Every Gadget You Could Buy At Radio Shack 20 Years Ago Was Made Obsolete By iPhone

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When Steve Jobs first debuted the original iPhone back in 2007, he promised the audience a device that was three major devices in one: “a widescreen iPod with touch controls,” a “revolutionary mobile phone,” and “a breakthrough Internet communicator.”

At the time, those three things seemed pretty impressive, but if anything, Steve Jobs the Showman was underselling himself. In fact, if you look at this 1991 circular from Radio Shack (which now does quite a bit of business selling the iPhone), Apple’s smartphone is pretty much fourteen devices in one.

Over at Trending Buffalo, Steve Cichon dug up an ancient February 16, 1991 circular for Radio Shack, filled with products that were on special for the upcoming “Presidents’ Birthday Sale.”

Steve was curious about the flyer, so he ended up taking a closer look. As it turns out, he figures that thirteen of the products listed on the circular just twenty-some ago are always in your pocket now, thanks to the iPhone.

Here’s how Steve figures it, along with how much these would have cost you at the time:

• All weather personal stereo, $11.88. I now use my iPhone with an Otter Box AM/FM clock radio, $13.88. iPhone.

• In-Ear Stereo Phones, $7.88. Came with iPhone.

• Microthin calculator, $4.88. Swipe up on iPhone.

• Tandy 1000 TL/3, $1599. I actually owned a Tandy 1000, and I used it for games and word processing. I now do most of both of those things on my phone.

• VHS Camcorder, $799. iPhone.

• Mobile Cellular Telephone, $199. Obvs.

• Mobile CB, $49.95. Ad says “You’ll never drive ‘alone’ again!” iPhone.

• 20-Memory Speed-Dial phone, $29.95.

• Deluxe Portable CD Player, $159.95. 80 minutes of music, or 80 hours of music? iPhone.

• 10-Channel Desktop Scanner, $99.55. I still have a scanner, but I have a scanner app, too. iPhone.

• Easiest-to-Use Phone Answerer, $49.95. iPhone voicemail.

• Handheld Cassette Tape Recorder, $29.95. I use the Voice Memo app almost daily.

The only things the iPhone can’t replace, in fact, are a radar detector, and a threeway-speaker with subwoofer. But seriously! Give the iPhone some more time!

  • Paul Burt

    Uhh….last I checked, the iPhone didn’t have a CB radio.

  • layPhone

    Uhh….last I checked, the iPhone didn’t have a CB radio.

    Voxer takes care of the 1 on 1 part of this communication. Conference call, Google Hangout, etc. could do the group aspect. And if you just need to know what the trucker 2 miles ahead of you sees, use Waze.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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