Times of Oman
Nov 27, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 01:40 AM GMT
Unusual afterlives
February 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM

The gadgets that refuse to die

Invented by JVC, the VHS format became predominant in the 1980s and while DVDs, Blu-rays and streaming are far more popular today, JVC ceased production of stand-alone VCRs only in 2008. By then, it had sold more than 50 million of them.

Panasonic stopped selling VCRs in Japan in 2011, though production continues at factories in China and Slovakia and Panasonic makes VHS/Blu-ray players.

VHS remains popular among serious film fans. "In the 1980s, there was a wave of horror, action and B-movies released on VHS which have never made the leap to DVD," says Sam Ashurst, Total Film's deputy online editor and a self-confessed VHS nerd. "Sometimes the films were made so quickly and cheaply to fill the shelves at VHS stores that the negatives were not kept. In other cases the films were so bad no one would ever bother to re-release them but they have a kitsch appeal to completists."

Hollywood has also recently experimented with releasing limited-edition brand-new VHS tapes as promotional tools including Miami Connection and the horror anthology V/H/S. Whether they have real mass appeal is uncertain, however. A Facebook page called "I still use VHS tapes" has fewer than 200 Likes. Its administrator, Mike MacIntosh, says: "I find it's the nostalgia that always brings me back. For some reason it just feels better to have a black plastic brick play a movie for me instead of a disc."

Time was when no self-respected music lover would be seen without their portable cassette player. Although the Walkman brand was Sony's, it became so ubiquitous with these audio devices following its 1979 release that all such tech was casually given this moniker.
Today, MP3s rule the roost, but it was not until 2010 that Sony announced it was ceasing production.

Cassette players continue to be made, though, and there are lots of tape evangelists around. "Interest in cassettes has grown in recent years," says Stephen Mejias, writer for stereophile.com. "Cassettes are still being made, mostly by very small independent labels, although a few of the larger indies, such as Domino, Sub Pop and 4AD, have recently joined the fold.

Tapes are often extremely limited — editions in as few as 50 or 100 copies are not uncommon — and they're generally lovingly packaged." Beyond music, cassettes have been used for all sorts of, often kitschy, things from collage, sculptures and purses to USB thumb drives.

In today's era of cloud computing, high-capacity blank CDs and DVDs and USB thumb drives, the floppy disk has inevitably gone out of fashion. They became commercially available in 1971, with most people remembering the cardboard 5.25in and blue 3.5in varieties. But while Apple dropped the disk drive from the iMac in 1998 and the likes of Hewlett-Packard stopped supplying floppy drives on business desktops in 2009, they are still in use today.

"System admins and engineers might need them when fixing older computers and retro fans would need them for games on older home computers," says Micro Mart editor Anthony Enticknap.

The idea of floppies also lives on with most people seeing them as save icons on productive software such as word processors.

Launched in 1992, around 22 million units have been sold since but it will be scrapped next month. Sony says MiniDisc cartridges will continue to be sold. Some radio reporters still use them for news gathering.

With the first commercial telefax service launching in 1865 before even phones were invented, internet communication has largely taken over. Except in Japan, where millions still prefer to send documents this way (1.7 million machines were sold last year).

The fourth PlayStation was announced yesterday, but the second console, which was launched in 2000, was not discontinued until January this year. In that time it became the world's most successful games console, having sold 150 million units. Games are still being made for it, including the recent Fifa 13.

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