Retro Words You’ll Probably Never Use Again

Pay phone

The pay phone was popular back when no one had cell phones to make calls while on the road. It’s really just a public telephone that requires coins (another soon-to-be retronym?) in order to be used. The term came about in the 1930s.

Of course, nowadays most people have their own phones to use whenever needed, such as while traveling or when going out to the store. This makes calling someone to alert them about your ETA, your purchases, your car breaking down much easier—and takes the hassle out of digging out spare change.

Tape it

When someone used the expression, tape it, they were probably referring to a TV show, movie, or song they wanted to record and watch or listen to later. This would require a VCR (videocassette recorder) or a cassette deck on a boombox. (Wow! Retronym overload.) You’d have to manually press the record button to “tape” the entertainment you wanted. And, recording more than one show at a time? Forget it.

This sounds pretty old fashion now since we can set up our DVRs to record several TV shows when we’re not even home. But, back in the day if you wanted to rewatch your favorite 90210 episode, you had to tape it.


The days of waiting for your internet to dial-up are long gone. Early net users (say, the 80s and 90s) had to dial a phone number to connect to the World Wide Web, bringing with it long, drawn-out noises and a heightened anticipation. And, you never knew whether you’d get online the first try or not. (Then, once you finally made it onto the glorious web, you might hear the wonderful phrase, You’ve got mail, alerting you that you had a new email. It was awesome.)

Thankfully, we don’t have to hear the high-pitched screeches of dial-up today. With high-speed internet and WiFi, we’re basically online all the time without any wonder or wait.

Page me

The expression, page me, is the equivalent to text me today. But, instead of sending a friend a message to figure out your plans or asking them to call you, you would send them a page to their pager (or beeper). This “pocket-size electronic device” informed people that someone needed to get in touch with them (by displaying a callback phone number) with either a beep or a vibration.

Most people don’t use pagers anymore (except for doctors). This is definitely a device and phrase of the past.

Slide projector

Back in the day, classrooms had a slide projector (not to mention a black chalkboard that you wrote on with actual chalk) to display images to the class. Built in the 60s, this gadget was a noisy one as it made a clicking sound every time a new slide changed in the rotary tray. And, remember the overhead projector, where you’re teacher put those fun transparent math grids, marking them up and projecting it all for the class to see.

These days, teachers use digital projectors and smartboards when they want to project a slideshow or movie. No slide reels or transparencies needed (and you don’t need to clap out the chalk dust from the board erasers anymore either).

Floppy disk

Before there was a USB flash drive or thumb drive, computer users stored data on a floppy disk. Originating in the 70s, this type of disk (also known as diskette) was “a think plastic disk coated with magnetic material” and the early versions were rather “flexible.” 

Computers no longer have a floppy-disk drive, which is too bad because there were some great computer games available via floppy disk back in the day. Flying toasters and After Dark anyone?


Remember the rewind button? You used to have to press it on your VCR or cassette player when you wanted to rewatch or listen to something again. And, if you rented a video from the local Blockbuster, you best rewind it before you returned it or you got that lovely rewind fee.

Technology allows us to view a particular section in a movie or hear a song again without any actual winding these days. It’s as easy as a click of a button. But, way back when, you had to time it just right to get back to the part of the song you loved and wanted to belt out in your room over and over again.

Roll up the window

Back in the day, many cars required you to manually roll up the windows. It was a serious arm workout too, winding the lever several times before the window made it all the way up. Our biceps hurt just thinking about it.

But, now thanks to a simple press of a button, technology takes care of the hard work for us. Unless you’re sporting that vintage ride . . . .


Walkmans (made by Sony) came about in the late 80s, but they grew even more popular in the 90s. As the first portable audio player with headphones that played cassettes and the radio, Walkmans were all the rage among teens. Popping on the headphones was an easy way to tune out parents and siblings, and wearing those headphones around your neck looked pretty damn cool, too.

Naturally, these types of on-the-go audio devices are pretty much obsolete (as are cassettes) . . . even iPod is a retronym these days. Smartphones really do everything now don’t they?

Handheld camera

Kodak created its first handheld film camera back in the 60s, and people loved it. This nifty device allowed people to make their own home movies starring their friends and family. Plus, it looked pretty professional (large eye piece, huge lens, propped up on your shoulder with a handle on top).

Flash forward and we rarely see handheld cameras unless they are used by the professionals. People who want to record video these days (say, on that long-awaited vacation to Belize), simply use . . . you guessed it . . . their phones.

What retronyms will the next wave of technology bring?

Click to read more
Word of the Day

Can you guess the definition?


[ pil-kroh ]

Can you guess the definition?

Word of the day

[ pil-kroh ]