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A Trip Down Black Friday Memory Lane: A Decade of Hilarious Deals

VCRs, the future of robotics, and a love of CDs used to be the kinds of Black Friday deals we looked forward to.

Call us sentimental old fools, but we often like to cast our mind back to yesteryear, to those "good old days" when things were simpler. You know, 2003! Back then, Black Friday was not as big a deal as it is today, but merchants were still very much in the habit of enticing people to line up in front of their stores in the early AM.

Many of those deals, in hindsight, were ridiculous — and have continued to seem so for years and years. So, with our feet planted in 2013 and our eyes gazing into the past, let's take a look at some historical (and hysterical?) Black Friday "deals" from back-in-the-day ... and mock them, cruelly!

Black Friday 2003: Check The Tape

Ten years ago, RadioShack wanted to sell you a Cinevision DVD-VCR for $119.99 on Black Friday. These days, you won't even pay that much for a Blu-ray player! VHS was already solidly replaced by DVDs back then, too, so this promo is even more mind-boggling. We guess that one could argue, however, that RadioShack doesn't cater to people who know much about technology, so this "deal" was probably tapping into that mom and pop "we still have our kids' old dance recitals on VHS and want to bring the tapes out any time they bring a new boyfriend home" market.

Black Friday 2004: Must-See CRT

Nine years ago, Walmart thought you would be tempted to wait outside in the cold for hours to get your hands on an HP Pavilion Computer for $498. What made it a smokin' deal? It came bundled with a 17" Flat CRT, which seems so barbaric through our 2013, LCD flat-panel eyes. (Amusingly, Walmart also thought it would lure someone into its stores by offering Will & Grace Season 1 on DVD for $12.99.)

Black Friday 2005: Silly Storage and Dancing Robots

Eight years ago, there was no Cloud. Remember how we were all backing up our data onto CDs? Madness. That's why at the time it wasn't super strange for Staples to offer an HP CD-R Media 100-Pack for $14.94 on Black Friday. At only $0.15/disc it was a cheap deal, until you realized that most of them would get messed up during burning and become coasters. How did we ever manage to survive these dark times?

Staples also notably offered a Maxtor 200GB Internal Hard Drive for $29.94. A person living in 2005 would have said, "200 gigabytes?! There's no way a normal human being could fill up that much space!" Time makes liars of us all. Speaking of amusing storage capacities, the office supply store also offered a Palm E Handheld Device bundled with a Creative 256MB MP3 Player for $149.94. Excitingly, that MP3 player could hold over 100 songs! (Provided you don't care about audio quality or faithful digital reproduction at all!)

It should be noted that as we scanned these ancient ads, we were shocked to see that Linens 'n Things stores, well, still existed. But it also offered the Robosapien for $39.99. Were we ever so simple as a people to hope that the pinnacle of robotics would be a mechanical monkey that danced? "Look, we'll investigate using robots as caregivers for the elderly later. For now, let's focus on dancing, guys!"

Listening to a CD

Black Friday 2006: Put All Your Money in CDs

This was the year that Circuit City offered a Canon Mini DVD Digital Camcorder for $349.99 as one of its promotional in-store lure items. Apparently we used to think recording video directly onto a DVD was the way of the future. And, apparently, there was also a time when $350 seemed like a "bargain" to do so.

In 2006, despite the iPod having been on the market for five years, Circuit City was also promoting a Memorex Portable Personal CD Player for $9.99. Quite a steal, as long as you overlooked the dead format! Target then stepped up to the Black Friday plate and took a swing at offering a Dane-Elec 512MB Secure Digital Card for $7.97. In today's terms, that's an astonishing $15.94/GB.

Shaun of the Dead HD-DVD

Black Friday 2007: Shaun of the Dead Formats

f.y.e. thought you would like to buy Shaun of the Dead on HD-DVD for $16.99. (Don't laugh too hard at its sales tactic. After all, there was no way for the retailer know that the HD-DVD Group would officially dissolve three months later.) In 2007, we also started to see a heavy push for digital picture frames. Several years later, a study would find that everyone hates them, yet we all thought they would make excellent gifts. (They didn't.) A weird glitch in America's history, we were all under a group delusion that these things were desirable. Though, in actuality, there were two major glitches in the American consumer consciousness in 2007; people also thought that wheeled shoes were a good idea for kids, and part of Finish Line's Black Friday promo touted Heely's for $29.99 each.

Something else that tickled our post-Thanksgiving wishbone in 2007 were the multiple stores that promoted deals on "candy bar" cell phones. The Apple iPhone had just been announced in the run-up to Black Friday, and it essentially made every other cell phone — "deal" or not — look like a steamy pile of ... stuffing. For instance, Best Buy was hocking the Verizon LG Chocolate Cell Phone for $49.99 and, at the time, that was about as desirable as cell phones got. Simpler times!

Black Friday 2008: America's Funniest Home Injuries

It was just five years ago that the world was introduced to the joys and horrors of the split skateboard. Twice as hard to ride as a normal skateboard, the two-piece Razor RipStik Caster Board was one of Target's Black Friday deals that year and was sold for $59. We wonder how many kids woke up on Christmas morning realizing they'd be spending Christmas night in the ER? It's the gift that keeps on giving (your child concussions).

Fortunately, that year you could have picked up the Flip Video Ultra Series Camcorder for $129.99 from Staples to record your child's epic wipeout. Remember that 2008 was already several years into the Flip Cam's lifespan — and several years from its decline — but they were still selling like hot cakes that recorded video. And why wouldn't they? They seemed like a good idea before we all had smartphones that took better video. (And before we all realized that we would never remember to put a video camera in our pocket each day before leaving the house.)

Despite the fact that Black Friday is not the best time to buy toys, everyone thinks that it is, and merchants gladly pander to that assumption. However, in 2008, we guess Toys "R" Us (it even have "toys" in its name, for Black Friday's sake!) forgot about that, because one of its deals was ... an AM/FM Clock Radio in Purple for $4.99. Sure, that's a great price, but possibly the most boring gift you could ever give a child. A slightly better gift idea might have been the High School Musical Bike for $69 at Walmart, but what parent would have been willing to wait in line for that? After all, it was the High School Musical 3 bike and not, like, based on one of the good High School Musicals. Alternatively, Walmart actually was one of the first stores to offer a discount on the Nintendo Wii, selling it for $249.24; remember, $249.99 was its list price — talk about savings!

After looking back on the old olden-days, we can conclusively say that people sure bought and sold some terrible tech back then! Surely the people of 2023 won't be looking back at us in 2013 and saying the same thing ... right? Either way, we hope you enjoyed this non-sentimental, eye-rolling trip down Black Friday Memory Lane. Care to share with us the most hilarious Black Friday deal you were ever proud to have snagged? We'd love to know, so tell us in the comments below!

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Media Editor

Jeff Somogyi is the DealNews Media Editor. Since working here he's written deals, features, promotional and newsletter copy, blog posts, as well as scripts for our videos. Follow him on Google+, Twitter at @sommerjam or his blog.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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