Comic-Book Time smartphones and Bob's unwillingness to get with the times have put him in financial dire straits.
  • Cellphones are present in Godzilla: The Series, but the designs are that of the old clam shell style with antennas, having aired from 1998 to 2000.
  • The Family Guy episode "Brian & Stewie" has Brian and Stewie accidentally locked inside a bank vault and they spend the entire weekend trapped inside with no way to break out. Bank vaults usually have a button or other mechanism that allows people to open the door from the inside (not to mention every vault would have cameras inside, so the person watching the cameras could see something was wrong), which means the bank Brian and Stewie were at was extremely old with just as old architecture or they got trapped for the sake of drama and tension.

Alternative Title(s): Tech Marches On


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