Do you love technology? Of course, you do! What kid doesn’t like the latest and greatest in electronics? From cell phones to tablet computers, new technology is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the modern world.

Speaking of cell phones, have you ever had any experience with older phones? Have you ever seen a wired telephone with a rotary dial? What about one of the first cell phones that came in a bag and was the size of a brick?

If you’ve never seen examples of those older types of phones, it’s probably because you’re too young to remember them. They’re examples of old technology that has been replaced by newer, better, lighter, smaller versions.

But what about all that new technology? Won’t it be old someday, too? You bet it will! But when?

The word experts use to describe old technology is “obsolescence.” Obsolescence occurs when something is no longer used even though it might still work just fine. Obsolescence can occur for many different reasons.

For example, a cell phone may become obsolete if a better replacement is available. Who wants to carry around something the size of a brick if you could instead slip a sleek, light piece of plastic into your shirt pocket?

Sometimes obsolescence occurs because of changes in technology. Technical obsolescence can be seen in the aisles of most electronics stores today. With the invention of high-definition television, many traditional televisions that still work just fine are no longer sold because the shift to high-definition has made older-style televisions obsolete.

Examples of technical obsolescence can also be seen in the history of how we listen to music and watch movies. Do you remember eight-track tapes or reel-to-reel movies? Probably not. You’re probably more familiar with digital music players and DVDs.

Products can also become obsolete because their functionality has changed over time or with the invention of new products. For example, when cars became more popular than horse-drawn carriages, buggy whips became obsolete. Likewise, typewriters are largely a thing of the past now that computers have overtaken their role in modern society.

As fast as technology changes today, some companies are starting to plan obsolescence into their product cycles. For example, they may decide to manufacture a product with parts designed to wear out in just a few years. By the time the parts wear out, the company will have a new product designed to take the place of the old one. In this way, companies can continue to generate repeat business over time.

So when you get that latest and greatest iProduct Version 6.0, just remember that Version 7.0 is just around the corner! Your Version 6.0 will probably still work fine, but Version 7.0 will have the latest must-have features that you might want. You’ll have to decide for yourself: is the older version still OK? Or will you upgrade to the latest and greatest? How fast technology becomes “old” is sometimes up to you!

66 Join the Discussion

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  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a famous person’s smile, or it could be someone who used to be famous.

    Keep on smiling,

    Mrs. Reasor’s wonderful class

    • Good morning, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Reasor’s Class! Thank you for starting your day with us here at Wonderopolis! HOORAY! Your WONDERful guesses have us smiling from ear-to-ear today! Keep up the great work, and we hope to see you soon! :)

  2. We are glad that we do not have phones that are so big.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about Justin Bieber, or Mona Lisa.

    • We agree, Ms. Bayko’s Class! Technology has changed a great deal over time, and things seem to get smaller every year! The cool thing about the smaller products, like cell phones and computers, is that even though they’re not as large, they are able to do a whole lot! We are glad you shared your guesses with us for tomorrow! We look forward to finding out what it will be! :)

  3. Good Morning Wonderopolis. I’m sad to say that Mrs. Hess is home with her sick children. But that won’t stop us from watching wonderopolis! I really liked the video. It was really cool how they made one laptop into a lot. I also enjoyed the text too. Wonderopolis is juust to great! I cant wait til tomorrow’s Wonder. I think it’s going to be about turning that frown upside down. Your WONDER friend Andrew :)

  4. Good Morning Wonderopolis. I am in Mrs. Hess’ class and Mrs. Hess is at home with her kids because one of them is sick. But I love the video but on the side the story was too fast and I can’t read that fast.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder is about Justin Bieber or why people smile at other people.

    Thank you for making WONDEROPOLIS <3 :)

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends from Mrs. Hess’ class! We are so proud of you for WONDERing with us today, even if Mrs. Hess is at home today. We bet she’ll be so happy to hear that you visited us today, Andrew and Gisselle! We hope her children feel better soon! :)

      It sounds like you both enjoyed today’s technology Wonder– we’re happy you learned something new with us! We also appreciate your thoughts about the Wonder video, too! We appreciate that you told us about the text in the video– it did go pretty fast!

      We are smilling because of your awesome Wonder guesses! Thank you for visiting us this morning! :)

  5. LOVED IT!!! :D :D Did You Know That There Coming Out With PS4
    And Glasses That Is an iPad!!! :D
    The Next Wonder Is Going To Be About Mona Lisa!!!
    (Did You Know That Mona Lisa Might Be A robot…I Mean With The Perfect Smile And All) :D

    Btw!!! That Ending To The Movie Reminded Me Of….Slender men) :/

    • Good morning to you, Noah and Max! We are so happy you’re both here today! HOORAY! It sounds like you’ve both been WONDERing about all kinds of technology with us today! We are glad you’re using your imaginations, especially with your guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder! We will see you then! :)

  6. Hello WONDERopolis I am in Mrs. Hess’ class and here are my thoughts… I have an old green phone at home that my mom gave to me and my sister to put in our room, but even though we use our up to date cell phones we still use that old phone I loved how the person that was talking said a timeline of events. I learned a lot of things from that video, and I think that people are glued to the Internet and that should change! :)

    I think tomorrow will be “How do actors and actresses stay in chacter?” :)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I think today’s wonder of the day was very interesting! The first cell phone has changed a lot from being the size of a brick. Today the cell phones are a lot smaller with more useful editions. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about a close up or a or a picture of someone’s head. :)
    :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends Briahna and Karsen! Thanks for visiting us today to Wonder about technology! It sure has changed over time! :)

      Briahna, we’re happy you’re here today even if Mrs. Hess is out for the day! We also appreciate your comment about the Internet! It’s great to be online, but being outside and spending time with your friends is very important, too!

      Karsen, we bet it’s hard to imagine carrying around such a large cell phone! Thanks for sharing your Wonder guess– we think you’re on the right track! :)

  8. HI
    I really like technology.
    Today’s wonder was cool.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about a microscope.

    :)

  9. Hi Wonderopolis,

    I thought that today’s wonder was really
    cool especially because of all the changes that have happened in technology like when I was in grade one, my class would always watch VHS but now all we watch are DVDs.

    P.S. I think that you are very considerate when you write back to everybody and your replies are so nice.

    Your ever wondering friend Eiffie

    • Hey Mason and Eiffie! We’re happy to know that you’ve made your very own connections to today’s technology Wonder!

      Mason, if you like technology, you should check out Wonder #710– How Does Technology Change Lives? We think it’s right up your alley! :)

      Eiffie, thank you for telling us all about the technology changes you’ve seen in your own classroom! We think it’s cool that you recall using VHS tapes and now you only have DVDs available! We also want to say THANK YOU for sharing such a kind comment! We love to hear back from our Wonder Friends.

      Have a marvelous Monday! :)

  10. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I think the wonder of the day was interesting because I remember seeing pictures of the first cell phone and I’m happy we don’t have phones that big. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a celebrity or a pop star.

  11. Dear Wonderopolis

    Today’s wonder was LOL (laughing out loud). I love wonderopolis you put some zaz in my day I learned that technology is really old. Bye.

    • We’re so happy our Wonder Friends Alexa and Jakob are here today! HOORAY!

      Alexa, thanks for recalling the first cell phone you saw– we bet it was a lot different from the ones we see today! We love that you have been comparing the different types of technology today! Great work, and great Wonder guess! :)

      Jakob, we’re glad today’s Wonder made you smile! Could you imagine using different types of computers, phones and even typewriters? How interesting! We are glad we can pep up your day– it makes us happy that you’re WONDERing with us! See you soon! :)

  12. HI!
    I like portable phones more than phones with cords. I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about… SMILES :)

  13. Hi! i’m glad we have technology. I’m glad we have computers instead of typewriters. Tomorrow’s wonder will be about smiles. :)

    • It sounds like Brady and Liam have been thinking about all types of technology today! Great work, Wonder Friends!

      Brady, we agree with you– phones without cords allow us to talk wherever we’d like!

      Liam, we Wonder if you have ever tried typing on a typewriter? We think you would be good at it, since it’s similar to a computer. But computers can do a lot more than a typewriter can, so we’re glad we’ve got computers, too!

      We like your Wonder guesses! Thanks for making us smile! :)

  14. Dear wonderopolis,

    I think today’s wonder was very interesting because I have never seen a cell phone the size of a brick before and I was really excited to see this wonder because I don’t really see old phones very much any more. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about happiness. :)

  15. Dear wonderopolis,
    Today’s wonder was outstanding because I love technology. I think it is one of my favourite inventions.
    I learned that technology evolves every day of every year WOW!!!
    I love wonderopolis. Keep up the great wonders!!!!!

    • Good afternoon, Maddy and Ashton! Thanks for telling us all about your favorite facts from today’s awesome Wonder! We are very thankful for technology, otherwise we’d have to wait for your letters to get to Wonderopolis! And then you’d have to wait for a response from us! PHEW! :-)

      We love your enthusiasm, keep up the great WONDERing! Thanks for visiting us today! :)

  16. This video was very interesting including when the directors voice changed because of the time and how email was made in the 60s. That’s all for now talk to you later your wonderer, Jake. :]

  17. Hello WONDERopolis good morning Mrs.Hess is not here because her son Noah is SICK :( You will not be getting a response from our class today but maybe from some of our classmates!!! Our class met your WONDER friend by the way who is writing to me today? I love you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What is your favorite video?

    • Good afternoon, Wonder Friend Jusin and Skylar! Thanks for stopping by to Wonder about the awesome advancements of technology! It’s amazing to think about how far we have come! :-)

      Jusin, we think technology is really great for many reasons. For example, we wouldn’t be able to communicate with you if it weren’t for technology!

      Skylar, what a great question! There are lots of answers, depending on who you ask! For some, making music is the oldest use of technology! For others, some may think the invention of the gramophone is the oldest kind of technology. The gramophone was the first device used to record sound! We Wonder what you’ll find with some more research!?

      :)

  18. WE loved the technology today! WE counted all of the technology items we have in our homes. Zach counted up over 50 things in his house! Thanks for making us think about the word obsolete!
    We think tomorrow’s wonder is about the Mona Lisa or the smile of a famous person/rock star.

    • We’re so excited that your activity related to today’s Wonder, Mrs. Thomas’s Tigers! It sounds like Zach lives in a very technology savvy home! PHEW! We are so happy you shared your comment with us today, Wonder Friends! Great work!

      We think it’s cool to Wonder about tomorrow’s topic… and we think you’re on the right track! :)

  19. Thoughts: (Alyssa) I thought it was neat to hear about typewriters and how we use computers now. (Davonta) I thought it was weird how people used phones the size of a brick.(Angel) I thought it was interesting when they showed the years of computers from back in the day. (Hazen) I thought it was amazing how there is always a new technology to replace an old one.

    Connections: (Michael) I use to have a DS then I got a 3DS to replace it. (Taylor) My friend has a rotary phone and it came from her grandmother. (Isabelle) My grandmother has an old phone that did not have a screen on it. (Nataya) My great aunt has a phone that has numbers that spin around.(Ben) My grandmother has an old rotary phone that still on the wall. It still works.

    Predictions: (Meghan) Why were smiley faces made? (Kimora) Who was the first dentist? (Emilee) Who has the brightest smile?

    • WOWZA, we are smiling as we read all these awesome comments from our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Coleman’s class! HOORAY!

      We think it’s great that Alyssa, Davonta, Angel and Hazen have been thinking about technology from the past and how things have changed so much! Can you imagine a phone the size of a brick?!

      It sounds like Michael, Taylor, Isabelle, Nataya, and Ben can relate to today’s Wonder! Whether you’re upgrading to the newest technology OR you’re still using a phone from years ago, we’re really happy you learned something new today!

      Meghan, Kimora and Emilee are focusing on the right topics! Thanks for sharing your guesses for the next Wonder of the Day®! Great work! :)

  20. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We were shocked when we went to Wonderopolis today! Our current writing project is writing persuasive letters to the school board about technology that we need for the school. This Wonder tied in perfectly because we were discussing that we felt that our netbooks were obsolete. The word we didn’t know was obsolescence.

    It was freaky when the laptop computers filled the screen and the music got louder.

    Our ideas for a famous smile include clowns, Adam Sandler, Zac Efron, Dr. Seuss, or Mona Lisa.

    We are preparing for a huge snowstorm so we may not get a chance to check in to Wonderopolis tomorrow.

    We Wonder how much snow we will get?

    Ms. Uppena’s Third Grade Super Sleuths

    • WOW, we couldn’t have planned for a better Wonder for our Super Sleuths! It sounds like you’re in need of the proper technology to help you think outside the box! We hope your WONDERful letters and compelling messages persuade the school board to provide more technology! We’re happy to hear you learned a new, and helpful, vocab word today!

      We are smiling as we read your Wonder guesses– all those people sure are funny!

      We hope you all stay nice and warm as you prepare for the snowstorm! The great thing is that we’ll be waiting for you when you get back! We hope you’ve got hot cocoa at home, just in case you’re snowed in! :)

    • We’ve heard that Mrs. Hess’ son isn’t feeling too well– it’s so nice of you to think of her, Isaiah! We bet she’ll be thrilled to know that so many of her WONDERful students have been WONDERing and commenting on their own! Nice work! We Wonder what your favorite part of today’s Wonder is? :)

  21. Wow!! I just found this site today from my teacher but I can see why she suggested this site! I think everyone should learn about this because it’s all so interesting! Also I read some comments and I hope Mrs. Hess feels better even though I don’t know her!

    • Deja, what a nice and thoughtful comment! We’re so happy you’re here and we’re glad you are sending well wishes to Mrs. Hess, who is out today because her son is not feeling too well! We are very happy you have been WONDERing with us today about technology of all kinds– it sure has come a long way! We hope you’ll come back to Wonder with us soon! Please tell your teacher that we are glad she suggested Wonderopolis! :)

  22. This article reminds me of the time when I was little, I had a small TV, an old computer and an old car. My parents got more money, and the TV turned into a flat 50″ TV, the computers to laptops and the car to a Honda car. :-) :-) :-D

    • WOW, it sounds like technology has changed a lot in your home, too, Carlos! Thank you for comparing the different types of technology from when you were little to what you have now! We are glad you shared your awesome comment with us today! :)

  23. Hey Deja my teacher suggested it because we have the same teacher!

    Back to technology….

    According to what you said my computer is old better upgrade it!

    • We love when our Wonder Friends say hello to one another! Good morning, Nadia! :)

      We are so happy you’re here today, and you’re WONDERing about the technology in your home! Sometimes an upgrade is important, and other times, the newest types of technology is just as good as the technology before it! Things happen so quickly that sometimes there is not much of a difference! :)

  24. I love my phone and my computers or laptop but my question is who invented the phone and computer but mostly technology please comment fast.

    P.S. I love the blog and you.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Katelynn! We’re so happy that you’ve got some more questions about technology! Alexander Graham Bell patented the very first telephone, and an inventor named Elisha Gray was working on inventing a version of the telephone, too. We can thank them both for the cell phones we use today– they created the very first versions! We hope you’ll continue to Wonder about the computer, too! We bet you’ll have a great time! :)

  25. A lot of people say when the next model comes out but that’s a joke with how often they bring out a new model of things like iPhones every year! And when you do upgrade the newest one isn’t capable of much more, tech is too old when it can no longer do its job!

    • Great point, Wonder Friend Joe! Sometimes the latest and greatest model has a new feature or slight update, but other times the newer model has changed by leaps and bounds! It all depends, but one thing is certain– technology sure does change fast! :)

  26. I think technology becomes old after a newer version comes out and people start to upgrade to the newest things! :D

    My cell phone already has 2 versions that have come out after it, so I guess it’s kind of old, but I still see people with it, so I’m confused… Hahaha! :)

    Keep up all the cool Wonders Wonderopolis!!!! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Salma! You’re on the right path– sometimes the newest technology isn’t much different than recent technology! You make a great point– your cell phone has two newer versions, but yours works nearly the same! Sometimes there are certain upgrades or features that make something “new”, but the device works just as well without them! Thanks for sharing your comment! Keep up the WONDERing! :)

  27. (Keyara)I really learned something about technology. (Ariana) In Wonderopolis I really learn something new every time thank you Wonderopolis.

    • Good morning, Wonder Friend Keyara! Thank you for sharing your comment about what you have learned! Technology is awesome, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to communicate with you! HOORAY for technology!

      Ariana, it’s so great that you are always learning and WONDERing with us! It makes us smile to know that you have a great time at Wonderopolis! Thanks for being a Wonder Friend! :)

    • What a great comparison, Wonder Friend Tyler! We are so proud of you for sharing your comment– technology and people have a lot in common! While technology may not have wrinkles when it’s old, it might be dusty instead! Thanks for making us smile, Wonder Friend Tyler! :)

    • What a great opinion, Austin! It sounds like you appreciate technology and what you have right now! We like your style! :)

  28. I love technology, I was surprised to discover that the first electronic computer was only as powerful as a calculator, and as big as a room. The presentation said that today’s home computer is 1,000 times as powerful as the obsolete one that landed on the moon in 1969. Also, it said that the Internet was created because people feared the Russians would destroy the phone lines. I wonder what technology will be like when I am old and how kids then will look at antiques like iPhone 5s.

    • Hey Minecrafter, thanks for sharing your awesome comment about technology! We think it’s really cool that you’ve learned quite a few new things with us, but you’re also thinking about the future of technology. We like using our imaginations to think about the different types of technology that will be available in 10, 20, even 50 years! How exciting! :)

  29. I had a small,12 year old computer that I used,now I have one that is 2 years old,it is crazy,But I only use the PC for gaming.

    • Cool, Graham! That’s awesome that you can have a computer just for gaming! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • When is technology old?
  • What is obsolescence?
  • What is planned obsolescence?

Wonder Gallery

883oldtech-1oldtech-2oldtech-3old-telephoneVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to learn more about old and new technology? Find a tech-savvy friend or family member to help you check out one or more of the following activities:

  • Have a talk with some adults about today’s technology. How does it compare to the technology they had growing up? What were the “latest and greatest” examples of technology when they were young? Did they foresee the types of technology available today? Why or why not?
  • Go on an old technology scavenger hunt! Start with a tour of your house. Check out the telephones, televisions and other electronic devices you find. Which ones are new? What about the old ones? Do they still work? What features do the older items lack that you might find in newer models? It can also be fun to look through junk drawers and storage areas in the basement or garage. You never know when you’ll stumble across a graveyard of old technology. How many examples can you find of technology that isn’t really used much any longer? Perhaps your garage is the hiding place for a cassette player? Maybe your grandparents still have an eight-track tape player! If you can find an old reel-to-reel music player, you might have an antique on your hands! Have fun looking for examples of old and new technology. Enjoy comparing the old vs. the new. What do you think? Is newer always better? What old technology do you still enjoy using?
  • What will the future of technology be? Grab your crystal ball and make your best guesses about the kinds of technology your children will use some day. Think 10, 20 and even 30 years into the future. What will televisions be like? How will we listen to music? Will we still use telephones? How will we communicate? Have fun brainstorming what technology might look like down the road. Would you like to be a part of pioneering that new technology? Talk to a guidance counselor or an adult about careers in science, technology, engineering and math that could one day put you on the forefront of the latest technological marvels!

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Deep-Sea Technology lesson, children discuss the story of the Biblical flood and the theory of how the flood may have occurred. After discussing how they would look for evidence of this flood, they will read and discuss an article about Black Sea researchers’ findings and discuss the role of special equipment in making these discoveries.

Test Your Knowledge

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