The Museum of Obsolete Media
May 23, 2016 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Your guide to nearly every audio, video, film, and data media format that's ever existed. Or, browse formats in order of the decade they became "obsolete" - arguably, anyway. posted by nightrecordings (20 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
This is so anorak-y and I love it.
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:01 PM on May 23, 2016

Writing (3200 BC —)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:03 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can I send them my old vic-20?
posted by vrakatar at 5:09 PM on May 23, 2016

The only thing missing is info on how to actually read data off of it. Someday there won't be a VCR left in the world, but there will be VHS tapes that people may want to understand.
posted by hobgadling at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

The amazing thing is that the list of obsoleted media gets longer in each successive decade...

Microfilm (1839 - ) seems to be the oldest medium currently still in use. (Not counting print and handwriting which are not included here.)

Also, Yay for View-Master (1939 - )
posted by beagle at 5:35 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

i've had a 4 track tape recorder - a tascam portastudio - i bought for 25 bucks a couple of years ago and decided to fool around with this year, just to get away from this computer and play music without it

guess what? - i don't know of a mainstream store that sells them in store and it seems as though the high quality ones aren't even being made anymore

i spent a week scouring thrift stores and garage sales for any and all blank tapes i could find

it was a shock
posted by pyramid termite at 6:06 PM on May 23, 2016

Totally missed the Coleco Adam high speed random-access tape drive system, which used specially produced tapes that were not compatible with regular audio cassette players.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:10 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Later in the 19th Century, Herman Hollerith used the idea of storing information on cards to create the punched card tabulating machine which he used to input data for the 1890 US Census.

I didn't know that! I do a lot of research in census records, and the 1890 Census was actually lost in a fire (although I think there might be some fragments). So as far as I know, we have some data for that Census - tabulated with punch cards, apparently - but the records themselves are gone for good.

Of course, the other decades are on good ol' trusty microfilm, which is one of my favorite things in the world. If I could find a job that had me searching through microfilm archives all day, I'd be very happy (I just wish there weren't so many lousy microfilm readers nowadays - the computer ones have an awful tendency to be really laggy).
posted by teponaztli at 6:16 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also, unless I missed it, this site doesn't seem to have anything on positive fiche or paper film transfers. The latter are especially significant because they're the only reason we're able to watch some of the earliest films ever produced - they were transferred to archival paper strips which survived long after the nitrate prints themselves disappeared. Offhand, I think there were some early D. W. Griffith films restored this way. I'd be really curious to know more about the history of these formats.
posted by teponaztli at 6:22 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sorry, not positive fiche, I mean... now I'm forgetting what it's called. Microprint? It's like microfiche, but on paper.
posted by teponaztli at 6:23 PM on May 23, 2016

the only way this could be more 'eldritch object summoned from deepest desires' is if the museum also had appendices of file formats and media format readers. hobgadling beat me to the punch(card) a little.
posted by Collaterly Sisters at 6:24 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Many early films were printed on paper to establish copyright--the prints were sent to the Library of Congress, where they remain. See paper print on Wikipedia.

I saw some of these in a meeting at the LOC in the 1970s. There was a stack of film boxes on a table. The largest (about 8 inches square) was labelled 'The Great Train Robbery'. I asked if these were paper prints. "Would you like to see them?" Yes. They were crisp contact-sheet prints of the 35mm film on long strips of paper that had been reassembled into reels.
posted by hexatron at 6:43 PM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am strangely pleased that player pianos outlasted DATs.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:59 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

player pianos outlasted DATs

No stupid DRM on the player piano reels.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:34 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Goodwill is my source for blank cassettes and VCR's. I wouldn't divulge that but I'm set for now.
posted by bongo_x at 9:07 PM on May 23, 2016

The new formats are all digital now: various audio and video extensions...and still a few out there attempting to lock a specific format to a specific player/device.

If you are an old guy like me, you can go get that album you originally had on vinyl, then 8-track, then cassette, then CD, then some flavor of digital (mp3,AAC, oog, flac, etc.). The physical medium tech wars have moved to the digital realm nowadays.

Sidebar: when I first used a "computer" in the late 1960s, it was an ibm360 iirc. I do recall it was in an air conditioned and air filtered room with two guys in white lab coats who took my two stacks of punch cards (hundreds), placed them in the reader, and then ran my program. There were hundreds of cards all carefully punched and I had spent hours making sure there were no "hanging chads." All this to run a Chi Square program.

I think you could do that in 5m on a calculator these days....
posted by CrowGoat at 7:49 AM on May 24, 2016

I miss none of these obsolete formats, but the sounds they made will stick with me: the oooEEEooo KSSHHH of an Amstrad tape, the grink gronk howl of an Amiga disk drive, the tiny bweee! of a Microdrive storage card spinning up in a camera.
posted by scruss at 8:06 AM on May 24, 2016

Indestructible Records were made until 1922, when a factory fire ended production.

Must... resist... snark...
posted by languagehat at 8:28 AM on May 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Magic lantern (17th century – 1940s)

~300 years is a pretty good run.
posted by jedicus at 11:56 AM on May 24, 2016

hexatron, that's really cool! I would be so incredibly excited to get to see that.
posted by teponaztli at 2:45 PM on May 24, 2016

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