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15 Household Mainstays from Your Childhood That You Won’t Find in New Homes

As technology continues to evolve all around us, household items that were once commonplace have slowly fallen out of favor to be replaced by the latest and greatest. Whatever happened to the electric bun warmers that Mom and Grandma had? Would a rotary phone even work on the digital infrastructure we have now? (The answer is, “It depends.”) While many of yesteryear's biggest hits have disappeared for good, a few are still holding on. For example, wood paneling is actually coming back into fashion in some applications, and vinyl record and Polaroid enthusiasts can still feed their passions with vintage equipment. If you’ve ever said, “Well, back when I was a kid...,” come take a trip down memory lane with us as we visit some of our favorite household blasts from the past.

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Electric Typewriter

The electric typewriter was a great advancement over manual models, and homes that could afford them had one available for typing up important documents and business letters. With the advent of word-processing software and email correspondence, they’re now utterly obsolete.

Rotary Phone

Before cell phones, before cordless phones, before touch-tone phones, we had the rotary phone—either desk style or wall-mounted. Most often found in the kitchen, the phone typically had a very long, twisted cord attached to the receiver—long enough to make the stretch from the fridge, to the stove, to anywhere else. In many houses, it was the only phone—and it didn’t have call waiting.

Wood Paneling

Wood paneling, once ubiquitous, fell out of favor in the 1980s when its suddenly dated look became a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Some people painted it, while others removed it altogether and installed wallboard. With updated styles, paneling is starting to come back into fashion as an accent.

Related: Top Tips for Installing Tongue-and-Groove Paneling

Console TV

Old television technology involved big tubes that required a lot of space. TVs were often housed in cabinets and were intended to be a piece of furniture, not just a screen for viewing. In those days prior to remotes, the youngest kid in the house was usually tasked with changing the channel.

Electric Popcorn Popper

Before microwave ovens, you popped your popcorn in a pot on the stove—or, if you got fancy, you had an electric popcorn maker like this one from Etsy. Before too long, its interior became perfectly seasoned—you’d be hard-pressed now to get better snack food than what these beauties produced.

Eight-Track Tape Player

The Daily Page

Between the record player and the cassette tape was the reign of the eight-track. It was a big success at first, due to its portability; you could easily take it from your car to your home. But the format was abandoned in the late 1970s, when sales began to slip in favor of cassette tapes. After all, you couldn’t even rewind an eight-track tape!

Burn Barrel

Most every home used to have a burn barrel in the backyard for getting rid of brush, leaves, and other refuse. The practice has been banned in many states and counties. The low temperature of open fires like the ones in burn barrels can release toxic substances from plastics, foils, and and other household waste—not to mention the smelly black smoke that irritates the neighbors.

Record Player

A record player was standard entertainment equipment in any house from the late 1940s to the early ’80s, alongside shelves and shelves of vinyl LPs. Thanks to the blur of technological advances since, you can now keep your entire music collection on a device that fits in the palm of your hand. If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, however, you can still enjoy dropping a needle on a beautiful portable player like this one.

Slide Projector


Before YouTube and before home movies, there was the slide show. Pack a roll’s worth of 35mm slides into your projector, and you had your Sunday evening entertainment. Surely, you’d like to watch the family trip to Yosemite one more time, right?

Pole Lamp

The tension rod pole lamp was a staple in the 1970s home. It usually had three individual lamps on it, stationed at different heights, focused in different directions. With the current trend toward great rooms with cathedral ceilings, it’s hard to find a place to put a pole lamp these days.

Double-Bell Alarm Clock

A traditional windup alarm clock is completely mechanical, driven by springs. The double-bell model has a gear-driven hammer that oscillates back and forth between the bells to wake you at the time you set it to go off. As an added benefit, the clock’s monotonous tick-tick-tick might just put you to sleep at night.

Door Chimes

Nowadays our doorbells can alert us on our phones as to who’s outside before they even have a chance to push the button, but doorbells weren’t always so discrete. The authentic “DING-dong” of the old-school doorbell is produced when the doorbell circuit is momentarily closed by the pushing of a button. A plunger strikes one bar as the button is pushed, and the other when it is released. DING-Dong! Who’s there?

Wired Cable Remote

Wikimedia Commons via Lorimier

When cable television was new, the wireless technology we have today was still a dream. To change the channel, you used a device that was wired to the cable set-top box. You simply selected a position on the wheel on the right, then pressed the button corresponding to the channel you wanted. Despite the convenience, you could still argue that there was nothing good to watch on TV.

Polaroid Camera

The Polaroid Instant Camera was the most popular of its kind, using self-developing film to produce finished photos in about a minute. In the age of smart phones, “instant” means something totally different. While millennials and Gen Z have picked up instant cameras again, they’re not the same boxy ones from decades ago. 

Electric Bun Warmer

Your childhood Thanksgiving memories may not be complete without a piping hot dinner roll, fresh from the electric bun warmer on the sideboard. The ultimate unitasker, this small appliance did not retain its popularity.