A whimsical YouTube site developed by the German digital agency Jung Von Matt/next celebrates technologies that have largely fallen out of use…although you may see a thing or two in The Museum of Obsolete Objects that are still very much a part of your daily life.
The “Museum” is simply a set of videos – a timeline of objects whose histories are narrated by a robotic female docent (with an unfortunately tinny voice) who leads an irreverent stroll through what seems like ancient history: the eras of floppy disc, phonograph, typewriter…
The tour takes you by way of these and other tools and devices that have gone the way of, well, the rotary telephone. (Remember how slow the process of dialing a number once was?) Click on a video, and you get a demonstration.
As you sample the videos, from incandescent bulb to fax machine and cassette tape, one thing becomes clear: The pace of obsolescence picked up considerably at the end of the last century. The tour begins in 1860, when the quill pen (click here) became obsolete, but fast-forwards quickly to the 1960s and beyond.
The videos offer quick takes on these bygone inventions from the perspective of someone for whom they seem very, very old. And in fact, many of the gadgets and appliances that were the latest thing back then do look incredibly clunky and inconvenient now.
It’s hard to imagine that fax machines are obsolete, but there they are in the Museum’s “collection,” obsolete since 1999, according to our tour guide. The fax machine video, like all the others, features a demonstration of how it worked (works).
Perhaps the best video demonstrates the phonograph. After playing a record (of the same synthesized pop jingle we hear throughout the tour), the record player is modified before our eyes to play the same record backwards, so that we can “hear voices from the nether world.” Anyone who has painstakingly tried to listen to Led Zeppelin’s album backwards to hear the allegedly Satanic messages will appreciate the joke. (Click here to view the phonograph.)
A few of the objects really are pretty much extinct. Morse code (click here), according to the Museum of Obsolete Objects, only fell out of use in 2007. The floppy disk, once so liberating but now utterly replaced by the flash drive, gets its fair share of demo time. (Click here to see – and hear! – the floppy disk)
Your visit might get you thinking about how some tools stick around for a long time (the telephone) and others disappear relatively quickly (the fax machine).
If you’re using a mouse with your computer, by the way, the Museum predicts that it’ll be obsolete in two years.
Click here to see the Museum of Obsolete Objects
Which of these are you still using? Which items do you predict will become obsolete? Let us know in the comments.