Fourth Industrial Revolution

As Apple kills off the iPod ... here are 5 other pieces of beloved tech we’ve said goodbye to in the past 20 years

A dedicated iPad station is seen in front of iPod nanos at the Apple store in New York May 23, 2011. On Sunday Apple installed dedicated iPad stations near all its products in 300 stores worldwide  to serve as sales tools for shopping and customer assistance.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton   (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCI TECH) - RTR2MSWF

Apple has signalled the death knell for “traditional” portable MP3 players like the iPod Image: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

John McKenna
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The iPod sparked a revolution in portable music.

Out went portable CD players, where you could listen to one CD of up to 20 tracks (if you wanted greater choice, then you needed to carry one of these).

In came the possibility of choosing from thousands of songs, all stored on one device.

However, despite only being introduced 16 years ago, Apple in July signalled the death knell for “traditional” portable MP3 players like the iPod.

The tech giant said it was ending production of the shuffle and nano, the last remaining “single use” devices in its product portfolios.

Image: Apple

Whereas these iPods were only capable of playing downloaded music, their replacement, the iPod Touch, is a multi-use app-driven device much like an iPhone.

Crucially, this latest generation of iPod can also stream music.

While older MP3 players were substantially weakened by the advent of smartphones acting as download players, they were also victims of the digital music revolution that they unleashed: in 2016 music recording sales grew at their fastest rate in 20 years, driven by a boom in music streaming.

While digital download sales fell by a fifth, there was a 60% jump in music-streaming revenues.

Here are five other technologies that have fallen away over the past 20 years, replaced by successors that are either smaller, smarter, cheaper, or all three.

The Walkman, 1979-2010

While Sony’s Walkman brand lives on through its range of MP3 and digital video players, it will always be synonymous with the iconic personal cassette player.

First introduced in 1979, the Walkman dominated personal music throughout the 1980s, with 385 million sold. Despite being overtaken in popularity in the 1990s by Sony’s portable CD player, the Discman, production of the Walkman cassette player continued until 2010.

Sony’s first Walkman model, the TPS-L2 cassette player, produced in 1979. Image: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The MiniDisc, 1992-2013

Introduced by Sony as a successor to CDs, the MiniDisc was a smaller format capable of holding roughly the same amount of audio - around 80 minutes. The MiniDisc never successfully challenged CDs’ dominance in the 1990s audio market, and by the time Sony released a more powerful version capable of holding up to 1GB of data in 2004, MP3s were already on the scene.

The Blackberry, 1999-2016

When Barack Obama became President of the United States in 2009, there was one piece of technology more than any other that he was likely to be photographed with: his beloved Blackberry.

This iconic forerunner to the smartphone featured a small-scale QWERTY keyboard and was capable of calls, texts, emails, basic web surfing and instant messaging. Once second only to Nokia for global mobile phone sales, the Blackberry was the must-have device among professionals, and its security credentials meant it remained popular with politicians like Obama long after more sophisticated smartphones like the iPhone emerged.

However, the Blackberry was unable to hold off the march of the smartphone indefinitely, and last year ceased production.

Image: REUTERS/Larry Downing

The Game Boy, 1989-2003

The original handheld games console, Nintendo’s Game Boy offered 8-bit gaming on a small green screen, with a later colour screen version released in 1998.

A rugged device combined with highly addictive games such as Tetris and Zelda made the Game Boy a huge hit, selling 200 million consoles worldwide. Its successor, the Nintendo DS, still uses game cartridges like Game Boy, although it is gradually switching to a download-based gaming platform.

The Space Shuttle, 1981-2011

As pieces of tech go, they don’t come much bigger than the Space Shuttle. Billed by some as “the most complex machine ever built”, the Space Shuttle was designed by NASA to be a reusable low-orbit vehicle that would reduce the cost of space missions.

Five Space Shuttles were used on 135 missions that launched satellites, probes, the Hubble Space Telescope and helped with the construction and maintenance of the International Space Station.

However, while it was reusable, and was the vehicle for many successful missions, the Space Shuttle failed to live up to hopes of being low cost. The total cost of the Space Shuttle programme is estimated to be $209 billion at 2010 prices – 20 times higher than projected at the programme’s start.

Having ended the programme, NASA is now developing a deep-space alternative called Orion. The Space Shuttle’s reusable legacy meanwhile lives on in the private sector, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX project successfully completing the world’s first re-launch of a space rocket in March 2017.

Image: NASA
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