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Ghosts Of Dead Formats, Brands Arise

The life of the CE industry flashed before my eyes last week as I roamed through the back roads of the Appalachian Mountains in search of antiques.  

The ghosts of dead formats and dead brands appeared before me in high-ceiling turn-of-the-century homes, old barns, and dark, decrepit cinder-block buildings that must have once been home to thriving commercial enterprises.

The tabletop radios bore the brands of Motorola, Admiral, and Atwater Kent. An Edison wax-cylinder player sat next to a stack of wax cylinders. The floorstanding Victrolas came with stacks of 78 rpm records. Tabletop candlestick phones stood near wall-mounted hand-crank phones. An early-1900s all-metal adding machine almost threw my back out when I lifted it.

For camera buffs, black-and-white square-format-film cameras gathered dust, as did a lone (deservedly so) disc-format camera.

An in-dash Pioneer tape deck propped up against a vintage Coca-Cola sign stood near a VHS HQ VCR. A stack of dusty 8-track tapes might (thunk) have worked (thunk) in the (thunk) 1977 Sanyo 8-track player/recorder that I store in my attic next to my second-generation non-cellular BlackBerry, my analog 1989 Nokia brick phone, my 1930s Crosley AM radio, a DOS PC, and my six-transistor portable AM radio.

This CE Hall of Fame got me wondering. What contemporary CE products will appear in antique stores in the next 20 years, if any? The first iPhone? The first-generation iPad? 32MB MP3 players from 1999? Plasma TVs? Tabletop Internet radios? iPod-docking speakers? Google TV boxes?

And how many of them will depend on services from companies that might turn into the Admirals and Atwater Kents of the future?