The 2016 Tech Obituary: Remembering the Gadgets That Didn't Survive The Year

By Luke Johnson on at

As a whole, 2016 has been a bit of a bummer. If it wasn’t Britain doing its best to kick itself in the nuts and the US looking to, ahem, trump that, we had to deal with legends including David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Ronnie Corbett heading to the VIP party in the sky. Throughout all this though, the tech scene was getting away pretty lightly. Heck, we even got some cool new kit to play with.

It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops though. Like the rest of the world, the tech industry did suffered some sad losses. Pass a hankie, find a bugler to play The Last Post, this is the tech that has sadly passed on over the past 12 months.

1. Samsung Galaxy Note 7

(2016 - 2016)

A beloved smartphone taken too young, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 died as it lived - in a worrying ball of flames. Leaving behind a company reeling from its loss and looking to recoup haemorrhaged billions, it went out with a bang, literally.

Possibly the biggest tech farce of the year, the Note 7, which was shaping up as one of the best phones ever made, had a serious shortcoming, it just kept combusting. Despite a widespread product recall just weeks after the phone was released, Samsung just couldn’t fix the problem.

Replacement handsets started blowing up too, and quickly a universal product recall was on the cards. Those who clung on to their Notes were warned of the dangers and if you still failed to return it, a recent software update will remove its ability to recharge. The ultimate, undignified end.

2. VHS recorders

(1976 - 2016)

Wait, VHS was still a thing? Who the chuff has been buying VHS recorders this long? A classic that survived longer than anyone expected, VHS recorders were finally laid to rest this year, when Funai Electric - the last remaining manufacturer of the now antiquated technology - watched the final ever unit roll off its production line.

An end that’s been long overdue, the final model was produced a full 40 years after the original JVC unit dropped, and a good two decades after DVDs rose to prominence.

We can only imagine British school’s clinging on to those ‘80s educational films, and everyone’s gran who simply refused to upgrade her copy of Casablanca, will now have to bite the bullet and upgrade to digital media. VHS recorders, you served us well, but it’s good you’re gone.

3. Pebble

(2012 - 2016)

Occasionally in this world, there are those who break the mould. Those who do things differently and change the shape of things to come. Pebble was that company, taking the ailing smartwatch market and giving it some much needed direction with the e-ink display rocking original Pebble watch.

Despite being the king of Kickstarter, Pebble failed to turn early interest into prolonged success. The original Pebble watch racked up a staggering $1 million in crowdfunded pledges in just 28 hours, before going on to become the most funded Kickstarter project at the time. It’s $10 million total paled compared with the 2015-backed Pebble Time, however, which notched up more than $20 million.

Although the watches were cool, they were pretty nerd-centric, failing to make a mark with the masses tempted by the Apple Watch. In the years that followed, Pebble turned down big money buyouts, believing it could go on its own, before succumbing to slowing sales and mounting debts. In early December, it was no more, taken over by Fitbit in a deal believed to have been worth $35 million and stripped of all its patents.

4. Rosetta Probe

(2004 - 2016)

A true hero of our time, the Rosetta Probe will live long in the memory, despite having met an undignified demise earlier this year. Despite lacking a beating heart, it ingrained itself in many of ours by tracking, photographing and analysing an icy comet as it hurtled through the far reaches of space.

As well capturing some 116,000 images of the duck-shaped Comet 67P, the Rosetta probe successfully dropped the Philae lander robot to the rock’s surface while it was almost 720 million kilometres from earth.

Despite more than 12-years of science-changing service, the Rosetta probe was deliberately crashed into the face of the comet on September 30 due to diminishing solar power. Even as its spiralled to its impactful end, however, the Rosetta probe was an icon to the last, capturing and sending images from just feet above the comet’s surface.

5. The humble headphone port

(1964 - 2016)

OK, so the iconic 3.5mm headphone jack still exists, technically, but 2016 will forever be remembered as the year that the first giant nail was hammered into its coffin. It was Apple wielding the hammer, and the iPhone 7 the device that did the damage.

Yes, it might just be one phone that’s cut the cable connection so far, instead pushing users to Bluetooth or Lightning Port headphones, but Apple is the snowball that’s causing an avalanche.

The rumours of widespread culling have already begun, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 is just one of a number of leading handsets expected to follow suit in ditching the 3.5mm jack next year. The headphone port’s death warrant has been signed, it’s time to say your last goodbye to a classic.

6. Vine

(2013 - 2016)

Taken in its prime, Vine’s 6-second looping videos were laid on the chopping block during the closing weeks of 2016, and all because of someone else’s issues.

Having been bought out by Twitter before it even launched, Vine had seen its active monthly figures drop from hundred to tens of millions of users, and despite a one-time high of 1.5 billion daily video loops quickly found itself anything put a priority within the ailing social service.

Despite the hangman having tied the noose around Vine’s neck, the chair won’t be kicked from under its feet until early in the New Year - giving you time to save your favourite videos.

7. Apple Airport

(1999 - 2016)

Apple has produced some sexy tech over the years. From the iPod to the iPad and MacBook to the Apple Watch, it makes gadgets you crave. It’s also been responsible for a few duffs, and one of them, Airport, has now been sent to the scrapyard in the sky.

Possibly Apple’s least sexy product, like, ever, the Apple Airport is essentially a Wi-Fi router, just in a stylised white plastic shell. Instead of getting you all fizzy in your nether regions though, it’s the sort of device that’s inevitably going to frustrate as your flaky internet connection snuffs it at 8pm every evening without fail.

Not the most surprising of obituary additions, it’s been more than three years since Apple last updated its Airport lines, with the devices accounting form a just a tiny fraction of Apple’s overall device sales.