Modern versions of the 90s’ most popular electronics
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution doesn't just apply to animals and humans; it pertains to technology as well. In order to continue to thrive as time progresses, modifications must occur or once-flourishing devices and gadgets will go extinct.
In the world of tech, evolution happens at a furious pace, making it easy to trace the lineage of products, as most have radically evolved in less than the span of a single generation.
If you're feeling nostalgic for the electronics of yesteryear, here's a list of some of the 90s' most popular products and how they've adapted to better fit today's lifestyle.
(If you're ready to step into the 21st century in style, Apple Airpods are currently on sale for just $144.)
1. Palm pilot to a virtual assistant
The evolution: In the 90s, PDA stood for personal digital assistant. It was a tiny, awkward computer that made keeping track of your life an extraordinarily tedious process involving user-unfriendly interfaces that were cutting edge for the time.
Today, a virtual assistant can handle everything from locking the doors to shutting off the lights to allowing us to go on a shopping spree without getting off the couch. It's an application that is included as part of a gadget -- usually a smart speaker.
Modern: The latest and greatest smart speaker with a virtual assistant is Amazon's Echo Dot (3rd Gen). This highly affordable model is the brand's most recent, and it includes all the features you need to simplify and keep track of your life.
Nostalgic: Unfortunately, the days of the PalmPilot have passed. Still, if you're desperate for a taste of nostalgia, the Dell Axim X51 416MHz PDA has a classic feel with a modern update: The device has a touchscreen and is Bluetooth-enabled.
2. Analog to high-definition smart TV
The evolution: By the 90s, roughly half the U.S. had already converted to cable TV, which meant the other half was still watching programs on "snowy" static boxes that only worked most of the time.
Nowadays, televisions are high-tech, intuitive gadgets that feature visual quality that contains more detail than the human eye can even perceive.
Modern: Samsung's 65-Inch QLED 4K Smart TV offers exceptional picture quality with QLED (Samsung's quantum dot display technology), multiple inputs, WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, and more. If you want to impress the neighbors, this is the way to go.
Nostalgic: If you'd like to relive the days of old when television was free, antennas are still a thing. As a matter of fact, they now bring in high-definition, digital signals that are comparable to cable and satellite services. The Mohu Leaf 30 Television Antenna is an affordable way to cut the cord.
3. iMac to MacBook Pro
The evolution: In 1998, if you wanted to be cutting edge, you could purchase an iMac G3 that was the size of an old-fashioned tube TV and weighed about 40 pounds. The operating system in these models often crashed and the computer didn't have the longest life expectancy.
Today, if you want computing power, reliability, memory, and speed, you can purchase a 3-pound MacBook Pro that you can toss in your backpack and take with you wherever you go.
Modern: Apple's impressive MacBook Pro has a 13-inch Retina display, 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, and comes with SSD Storage and 256GB memory. It also features four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports and up to 10 hours of battery life.
Nostalgic: Unfortunately, the iMac G3 has become such an albatross that you can't even get rid of one, let alone purchase one. If you feel the need for a sturdy desktop computer, the Acer SB220Q Monitor is a lot lighter and a lot faster than the iMac.
4. Phone to smartphone
The evolution: Even though the first GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) call was made in 1991 and the first text message was sent in 1992, phones were considered stationary devices that were part of your home or office.
Since the 90s, phones have evolved into devices that are so personal, many will only operate for the user with the correct thumbprint.
Modern: The Samsung Galaxy S10 is an incredibly powerful smartphone that offers an immersive infinity display, a professional-grade camera, and as much (or more) storage as your average computer.
Nostalgic: If you still have a phone line in your home, having a backup corded phone is an option. Home Intuition's Amplified Single Line Corded Desk Telephone is available for a fraction of the cost of a smartphone and it has that old-school look.
5. Headphones to wireless earbuds
The evolution: Headphones are curious because their evolution is not linear. They started out as a large device that resembled earmuffs, shrunk down to small easily portable foam units for your Walkman, then simultaneously went both larger and smaller with Beats by Dr. Dre and wireless earbuds that are so tiny, most people don't even realize you're wearing them.
Modern: If you want top-of-the-line audio quality in the form of subtle, trendy earbuds, Apple Airpods are always the way to go. These offer impressive sound quality for their small size, and they're easy to carry on the go. (And, no, they're not as easy to lose as you might think.)
Nostalgic: If you'd like to pick up a set of headphones that encase your ears in large, comfortable, memory foam pads that still offer Bluetooth technology, so you can have the best of the old and the new with Skullcandy's Crusher.
6. Speakers to a soundbar
The evolution: If you wanted a big sound back in the '90s, that meant that you needed big speakers ... and lots of them, placed all around your rec room. No more. Now, a long, thin speaker system called a soundbar can be innocuously positioned beneath your television to create an immersive sound experience.
Modern: The Sonos Playbar is the best of the best. This unit not only delivers crisp, clear dialogue, but you get impressive bass, effortless setup, and expandability - in case you ever want to add more speakers.
Nostalgic: If you want a true surround sound experience with a multitude of speakers, don't worry, that's still a possibility. With an affordable system such as Yamaha's 5.1-Channel Home Theater in a Box System, you can bask in the feeling of having the sound come from everywhere.
7. DVDs to streaming devices
The evolution: Back in the 90s, an incredible technology was released that allowed you to play entire movies from a tiny disc. DVDs became all the rage, and down the road they helped launch a fledgling company called Netflix. Nowadays, if you want to enjoy quality entertainment, you need a good streaming device.
Modern: It's tiny and extremely powerful. Amazon's Fire TV Streaming Stick is one of the most affordable streaming devices on the market, and the latest models work with Alexa and feature 4K streaming.
If you're nostalgic: If you still have a vast library of DVDs, all is not lost. You can get a brand new, state-of-the-art DVD player for close to what a single disc used to cost back in the '90s. For instance, Panasonic has a top-shelf DVD player, so you can continue to watch that box set of Friends over and over and over again.
8. Game Boy to Nintendo Switch
The evolution: Do you remember how excited you were when you were one of the first people to own a Game Boy? Sure, it may have been a sickly monochrome color, but you could play 16-bit blocky video games in a unit that you held in your hands.
Now, gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch have much more advanced technology and impressive graphics, and you can connect wirelessly to compete with players around the world.
Our favorite: The Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy‑Con can either be played as is and on-the-go, or you can dock your system to enjoy HD gaming on your TV. You can play on your own, or connect with other friends who also have the Nintendo Switch.
If you're nostalgic: If you can't let those early days of handheld video gaming end, your best bet is to get a KOBWA Game Boy Case for your iPhone. This nifty little device not only serves as a protection for your phone, but it features 36 playable games as well.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.