22 Vintage Office Equipment That Would Be Laughable in Today’s Technological Age

Sharing is caring!

Remember the days of carbon copies and rolodexes? Get ready for a trip down memory lane (with a heavy dose of cringe)! We’re dusting off 22 relics from the pre-digital office, those once-essential tools that would seem comical in today’s high-tech world.

This post may contain affiliate links meaning I get commissions for purchases made in this post. Read my disclosure policy here.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Typewriters were the base for office communication in the previous generations. They were an “office essential” once upon a time. One had to press each key with force to use them, and mistakes were hard to correct without using correction fluid or tape. They were also very noisy, and each document had to be carefully typed out from scratch.

Rotary Dial Telephones

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

These vintage rotary dial telephones had a sleek look but were very time-consuming to use from today’s point of view. It required users to turn a dial for each digit of the phone number they were calling. In the modern era of smartphones, where one doesn’t have to remember a whole list of numbers but instead has to search for the name, this method of communication is obsolete.

Carbon Paper

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Carbon papers were used to create duplicate copies of any document before photocopiers and printers were invented. It involved placing a sheet of carbon paper between two sheets and pressing it down hard with a pen or typewriter. It was like manually writing the whole document from scratch. It was time-consuming and messy, as the carbon would often smudge or transfer to unwanted surfaces, making poor-quality copies.

Mimeograph Machines

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Mimeograph machines were similar to carbon paper, where one made copies by forcing ink through a stencil onto paper. Just like the problems faced while practicing the previous method, the ink would also smudge onto the paper and require manual operations.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Dictaphones would record or playback dictation on magnetic tapes or wax cylinders before introducing digital voice recorders and transcription software. The dictaphone was bulky, had limited recording capacity, and required physical storage for the tapes. Even the transcription of recordings was a time-consuming process. One had to repeatedly rewind and fast-forward the recording to find some specific segments. In today’s time, some machines offer better results with fewer requirements.

Telex Machines

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

When someone had to send written messages over long distances, telex machines were there to do their work. They were an early form of telecommunication and required a network of wires and specialized skills to operate. Today’s generations call it a slow process because the message had to be typed out, transmitted, and printed at the receiving end. Some methods like email, text messaging, and other digital communication tools make information sharing much more accessible.

Punch Card Machines

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Punch cards were used for data processing and programming early computers. Some holes were punched in specific positions to represent data and instructions. They would not be used today because their handling process was bulky, prone to errors, and required large storage spaces. And if one wanted to retrieve the data, then the time it consumed would be a nightmare in today’s time.

Fax Machines

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Fax Machines were once considered essential for sending documents quickly over long distances. However, the process was quite long. It required physical copies of scanned and transmitted documents via telephone.

Manual Filing Cabinets

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

In the pre-digital age, filing cabinets were the primary method for storing and organizing documents. These cabinets took up a lot of space and required thorough manual organization and indexing. Retrieving that information would consume much time, especially if it was misfiled.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

A rotating file device named ‘Rolodex’ was used to store and organize business contact information on index cards. While it was considered a useful tool for keeping track of contacts, according to today’s perspective, it would be viewed as bulky and limited in capacity. Need to update a bit of information? You would either have to write it all manually or type new cards. Today’s CRM software is more efficient in doing this work while being updated with methods for managing contacts.

Bates Numbering Machines

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Bates numbering machines were used in earlier times to arrange the documents for identification and reference purposes sequentially. However, this process required manual operation and frequent re-inking, and as it may sound, it was slow. To solve this, many came up with quick and accurate integrated system solutions that show why such machines would not run in today’s digital era.

Mechanical Pencil Sharpeners

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Previously, mechanical pencil sharpeners required manual effort to sharpen pencils and were often mounted on desks or walls. The shavings of pencils needed regular disposal, and the process was noisy and messy. Electric sharpeners and mechanical pencils make the task easier and less time-consuming. And anyway, who writes notes in their paper copies now? Other digital devices make note-taking efficient and aesthetic.

Desk Blotters

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Desk Blotters were made to absorb excess ink from fountain pens and to provide a smooth writing surface. But pen technology has introduced us to ballpoint pens and modern ink pens, which are less prone to smudging and ink blots now; these blotters are more decorative than functional. Additionally, people prefer taking digital notes more than writing them all alone.

Physical In/Out Trays

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

In/Out trays were used to organize incoming and outgoing documents on desks. While it may sound like an erratic arrangement in today’s time, it was popular back then. Even when they took up valuable desk space and required manual sorting, which would be considered chaotic in busy offices as per today’s standards.

Letter Openers

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Letter openers worked like miracles to manage and open the large volume of physical mail that offices received daily. However, as technological advancements have flourished, physical mail has become a part of emails and other forms of digital communication. This has diminished the need for a letter opener while reducing the volume of physical mail.

Duplicating Machines

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Another method used to make copies of documents was duplicating machines, also known as Ditto Machines. The process involved creating a master copy and pressing ink to produce duplicates. It required intensive manpower, and the outcomes were messy and low-quality copies. Today’s digital scanners offer high-speed and high-quality duplication with minimal effort.

Physical Calendars and Appointment Books

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Physical calendars and appointment books are essential tools for scheduling and time management, but they are obsolete today. They require manual updates and are prone to errors. Digital calendars and scheduling apps are better alternatives today as they provide greater functionality, including automatic reminders, sharing calendars, and integrating with other digital tools.

Bulletin Boards

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Bulletin boards were an effective method for offices to post notices and information for their staff. However, they required manual updates and physical presence to view the information. So, what if someone is absent and misses the information? To tackle more such problems, digital communication tools, intranets, and collaborative platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams came in and captivated the market.

Dictation Shorthand Machines

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Stenographers used shorthand machines to transcribe speech quickly using shorthand symbols. Those who wanted to use them required extensive training to use them effectively and make fewer errors. However, modern voice recognition software and digital transcription tools have replaced these outdated tools while making transcription faster and more accurate.

Mechanical Calculators

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Mechanical calculators were used to perform basic arithmetic tasks or simple calculations, which were also considered essential in offices. They also added machines that needed to be operated through gears and levers while requiring manual input and operation. This process had chances of giving mechanical errors and was limited to essential functions like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. As you would be aware, modern calculators are far better than them as they can perform complex scientific calculations and function quickly.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *