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Almost Everything in This 1991 Radio Shack Ad Can Be Replaced by an iPhone!

Posted in Miscellaneous, News on 20/01/2014 by Chris Hauk

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A Huffington Post columnist recently bought a pile of Buffalo News fronts sections from 1991, and there, amongst the news of the first Gulf War, and the Buffalo Bills first-0ever Super Bowl appearance was an ad from Radio Shack. Big deal right? Well, if you look closer, as he did, you’ll find that almost everything the items in the full page ad could do can be replicated by the iPhone!

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Huffington Post, via The Loop:

There are 15 electronic gimzo type items on this page, being sold from America’s Technology Store. 13 of the 15 you now always have in your pocket.

Here’s the list of what items have been replaced by iPhone functionality, with the writers comments.:

  • All weather personal stereo, $11.88. I now use my iPhone with an Otter Box.
  • AM/FM clock radio, $13.88. iPhone.
  • In-Ear Stereo Phones, $7.88. Came with iPhone.
  • Microthin calculator, $4.88. Swipe up on iPhone.
  • Tandy 1000 TL/3, $1599. I actually owned a Tandy 1000, and I used it for games and word processing. I now do most of both of those things on my phone.
  • VHS Camcorder, $799. iPhone.
  • Mobile Cellular Telephone, $199. Obvs.
  • Mobile CB, $49.95. Ad says “You’ll never drive ‘alone’ again!” iPhone.
  • 20-Memory Speed-Dial phone, $29.95.
  • Deluxe Portable CD Player, $159.95. 80 minutes of music, or 80 hours of music? iPhone.
  • 10-Channel Desktop Scanner, $99.55. I still have a scanner, but I have a scanner app, too. iPhone.
  • Easiest-to-Use Phone Answerer, $49.95. iPhone voicemail.
  • Handheld Cassette Tape Recorder, $29.95. I use the Voice Memo app almost daily.
  • BONUS REPLACEMENT: It’s not an item for sale, but at the bottom of the ad, you’re instructed to ‘check your phone book for the Radio Shack Store nearest you.’ Do you even know how to use a phone book?

The total cost for the merchandise in the ad comes to $3,054.82 in 1991 dollars. (Roughly equivalent to $5,100 at today’s exchange rate.)

The writer mentions that there are only two items that couldn’t be replaced by an iPhone, and I’ll give him the “3-Way speaker with massive 15″ Woofer” for $149.95. However, I would argue that the “Tiny Dual-Superhet Radar Detector” for $79.95 does have it’s doppleganger in the App Store with the “Escort Live Radar” app. While not a true radar speed trap detector, the app does perform roughly the same utility.

It’s always fun to look back on what was “cutting-edge” technology a few decades ago, and compare it to what we use in our lives today.



  • John

    Shameless plug for apple. The same things could be done by any smartphone today, not just by iPhones.

  • Tom Susala

    My Samsung Galaxy S4 can do all that too And I don’t have to drink the Apple Kool-Aid. But consider the source….the land of the D-Bag

    • zach458

      What do you expect? You’re on a site called “MacTrast”

  • Jesse Larner

    Not specifically an iPhone – a SMARTPHONE! Let’s not feed Apple’s arrogance.

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Chris Hauk

MacTrast Senior Editor, and self-described "magnificent bastard," Chris Hauk owns Phoenix Rising Services and writes for everyone's favorite "bad movie" website, Big Bad Drive-In.

His first Apple product was an iPod Classic 5 years ago, and he has since added a MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone, and 2 Apple TVs to his collection.

He lives somewhere in the deep Southern part of America. Yes, he has to pump in both sunshine, and the Internet.

Don't forget to check out Chris' two latest endeavors, as the "Apple Expert" at Answers.com, and his own personal tech blog at chrishauk.com