Outdated Car Accessories and Their Updated Alternatives

It’s easy to compare a picture of a car from decades past to the cars we have today and notice the big differences. Go back far enough and you can barely recognize the bulky vehicles of yesteryear as the precursors to what we currently see on the roads. Yet, the change in car design over the years isn’t limited to the car’s outer appearance. There have been plenty of other changes, big and small, that have come and gone over the years. How many of these outdated accessories have you driven with?

The Tape Deck and CD Player

For some, the hiss of a cassette tape, just like the crackle of a vinyl record, serves up a good dose of nostalgia to go along with their tunes. But for everyone else, the outdated technology of physical music media will not be missed. Rather than rely on broken tapes and skipping CDs, drivers now prefer to stream their high-quality music from another device.

business man holding gear in car.Car manufacturers have finally begun phasing out the last physical media players from their cars as they introduce modern touch-screen displays. (Say goodbye also to those LED screens on your dash as well). Instead, cars are now becoming equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, or at the least, an auxiliary port for plugging in a music-playing device. Who knows how we’ll play music in the coming future, but at least you won’t have to turn the tape over.

The Stick-shift

There’s something exciting–and a little nostalgic–about seeing a movie character punch the stick-shift and take their car into high gear. Yet, while cars with manual transmissions still reign overseas, fewer than 10 percent of American cars produced each year are manual transmission. Although cars with manual transmissions have a few perks, mainly that they allow a more hands-on performance, they just don’t compare with the literal effortlessness of driving an automatic.

Even in cars that offer manual transmission, you might not see a stick-shift. Nowadays, “manumatic” cars forego the stick and instead place paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, allowing the driver to more easily switch between gears. Plus, with the electric car industry picking up steam and sure to become a boom in the next few decades, we might be saying a more permanent goodbye to stick-shifts, as well as gears and engines entirely.

The In-Car Ashtray and Lighter

While many changes in car design indicate better safety standards and improved function, some instead reflect the changing standards of society. Such is the case with in-car ashtrays and lighters. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, and even later than that, you could find an ashtray built into every door and an ashtray built into the dash. But, as smoking became less and less popular, manufacturers just didn’t see the need to spend money on things that weren’t as necessary.

Indeed, you can still see smokers on the road. Instead of butting out in the car, many smoker-drivers (illegally) ditch their cigarette butts onto the road, so it’s a wonder if this change was really for the better. That said, an interesting effect of the disappearance of in-car ashtrays is that it’s led to a market for ashtrays that fit into the cup holder.

The future of cars and driving still up in the air, but it’s difficult to tell what necessary accessories today will be gone tomorrow. With driverless cars being tested and manufacturers introducing self-driving features, we might soon be seeing even the human driver as obsolete. But for now, all we can do is look back on the interesting (and now unnecessary) car accessories of the past.


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