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, VHS cassette tapes, etc. have relatively recently become either so little-used as to be obscure, or obsolete altogether. This isn't Zeerust, which is about futuristic tech becoming old rather than about modern tech becoming old. The important qualifications of this trope are as follows:
- Show takes place in modern or modern-ish times, usually the not-so-distant past.
- Show makes reference to something, usually a form of technology, that is "The next big thing" or "state of the art", and indeed it was — at the time the show was made.
- Said technology has since proved to be impractical, has become obsolete, is at least gradually on its way out, or it is just not in the spotlight anymore.
- Cue Hilarious in Hindsight for those who remember when said tech was either very common or hyped as the next big thing.
As far as that last point is concerned, remember that there have been spectacular technological leaps in just the past twenty years — within the lifetimes of many (read: most) Tropers, in fact! note For the most part, once a technology is invented, it tends to develop at warp speed. Remember, it took only about 66 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; within twenty years of the episode's first airdate, even a low-end smartphone was over a hundred times more powerful than that in every way, while fitting in the user's pocket and costing less than a tenth of what his company would have spent. Because of this, writers today generally don't get specific about computer performance to avoid sounding dated.
Somewhat related are those moments during older 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 the plug-in alarm clock was, cell service wouldn't have been disrupted in the same way the landlines were, 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
A related and increasingly common source of humor shows down-on-their-luck characters as only able to afford the kind of older technology found in thrift stores today. Additionally, shows set in the past will often lampshade this for humor. A Long Runner might even have its earlier episodes/books/etc. have one level of technology, and later installments have more up-to-date technology with little or no Hand Wave at all.
Often turns a work into an Unintentional Period Piece. Can sometimes be a Trope Breaker: A change in cultural context that affects Tropes. A cousin of sorts to Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future. See Magic Floppy Disk for cases when the tech onscreen in a futuristic series was dated when the show was made.
See also Science Marches On, Abandonware, Computer Equals Tape Drive, What Are Records?, Snail Mail, and some examples of Aluminum Christmas Trees. 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 or Modern 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.
AgricultureA 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. The reasoning behind this is an assumption that while population will increase at an exponential rate, food production will only increase linearly, therefore there would be a point where population surpasses food production. This theory is known as Malthusianism.
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 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 8 billion and climbingnote as of 2022.
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.
Another thing to note is that even today there's still debate on whether we've hit overpopulation. As noted above those who say yes point to dwindling natural resources and say that we can't sustain this level of food production forever, while those who say no indicate that mathematically there is still enough land to grow food for all 7+ billion people today and give each of them a few acres to live, and the issue lies more in logistics. (Those who say yes will retort that one can't just dismiss the whole thing because a model that assumes everything is run perfectly optimally says so, and need to take into account real-world factors.)
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.
- La venganza: In-Universe. The story involves Spanish peasants walking around the country on foot, looking for wheat fields where they can work as reapers. Towards the end of their trek it becomes more difficult to find work, because mechanical reapers are gathering the wheat.
- Isaac Asimov's works are especially prone to this:
- 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 Series. Trantor needs twenty agricultural worlds to feed its forty billion people. That works out to each one feeding two billion on Trantor. Or less, as later sources indicate that Trantor synthesizes a significant amount of food locally, as well. For planets specifically designated as “agricultural,” surpluses which feed just two billion people each (if that!) seem downright paltry.
- On a related note, Trantor is a single, planet-wide city, reaching down hundreds or thousands of levels below the surface. To see the sky requires visiting special observation towers. (Wait, then why not grow crops on the surface?) If the planet is roughly equivalent to Earth, that amount of space is preposterously massive – even for 40 billion people. For comparison, 95% of the current 8 billion people on Earth live on 10% of the land. That includes cities which cover 3%, and less densely populated areas for the other 7%. So Earth’s population is 20% of Trantor’s, but covers only about 10% of the available land. And most of that is not cities. And that’s all relative to land area – relative to total surface area, it’s even less. So for the math to work out, Trantor must be one dinky little planet. But that raises questions about gravity…
- Compounding the problem even more, Asimov was self-admittedly bad at scale, and bad at remembering how many people were supposed to live on Trantor. Depending on which book you’re reading, its population varies from 40 billion to 4 trillion. (With 4 trillion, the average agricultural planet feeds up to 200 billion Trantorians. Unrealistic as hell for here and now, but for sci-fi, sure why not.)
- 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.
- 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.
AutomobilesDrifting 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.
- James Bond
- In GoldenEye, Bond pulls a few stunts in his old companion the Aston Martin DB5n 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, let 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.
- James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 was an exceptional vehicle... for the 1960s. 284hp may seem a lot (and 71bhp/L wouldn't be bad for a naturally aspirated engine today) until a turbocharged Ford Focus RS or Subaru Impreza WRX zips past. And it's 4 times cheaper. The DB5, however, is still undeniably about 470 times cooler. How many wankers do you see rolling past with an ill-fitted trumpet exhaust on an Aston Martin?
- 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".
- J.G. Ballard's Crash seems a bit dated in the way its characters eroticize car accidents, since it takes place at a time when not only was automotive design more self-consciously sexual, people did not generally wear seat beltsnote even though they were available, and airbags were not included in cars either, making the possibility of serious injury or death in a car crash more likely.
- In Freeman Wills Crofts' detective story The Hog's Back Mystery, the solution relies on the fact that one character had borrowed another's car without his knowledge. A modern-day reader would be far less likely to think of this, since they would have assumed the car couldn't be started without the correct key — in fact, ignition keys weren't invented until 1949.
- Nash Bridges' ultra-rare and expensive as a Renaissance sculpture Hemi'Cuda is beaten senselessly in both drag racing and maneuverability by a modern Mitsubishi Evo. Any Evo since the late 1990s. Then add a few hundred dollars' worth of mechanical improvements for the Evo...
- 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.
- The narrator's plan to build himself a Cadillac in Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time" gets derailed because he doesn't take this trope into account. He steals the car parts used to build it over the course of 20 years, meaning the end result is an unholy chimera of a car.
- Racing simulators such as Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo often showcase the huge gap in automotive performance over the years. In Forza, for example, the roaring first-generation Mustang GT will get curb-stomped around a race track by a modern Ford hatchback due to the newer car's better power delivery, tires, and more advanced transmission. However, older cars often end up being more upgradeable due to their layout and simple design, allowing tuned muscle cars to thrash (lower-end) supercars around the track.
- 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. Paradoxically, the carburetors that fuel injection displaced in abundance were still used by NASCAR until Sunoco introduced ethanol to their racing fuel in 2011. And yes, the mentioned year is accurate.
Electrical ComponentsWhen 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 treasured metal. Because it's essential to electronics. In a more subtle example, it is mentioned in the first volume that it is impossible to have complex electronics on Jupiter at a depth where other machines are shown to successfully operate. This is likely because the pressure would crush vacuum tubes.
- 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.
- It is the case that old-fashioned clocks, with hands moving around a numbered face, are sold in stores in a way that capitalizes 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" phenomenon. 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 MediaWho else here has ever talked about "taping" a show on to a hard disk, or "rewinding" a DVD or YouTube video? Some media applications call it "seeking" or "skipping", but those are even older terms, even if they're not tied to specific mediums. 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.
- A rare example of a modern show using outdated media: a Slumber Party-themed episode of Star★Twinkle Pretty Cure, which aired in 2019, features the girls watching a movie on a VHS tape. This is part of the show's deliberate Genre Throwback to the '80s.
- 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.
- In the far future of Borderlands 2, storing data is still referred to as "taping." In Gaige's ECHO Logs, Gaige asks where the word came from. Axton claims it originally referred to physically taping something. Maya says that if he doesn't know, he shouldn't just make something up.
- The creators of 9½ Weeks seems 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 (1984), 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.
- Star Wars: 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 succeeded 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/cassette tapes.
- Zig-Zagged with High Fidelity. Rob Gordon runs a used record store and struggles financially. He also sometimes offers to make mixtapes for people when they ask him for playlists. On the one hand, cassette tapes have gone the way of the dodo in favor of CDs and digital, but vinyl made a resurgence in the decades following the film's release.
- 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! Beyond that, in 2021 you can buy a 1 terabyte USB external hard drive for $47 on Amazon.com, so the price keeps dropping even now.
- 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.
- William Gibson's Neuromancer treats a meg as a large amount of data. It's one of the few times his writing doesn't feel prescient. Gibson developed ever-more elaborate means of information storage, few of which would be half as convenient as a cell phone or a USB flash drive.
- Empress Theresa has one segment in which Theresa is given a call to adventure by a few Korean men who show her a videotape of a PBS documentary. The book was published in 2014, and Theresa happens to have a VCR player lying around.
- 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 a combination of Early-Installment Weirdness, Zeerust, and this, the episode "The Big Goodbye", from Star Trek: The Next Generation's first season in 1987, has the Enterprise starting off on a mission to meet a race of mysterious insectoid beings with strict expectations for adherence to punctuality, as well as respect for their language and customs. Any deviation from their standard greeting is met with hostile action, which is not expanded upon. Data, when conversing with the senior staff, mentions the last tape [recording] of the ship that lasts tried to meet with the insectoids, and this is in a series that later establishes that recordings could either be transmitted across space, uploaded and displayed from a ship's computer core, or transferred using isolinear chips (a type of storage object that's implied to be a hologram, laser, or light-based recording in a crystal or plastic medium).
- In the early seasons of Red Dwarf, it has the Characters watching Films on VHS Tapes (though, different shape ones). This gets lampshaded in “Back To Earth”, where the crew supposedly travel to Earth of 2009 and find a DVD Box. It is then explained that, in the future, people began to use VHS again, due to constantly forgetting to put the DVD's back in their proper casing and therefore would misplace them, VHS Tapes were just too difficult to lose.
- 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.
- Intentionally used in That '70s Show. Eric makes clear to his parents that he wants a cassette player for his birthday, not eight-track, cassette. Of course, being out of touch with the latest technology, they get him an eight-track player, making his gift from Hyde (cassettes) worthless.
- The game Mind Trap includes this puzzle, which could be baffling to a younger player not familiar with tape recorders: "The detective saw the body, with a gun in its hand, and head on the 'stop' button of a tape recorder. The detective pressed the 'play' button, and heard a suicide message, followed by the sound of a gunshot. The detective was certain that somebody had imitated the victim's voice, and murdered him. How did he know this?" Because the tape had been rewound. If it had been a genuine suicide, it would have been necessary to rewind the tape before hearing the message. The murderer had recorded the message, perhaps rewound it to check it, and then made the mistake of rewinding the tape again.
- The "DVD rewinder" is a joke appliance based off videotape rewinders. While the latter were useful as a means of rewinding tapes much faster and reducing wear and tear on VCRs, DVDs don't require rewinding, so the former just spins the disc around.
- 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.
- 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 and powers with special CD-ROMs. 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 point... in 2012, still shortly in the future. Earlier games, however, frequently used VHS despite being set even later.note
- In Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, obsolete tech becomes a plot point. Mysterious Employer Green Winters leaves behind a video diary on a series of DVDs, a medium which in the Shadowrun-verse is completely and utterly outdated. Finding a DVD player, a screen that has the right ports to accept input from a DVD player and someone who knows how to restore badly degraded DVDs becomes a major part of the plot.
- In the original Resident Evil, one of the items required to get the best ending is an "MO Disk" to be used in the high tech laboratory underneath the Spencer Mansion. This was a storage medium used by magneto-optical drives. These were available at the time and had been in use for over a decade prior, but only ever really became a popular storage medium in a few nations, most prominently Japan. In the United States where the game is set, magnetic-optical drives never gained popularity and by the late 90's were largely supplanted by CD-ROM drives.
- 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.
- In the Ned's Newt episode "Et Tu, Newte?", Ned mentions that, while sleeping over at the Plucks' place, he and Doogle rented "Frankenstein Goes Head-Curling Part 2: The Final Bonspiel" on DVD, then Doogle spent the rest of the night trying to figure out how to rewind it. This was due to the fact that the DVD format was new at the time, and most people still owned VHS tapes.
- 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, with a Japanese commenter around 2019 calling it a "vending machine".
- 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 or an SD card reader, which the machine still internally "sees" as a floppy.
- In case of CNC machines used in shipbuilding, this goes few storage technologies deeper into the past. Even the fact they use a floppy of any kind at all can't be assumed up-front, and it's almost never anything as "advanced" as the 3.5" one. And since those are really big machines that are even harder to replace, they are entirely dependent on legacy technology to re-program them whenever needed. This also explains why certain shipyards build the same, identical models, unchanged for decades - it's easier to keep going than to program the new model, and obviously cheaper than trying to replace perfectly operational machine park for something more up to date.
Radio and TelevisionTVs 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. Satellite Radio and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music / Podcasts have changed the landscape for radio in similar ways.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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). Observe.
- Home theater used to be a big honkin' projection TV or a large CRT. Now LCD projectors and large LCD/plasma TV have killed off large projection TV's and CRT's. A serious home theater setup can be had for half the price of even the cheapest large CRT's.
- With the old home theater system getting replaced by wall-mounted televisions and smaller peripheral devices, entertainment centers, the furniture that would hold these, are no longer selling nearly as well as they used to.
- 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 fetish porn serving every kink you can imagine (and a few you probably haven't). 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 services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+, HBO Max, Peacock, 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, ESPN, and Cartoon Network (which was a big part of why, to name a random but reasonably well-known 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 25 to 32-inch range, which can nowadays seem laughably small.
- It's not just that. Most of the modern visual content, including the TV shows and the Video Games, is produced for a significantly larger viewing angle than 30 years ago, because it is intended to be viewed either on a 40-50" TV screen a couple meters from the couch, or on a 25-27" computer monitor on the arm length from the user's eyes. Back then, the screen sizes were at least two times smaller, and widescreen CRT TVs are virtually unheard of, so if one attempts to, for example, connect a modern console to an oldschool TV, this would simply look wrong — everything will be way too small, and vice versa.
- 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.
- Tintin: In the original 1930s version of The Black Island, Tintin is shocked to enter a room and discover the source of the noises he heard is "...a television set!?!" It looks quite Hilarious in Hindsight to later readers, which is probably why the 1960s reprinting changed his line to "It's only a television set!"
- 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.
- UHF has an example in the title — back when the movie came out, TV stations on the UHF frequency band were infamous for largely being the home of low-budget, cheap and often weird TV, which made it perfect for "Weird Al" Yankovic to use as a vehicle for parodies. Nowadays, UHF is pretty much meaningless in the age of streaming, cable and the internet; Al lampshades this on the DVD Commentary, explaining how the advance of tech rendered the title confusing to younger people, and how he should've probably named it The Vidiot or Vidiots instead (Orion instead used that as the foreign title...only to add on the American name, making it The Vidiot from UHF, which Al absolutely hated).
- 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. Four-foot screen would indeed look like a lot in The '50s, when the common size of a TV screen was more like four inches, but in the late New Tens 48" TVs are in the mass market niche already.
- 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 since he would likely be able to watch the show on a catch-up service. 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.
- In Matilda (published and presumably set in 1988) the wealthy Mr Wormwood chides Matilda for preferring books to watching their "lovely telly with a twelve-inch screen", which is tiny by modern standards.
- 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 (or just power down outright) when no signal is present.
- Although, DirecTV and its sister service U-Verse use a blue screen to depict channels you don't get.
- Amusingly, the original line can still work, but as a critique of Case's over-urbanized attitude rather than of the city's pollution. As initially conceived, it makes it sound like the sky is horribly contaminated; in the era of "dead" channels being blue, it sounds like it's actually a gorgeous day outside, that anybody but Case would find an exhilarating feat of Nature, but his bad attitude and technophilia can only compare to freaking television.
- 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.
- The post-apocalyptic Young Adult novel Children of the Dust contains a scene in which five-year-old William starts pressing buttons on his family's defunct television, making "loud irritating clicks" and eventually driving his mother, Veronica, to yell at him to "leave that flaming television alone!" The story was published in the mid 1980s when many people still had push-button televisions whose buttons did make a loud noise when pressed. However, within a few years, televisions where you had to get up and manually change the channel had largely been superseded by those operated by remote control, whose buttons make a much quieter click. So the scene where William annoys everyone by playing with the switches on the television (which he is implied to have done on previous occasions) wouldn't work if the story had been written in the present day.
- One of MADtv (1995)'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 early 2000's.
- 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 an episode of Sparks, a 90's sitcom about a family of lawyers, a friend of the dad is accused of stealing a TV. But because the man is so short and skinny and a 32" CRT TV could weigh over 200 pounds, his defense is as simple as getting him to hold a TV that size, at which point he instantly falls over. A modern 32" LED weighs a tenth of that at most; someone could easily take it and run. However, LED's aren't nearly as expensive as a CRT of the same screen-size during their heyday, and by LED standards, 32" is tiny and generally not considered worth the hassle of stealing.
- 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 collecting dust. The issue came out in 2009; nowadays there are several ways to watch streaming video 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). In fact, most newer TV's 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 similarly 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 definitely nothing impressive by modern standards.
- The Notorious B.I.G. raps about having a "50-inch screen" in Juicy. In 1994 a television of that size was considered huge, but decades later having a 50" TV became something ordinary.
- The cover art for Roger Waters' Amused to Death depicts a chimpanzee staring at an eyeball on a CRT TV. While the TV looks standard for the album's 1992 release date, the 2015 remaster replaces it with a new cover depicting a baby staring at an LCD monitor to address how televisions had changed in the intervening 23 years.
- A lot of older songs refer to the narrator dealing with static on their radio or TV, showing that they're at the outer limit of the station's broadcast range. This can also refer to their being in places that are extremely remote. An example of the latter is Carrie Underwood's "Heartbeat".
- Lee Brice's single "Upper Middle Class White Trash" includes the lines "You ain't seen nothin', if you ain't seen, NASCAR on a 50-inch plasma screen." The song was released in 2008, when TV's that big where still seen as a luxury.
- 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.
- 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 Continuity 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).
- A testament to how long Duke Nukem Forever spent in Development Hell comes from some early leaks and promotional material showing Duke possessing a media room...full of CRT screens that would have been very swanky in the late '90s and extremely dated when the game actually released in 2011.
- The fourth-wall-breaking Interface Screw sanity effects in Eternal Darkness assume you're playing on a CRT television from around the time where the game came out (2002). Newer televisions have more varied graphics between brands and models for things like volume meters or "no signal" screens (which would be displayed when the console is turned off), making these effects much less convincing.
- In an 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.
- Also, said TV is thick enough that Ellen can sleep on it without immediately falling off.
- 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). They get their old television back at the end of the episode, only to get another smaller flat-screen TV when the show switched to HD two seasons later, which they still have to this day.
- The Kevin Spencer episode "Blow Job" had the Spencers getting a HDTV as a result of Percy getting his dick shredded off by a paper shredder. Near the end, the TV gets blown away by a hurricane and the rest of the series has them use the CRT television they had since the beginning.
- The intro for the seventh season has Percy and Anastasia use a modern television, with Percy using a remote to change the intros.
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 Cyberpunk, 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."
- Credit to comedian Steve Hofstetter for trying to bring everyone forwards...
- 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?"
- If you think those icons are about obsolete technology, keep in mind that in many countries, a road sign for a rail level crossing without gate is that of a stylised steam locomotive. And it only recently started to be replaced with more modern pictogram and not everywhere. So when was the last time you saw a regular use of steam locomotive in real life?
- Similarly, the default depiction of a phone app is a landline phone headset. Except that the vast majority of phones—particularly those in homes—are flat rectangles with no such handsets.
- 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.
- It's not just useful for padding, either: double-spacing at the ends of sentences helps to visually distinguish one sentence from the next. This makes proofreading their paragraphs slightly easier for the student, and assessment of the finished product's content and grammar significantly easier for the teacher. Especially a teacher whose eyes are already tired from scanning many other essays.
- 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.
- Another typewriter hold-over is the practice of using all-caps for emphasis or work titles due to italic type being either unavailable or impractical to use on the fly as it required changing the typebars (or typeball in an IBM Selectric) from non-italics to italics then back again. Even with software making italics quick and easy to use, older typists will often still SUDDENLY SHOUT in places where italics would be more appropriate.
- 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.
- 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 (enjoy the 90's jazz music while you're there).
- 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 modern times. 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.
- This is lampshaded in What We Do In The Shadows (the movie rather than the TV show) in that the main three vampires draw each other pictures of what the others look like when getting dressed to go out, but once they meet Nick and Stu (one a newly-turned vampire and the other his IT-guy friend), they are delighted to find that digital cameras and even webcams work for them.
- 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. A related gag would have such a suicide attempt fail because the oven turned out to be electric.
- Even locking one's self in the garage with the engine running has fallen prey to this trope. CO emissions are now so well-scrubbed in modern gasoline cars, 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 be 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 have grown accustomed to writing them for so long. On the other hand, large purchases like cars and home down payments often require a cashier's check, which is still physically printed, and private landlords (especially older ones) might still require cashier's checks and/or money orders for payment. However, younger landlords are more likely to accept payment via Venmo, and property management companies often have websites allowing tenants to pay their rent online. However, checks will take a long time to disappear completely, because one group does rely on paper checks: the government. For example, in the United States, applying for a state ID or passport still requires a check or money order in most cases, and just check the rest of this page to determine how good government agencies are at 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 giro systems.
- Ever wonder why there were very few Edutainment Shows centered on teaching educational concepts to children these days? A research study conducted by Disney back when they were about to rebrand their Playhouse Disney block into Disney Junior in 2010 showed that most kids learn important preschool topics via computer games and smartphone and tablet applications, and usually watch television for entertainment. Disney used this research to create the shows on the block, and it was successful, leading to a number of children's networks adding non-educational or morals-based preschool programming to their lineups. When Disney conducted the same survey in 2005 and 2000, parents wanted their kids to be educated by TV since computers weren't exactly a common commodity back then, although they were starting to become popular.
- Writing letters. Many schoolchildren up until the 2000's were required to learn how to properly write a letter, but in later decades, the practice became obsolete. Nowadays the vast majority of physical letters mailed are business-related, and many companies will offer incentive for consumers to forgo paper communication altogether as a cost-cutting measure.note Nowadays, personal correspondence via mail is usually situational: wedding invites, greeting cards, etc. Nowadays, the only time a person might actually write a letter and mail it to their loved one is if one of them is in prison. For basic chit-chat, electronic communication is simply faster and less hassle. Interestingly, even email has fallen out of favor outside of work because it's not instant like texting, DM's, or "old-fashioned" talking on the phone.
- Any time a character used a credit card in shows from the 80's and earlier, the clerk would run a slide over it and back. For those unfamiliar, this was called an imprinter. Credit and debit cards at the time were printed with raised lettering, and an imprinter would press it onto a carbon paper receipt which made two copies: one for the store's records and one for the customer's. The use of imprinters became a symbol for shopping on credit, but in the 90's they were phased out in favor of electronic processing. For a time, they were still useful for mobile vendors, but the 2010's saw the advent of various portable card readers, including ones the vendor could attach to their cell phone or tablet. Some merchants kept imprinters as a backup device, until banks started printing credit and debit cards completely flat to save money, making imprinters effectively obsolete.
- Believe it or not, your monthly utility bills have become this. When gas and electricity first became commercially available to the general public in the 1880's, they were considered a luxury service, as people in those days still had candles for light, firewood for cooking and heat, etc. But over the course of the next 60 years, gas and electricity became increasingly ubiquitous to the point that our entire society depends on them to function. Yet rather than being a part of the infrastructure paid for by tax dollars, they're still billed as though they were a luxury, as if people today can just cut off service without it massively affecting their everyday lives.
- 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.
- The Brave Little Toaster has the Villain Song (of sorts) Cutting Edge where a bunch of new (at the time) appliances gloat about how advanced and trendy they are compared to the "obsolete" titular Toaster and his friends. The hilarious part is Toaster and his friends, a lamp, electric blanket, upright vacuum, and radio are all still in common use to this day thanks to their Simple, yet Awesome timeless usefulness... while the "cutting edge" appliances like the boombox, an Apple II-ish pc, land-line phone, and canister vacuum are dead-in-the-ground obsolete nowadays.
- 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.
- Bananas: The humor of the scene where Mellish buys a bunch of magazines and the cashier loudly calls across the store asking a coworker for the price of Orgasm is completely lost on younger viewers since they were all born well after scanner-equipped cash registers and UPC codes made price checks unnecessary.
- 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 released in 2002 in the final days of film photography. Digital cameras completely took over once they became a standard feature on cell phones, and if the movie had come out even five years later, it would've needed a period setting to explain why people were still dropping off film cartridges to be developed into photos.
- Blood and Chocolate from 1997 has a werewolf hide in a workshop making film-printing machines, knowing rest of the pack won't even dare searching in a place full of silver dust. Notably the film adaptation, made mere ten years later in 2007, kept the plot point, but made the place closed and run-down.
- 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 the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies had to repeatedly exposit what a GPS is, because in 1997 that was still obscure military technology. Nowadays, virtually every new car and cell phone has access to GPS.
- This 1980s-era joke doesn't make sense in an era where digital cameras are the standard:
A Japanese Tourist comes back from vacation and is asked if he had a good time. He replies: "I don't know, my film's still being developed."
- What do you get if you dial 08839174673020749305837678403745? A sore finger, from when you had to actually use a telephone dial.
- 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, but nearly a decade after lidocaine became available and more than five decades since procaine (aka Novocain) was first developed.
- The “I Hate Mathematics!” Book, written in 1975 with the goal of getting elementary school students interested in mathematics, includes a word problem asking how many hours of sleep you would get if you went to bed at 8 in the evening and set your alarm for 9 in the morning, intending for the reader to instantly realize it’s a trick question. Since wind-up alarm clocks could not distinguish between a.m. and p.m. hours, it was impossible to set an alarm further than 12 hours in the future, and doing so would make the time underflow and the alarm go off at 9 p.m., just one hour later. Yet no child of the 21st century, reading today, would even realize it’s a trick question, since electric digital alarm clocks have no difficulty distinguishing a.m. and p.m. hours, and one can set an alarm on a smartphone to any time one likes, even weeks or months in advance, and thus the reader will surely get the wrong answer irrespective of their arithmetic skills.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 smartphones, perhaps video chat 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.
- For that matter it's a similar level of weirdness to see a story about someone becoming trapped under a garage door because the door did not have safety stop systems. In reality the amount of such occurrences in real life soon led to demand for mandatory implementation of safety stop systems including infra-red sensors and physical blockage sensors on all new garage doors.
- 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. A somewhat reasonable argument in the 1980s when a complete unabridged audiobook would fill four to six cassettes and a Walkman's batteries were only good for a couple of hours, but even at the time the idea that only the visually impaired had any use for books on tape would have been dubious, and by the time MP3 players started to become commonplace it was flatly absurd. Discontinuing accessible versions of her books because disabled people weren't a profitable enough marketing demographic wouldn't be received too well these days either, for that matter.
- 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 that the Firm presumably would have access to, it could have been answered in a few hours.
- RuPaul's Drag Race: In the first six seasons, each episode would begin with "You've Got She-Mail," a brief video clip where Ru would give the contestants hints towards that week's main challenge. It was a pun on America Online's famous "You've got mail" alert. Even though the soundbite was removed from the show following complaints from transgender viewers ("she-male" is a slur against trans women), it had another problem: it was dated. Even in 2009 when Drag Race first premiered, AOL had already faded to irrelevance as users had jumped ship en masse for broadband. Young people watching (or competing on) the show might not even remember when "You've got mail" was in its heyday.
- In Red Dwarf, both the pilot's explanation for how Lister got caught with the cat, and the entire concept of the episode "Timeslides" hinge on the idea that, in the 22nd century, photos are taken on film and developed in a lab.
- 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.
- 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.
- The remake includes the PHS, but as a terminal in a laboratory that talks to other terminals. Cell phones appear to be common, but not used frequently in the slums, possibly due to lack of coverage.
- 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: Nemesis.note 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).
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Mario can eavesdrop on crows in Twilight Town. One of them talks about how it's got a blazing fast Internet connection, at 100 Mbps. While still pretty decent today, back in 2004 when the game first came out, that kind of speed would've been downright luxurious.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition: The main plot requires you to lay siege to a fortress that was built during the Second Blight some centuries earlier, and has an impressive track record against the darkspawn. Cullen, however, is quick to point out that the construction is antiquated and no match for modern siege engines, and Josephine has pulled strings to get you the services of a team of highly skilled sappers.
- Your neighbors in Animal Crossing will sometimes ask you to retrieve items for them. Some of these items include VHS tapes, Game Boys, and the obscure Pokémon Pikachu device. All of these were pretty common back in 2002 when the game first released. Funny enough, the game runs in real time, so they'll still ask for these items nearly two decades after they've been rendered completely obsolete. Cranky Villagers also speak about e-mails as if they were an alien concept, when nowadays they are even more common than the hand-written letters the characters send.
- When the .hack series debuted, MMORPGs were still in their infancy. The World, the MMO that the series revolves around, looks comparable to other MMOs released around the same time as .hack//Infection in 2002, even though the game takes place in the year 2010. For comparison, Final Fantasy XI was released the same year as Infection, while its modern successor, Final Fantasy XIV, was originally released in 2010. This could be justified, however, by the fact that, in the lore of .hack, development of MMOs stagnated for some time as a result of a devastating global computer virus in 2005.
- In The Victorian Way, a cooking show set in Victorian Britain, the recipes for frozen desserts are complicated for obvious reasons, and the host Mrs. Crocombe makes several mentions of the ice house on the property, and made a half-joking comment saying that the delivery man must have gone to Alaska itself for the ice because he's so late. In those times, the only way to procure ice outside of winter would be to go all the way to the Arctic for it, and ice-selling businesses were a booming enterprise during the summer months. "Artificial" ice produced in factories didn't become a thing until the early 20th century, and it took a few decades for refrigeration technology to reach the point where people had refrigerators and freezers in their homes, at which point "natural" ice from up north became the bigger hassle.
- The 8-Bit Guy - Discussed in "What Happened to America's Electronics Stores." The demise of electronic stores such as Radio Shack, Circuit City, and Fry's Electronics can be attributed in part to the existence of modern smartphones.
- Exactly what the coin-operated robot in A Grand Day Out is meant to be often goes over the heads of modern audiences. It's actually based on coin-operated prepayment meters of the kind that used to be common in UK households: Instead of electricity and gas use being remotely tracked and billed, homeowners would instead insert coins or tokens into the device to pay in advance for however much energy they were ready to use, with staff from the utility company periodically coming around to empty the machines.
- 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.
- One of the reasons a lot of kids thought Arnold's room was Technology Porn was the presence of a CD player. CD players did exist in The '90s, but dedicated units were quite expensive (almost $330 in The New '20s, and that's a cheaper sound system) so they would not be a common sight in the room of a fourth grader; most kids would've instead used the audio CD function on a PlayStation.
- Multiple cartoons in The '90s featured people using tapes, such as Doug or Pepper Ann.
- 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.
- A 2002 episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius revolves around Jimmy traveling back in time to make his parents rich so he could purchase a set of print encyclopedias, which still existed when the episode was written, but the writing was on the wall for their obsolescence by a free alternative.
- 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.
- An early episode of The Fairly OddParents!, "The Switch Glitch", has Vicky blackmail Timmy with a tape recorder. Tape recorders were used well into the Turn of the Millennium, but by the turn of The New '10s, they'd fall out of favor.