Friday Fun: Technology from Yesteryear

A couple weeks ago I read John Halamka’s “Cool Technology of the Week” post which referenced this article, “Technology from Yesteryear Nostalgia.”  John mentioned the article isn’t about the latest greatest coolest current technology but it is a fun look back at what was totally cool technology in the past, but now is:

  • Ancient: seen in museums only, unusable, unfixable
  • Antique: unusable, unfixable
  • Vintage: usable, old, ironic, cool
  • Outdated: still available in stores, but barely used

It is fun to look through the images and the descriptions because there are quite a few things on the list that I can remember having. (I had a bright yellow Sony sports walkman that was semi-permanently attached to my head all through high school and college, especially at swim meets.)

Not only is it fun to look through the list and reminisce, but I thought it would be fun to think of the library technology of yesteryear that was once cutting edge and cool.

Here is my contribution:


Microfilm Reader
Price: $0 (library cast off)  – $2600 (“new”)
Status: Outdated

I remember using these in my public library all the time because the catalog (shelf list, probably to be more accurate) was on these.  St. Louis County Public Library had 5-10 in each branch out in the open for people to find books (like we have our computers now).  It replaced the actual card catalog.  If I close my eyes I can hear the whirling  and see the blurry white streaks as I zoom through the alphabet of subjects.
I would say it is vintage, but since a lot places still use this for their newspaper and other print archives, I should label it outdated.  I am seeing less and less of them as more and more online news databases are adding their old stuff online.

What do you remember as a cool tech?  Have some fun this Friday and list it in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Friday Fun: Technology from Yesteryear”

  1. LOL. I choose not to remember this horrible, horrible technology. When I was in Library School in 1986 and taking course from Wilf Lancaster, the goals was a “paperless information society”. Oh hooray we are finally there. Give me my iPad thank you very much!

  2. Sound-slide projectors. The boxy unit had the Kodak carousel on top, an audiocassette player/recorder built in, a built-in viewer on one side, and a projector lens suitable for small screens. Adding cue signals to the recording advanced the slides.

  3. I remember how cool I thought I was dialing up the Medlars computer on my TI Silent 700 in the Presbyterian Aurora Hospital Library, Aurora CO, back in 1987. See image here: and a little more history here:

    It came with rolls of heat-sensitive paper and printed off every action and response – so there were long lists of this:

    If you left the paper out it eventually turned completely black, so you had to remember to photocopy your search results.

    Now, I’m impatient if PubMed takes more than 3 seconds to load my results!

  4. Our microform reader still gets a bit of workout as all student and personnel records pre-digitization are still on fiche.

    I’m looking forward to the day when Ariel is completely obsolete.

  5. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve used that very model reader! And the Silent 700 too — God, that was THEEEEE thing, acoustic coupler & all. Talk about UP-Town! And Lisa, you’re more patient than I am. Anything over 1 second latency is way too much for me. :/

  6. We just recently unearthed a viewfinder with pathology pictures. I am sure back when I was looking at pictures of Disneyland on my viewfinder, it was a neat inexpensive way to use the “new” technology.
    Hee hee I can never look at viewfinders as tools. I just picture myself with Disney disks all around me as I sit front of the patio door looking through the little red box with my finger going click, click.

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