/ Technology

Do you have any old tech gathering dust at home?

old technology

An architectural feature on homes for the past 40 years, the satellite dish could soon become obsolete. It will join a long list of redundant technology such as VHS and DVD players and MP3s – but do you still use yours?

On Wednesday, Sky announced that its customers will soon be able to get all of its TV services online, spelling the beginning of the end of the satellite dish.

As more people choose to watch TV via internet streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and even Sky’s own service, Now TV, the need to watch traditional channels using a satellite dish is waning.

In theory, I could now take down the dish sitting atop my front bay window. It was left behind by the previous owners and I’ve always considered it an eyesore. I’ve never actually used it, but left it there in case the next occupiers wanted to. Trouble is, my neighbour recently told me that Sky connected said dish to her flat last year!

Tech graveyard

If I did have the option of removing the satellite dish, I’d probably only put it in my cellar. Here, it would collect dust, along with the other bits of gadgetry I’ve cast aside as technology has advanced.

Breaking through the cobwebs, the area is looking increasingly like a tech graveyard. Taking up most room is a Technics ‘hi-fi’ stacking system, complete with two speakers. It features a CD player, a double cassette deck and, drum roll… a graphic equaliser.

Up until about two years ago, it was still in use, chiefly as a means to listen to the extensive 1990s back catalogue loaded on my MP3 player at volume. Alas, when the room was redecorated, I decided to take it, the MP3 player (I never even got round to upgrading to an iPod) and the little-used DVD player downstairs.

Nowadays, I use the DVD player in my TV to play DVDs and CDs. Saying that, I’m far more likely to connect my phone to the Bluetooth speaker to access my music library or log in to Spotify on my laptop or iPad.

Holding on to redundant technology

Joining my ‘music centre’, and DVD and MP3 players, is an indigo iMac, itself superseded by a previous laptop. Neither of them work, but I keep them, just in case.

The same goes for the video player, although that’s because I’m not yet ready to part with a VHS tape cassette collection of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 and several John Hughes films. Give me a rainy day and a telly with a scart lead, and I’d happily plug it in to watch them.

Museum pieces

With more space to squander, my parents still keep most of their old tech out – and occasionally still use it. Their music centre, also Technics, features a record player. So, when the mood takes, my dad will get out his old vinyl and blast out the, er, tunes through some amazingly oversized 1980s Sony speakers.

Also still in use is a retro-looking printer, digital frame and, the weirdest bit of kit of all, a VHS/DVD combo – a cut-and-shut gadget if ever there was one.

In the attic, it’s even more like a museum. Besides the motley crew of old PCs, TVs, ghetto blasters and both old-school and digital cameras, is a camcorder. My favourite of all? My grandad’s old cine camera. If only I’d thought to ask him how to use it…

What redundant technology do you still use? Or are there gadgets that you have stashed away that you still wish you could use?


I have a Windows XP video capture card that I can use to digitise films from VHS tapes.

My experience is that, once something is on VHS, you don’t need very much in the way of video resolution for an adequate working copy.

SVHS isn’t bad, but normal VHS only has 200-odd lines of resolution, so it can be tiresome creating a copy for a 55″ screen.

Sit in the next room and you won’t know the difference. 🙂

I had a couple of reels of old cine film ‘digitised’ by an old chap who projected them onto a screen and pointed a decent video camera at them. He did suggest a telecine conversion, where each frame is separately digitised. It would be nice but simply having the old film in a usable form is what matters to me.

The popularity of mp3 players at a time when CDs offered better quality demonstrates that many put convenience above quality. At least we have the choice.

Richard Jones says:
3 February 2018

I have been with SKY for many years and I currently have SKY Q with a dish. I do not stream programmes via my computer because it is not convenient either for me or my family. If the option is to view programmes on the computer I will simply cancel my subscription to SKY. There is too much of companies trying to force us to use all the new technology which we do not want. My wife and I have bog-standard phones – none of the Iphone, smart phone, tablet etc. They seem to think that we are all ‘tech savvie’ but forget that there are some people who are quite happy with what we already have. Change for change sake is rubbish haven’t they heard of the expression ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it’? What are those customers who don’t have a computer, or these phones, and therefore no router etc supposed to do – there are a lot of elderly people who rely on the current service every day for their enjoyment and entertainment. I still use my VHS/DVD combi with great success and won’t get rid of them until they are ready to give up.

`Old Derbeian says:
3 February 2018

Nigel Bryant – I also have a Panasonic VHS/DVD combo and found it would not record TV from my old Virgin box directly to a DVD. However, it would happily record via the SCART lead to VHS tape (using the slowest best quality tape speed. It would then happily reply the tape and record it directly to the DVD!
Sadly, the DVD part has stopped working. Also, we now have a new Virgin V6 box. This has a strange circular “SCART” output connector which some have said doesn’t work. I haven’t tried it yet.
I also have a collection of old vinyl, a contemporary Dansette-style player for that traditional 60’s sound and for convenience I have a modern TEAC record player/tape player/CD player/radio with USB output.
Yes, I admit to a garage shelf full of scrap old tech, including quite a few redundant hard drives which are awaiting the ultimate Ctrl/Alt/Delete action with a lump hammer.
Like engineers of my era, I have my tech college slide rule. Also a fascinating mechanical calculator with a handle on the side to wind and perform the calculations – one rotation for each addition/subtraction and multiplication performed by successive rotations! As an ex-Rolls-Royce apprentice in the 60’s, I remember an engineering office that had one or two of these powered by internal electric motors.
Regarding quality of build, I recall a story of the Americans entering World War II. The Brits had high quality but heavy valve-driven walkie-talkie sets supported by trained engineers with a van-full of spares.
When the Yanks arrived, they carried aluminium cased light-weight sets which were thrown away when they packed up and replacement sets quickly obtained from the stores. The beginning of the throw-away society?
Like other correspondents, I wistfully remember repairing things, but nowadays you can’t get spares for even most toasters, kettles, etc. (although you can for the more costly Dualit models!)

As regards the smaller US walkie-talkies they were ahead of us in valve technology implication . They went ahead faster than us in valve miniaturization , even the Germans during WW2 had smaller valve technology . As per usual we had the brains and ideas available but Red tape and First World War technology thinking kept us back . Old 6K8-6K7 etc IO valves were used as well as older thirties ones , the Americans made them in steel and made them one third the size .

Brian Parkhurst says:
3 February 2018

I work as a volunteer with several local archives and use most popular technologies from 19th century lantern slide projectors and still and film and video cameras to modern A2 printers, scanners and dvd reader writers. We digitise these now historic and ephemeral technologies before they are lost. The collection includes a full photographic darkroom and several sound and vision recording and playing systems from 78s to various tape systems. It comes under the grand title of Media Archaeology.

Bill Hutcheson says:
3 February 2018

I have 1/4 inch magnetic tape, reels and reels of it, and the earliest recording I have dates from 1963 and still plays today. I replaced my first recorder with a Sony machine in eraly 1971 and then in the 1980s replaced that with a Teac which still works perfectly today. I can still produce CDs from the Teac source via a computer running Windows 7. As for pictures, I have both reels of Standard 8 cine, Super 8 cine, and VHS videotapes from two full size cameras, one of which still works perfectly, but in 4:3 format. My “modern” 16:9 small Sony video camera can only record on a mini DV tape for one hour whereas the older ones could take up to a four hour VHS full sized tape which was ideal for recording long performances. I now use a Toshiba machine which can cope with VHS, DVD, and also has a hard drive which I use most of all to record TV programmes, but only in standard definition and that Toshiba is no longer being made – so what price progress? At least I can still replay my 1963 1/4 inch magnetic sound tapes. Oh.. and my minidisc has now been superceded by a Tascam recorder which uses an SD Memory card and records the most perfect sound quality.

Pete66 says:
3 February 2018

I have a Technics/Sony full-sized stacking system of separates (purchased in 1982) which I use every day. This comprises a linear tracking turntable for my prized collection of classical music vinyl LPs (of about 150); a tuner, double tape deck and CD player (though no graphic equaliser!). I also play music from my extensive collection of both audio tape cassettes (!) and CDs.
I feel sorry for those fully committed to the digital storage of music. I know of two people who have sold their entire collection of CDs and vinyls for a few pounds only to regret it later. I, personally, derive real pleasure in sifting through the collection, selecting an item, pulling out the LP from its sleeve and placing it on the turntable – with the option of catching up on the information given on the sleeve’s reverse or reading the leaflet inside. This also applies, of course, to most CDs. The quality of full sound given from a vinyl LP from through a pair of good quality free-standing loudspeakers is unbeatable – particularly for classical music. It is the total experience which, in my opinion, is far superior compared to just finger-stabbing an item displayed on an illuminated screen.

James says:
4 February 2018

I have a combined DVD and VHS player. I took lots of videos a few years ago and put them on VHS tapes and recently to save space I transferred all the VHS’s on my combo to DVD,s with little loss of quality. I did the same with VHS film recordings taken from TV.

Now I can just slip a disc in and still look at many happy times from the videos I took, etc.

sean mcnally says:
4 February 2018

Record decks are in.Vinyl is best sound for most hi-fi users and cd are ok but you need both if you have a top end or middle hi-fi systeme. Small speakers just don’t cut it, and MP3 players will never be hi-fi standard that is 20- 20000 hz. Newertech seams to have forgotten audio in favour of picture quality even old vhs could get better sound quality. Tv HD sound is so poor if you don’t believe me try switching to standard tv and back again a few times and hear the difference. Most downloads are MP3, so don’t kid yourself you are getting a bargain, your just getting inferior music, but if that is all you want, or all your equipment can cope with best of luck, but it wont sound as it was intended by the artist.
By the way Dab radio has a worse frequency response than the old FM radio. So much for new tec.

Wise words Sean which I have been plugging for years to an audience of deaf ears , I failed to get it across because of advertising that people think is totally truthful . As somebody spending decades building + designing top end Audio equipment using top end components and getting letters printed in EW/WW magazine you would think somebody would listen but no the power of an advertising company wins every time.

sean mcnally says:
5 February 2018

I would like to say a very well done to all of you who appreciate that old tec can still sound good and old tec isn’t bad tec.
A big thank you to Duncan Lucas, your not a voice in the wilderness, keep on plugging away and one day people will like you and I come to realise what good sound relay is.
Not bluetooth or the compressed music of ipods and the like.
( must go to more concerts )

Stay with your reliable old “tech ” the latest new to cause problems seem to be LED lamps New ” tech “.pushed upon us by just WHO .Most are very happy with the older “out of date ” things that we now cannot buy EU rules and regulations ??

Not all ‘old tech’ was reliable and what we tend to focus on is the products that were reliable and have survived. The older products could at least be repaired, often cost effectively.

Rosemary says:
4 February 2018

What about the resurgence of vinyl LPs? I still have all of mine plus cassettes/ CDs/DVDs etc. If I can still play them, why would I get rid of them? This doesn’t mean I haven’t adopted new technology – but NOT simply for the sake of it eg as with iphones etc.
I don’t believe in replacing anything unless I need to (or want to).

Rosemary -You are not the only one who thinks iphones are overpriced and overrated , news from corporate headquarters says – sales are down worldwide . I personally think they got a bit too greedy .

V M King says:
4 February 2018

I have a Grundig Satellit 2000 radio bought in the 1970’s in Italy. It is extremely heavy, it has 10 band shortwave as well at the usual FM, MW and LW bands. It can make a huge sound if you let it. Other radios in the house are not a patch on this.

Also a 20 year old Sony TV which needs two people to lift it. Still going strong. Wonderful sound and picture, the flat screen TV in the kitchen can’t compete. When asked why I keep it, the reply is “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”.

Good radio V M King worth money now – keep it.

John Llewellyn says:
5 February 2018

I have a new record player inc. 78 rpm and approp. stylus plus of course 33 & 45 rpm; hi-fi cassette player, very little used (for retail display). It has twin tracks, with Dolby x 2 (old deck failed); audio graphic equalizer, 30yrs old (unobtainable now); 30 yrs old amp (60W RMS plus into 8 ohms); 30 yrs old tuner; 30 yrs old CD player (6 disc); DVD(2); PVR(2); mini-disc recorder/ player, 3 pairs of speakers (seperates); surround sound from two front and two rear speakers; two TV’s; mini-hifi (FM/Dab, CD, separate speakers). Everything 30yrs old is Pioneer, only the cassette player failed! The oldest items I have are the 78’s which are pre-war.

Christine Parkinson says:
5 February 2018

I think old tech has a place: not least, because it can keep down the cost of entertainment at home. For instance, My collection of CDs and DVDs is still growing (mainly fuelled by 2nd hand or charity shop buys) and I’m happy to keep it that way, for one very good reason: I won’t be able to afford a subscription streaming service when I retire, which is not far off. The occasional download or purchase of some new music or a film will cost a lot less than a subscription to Spotify, or Amazon Prime. This is part of a bigger issue: subscriptions are a fantastic option for many people, but until there is a ‘senior discount’, then many people who don’t have great pensions might need to avoid them.