What's the word/phrase/idiom for describing something that was the best solution, product, etc in its time. However, after a while, for example a decade, it's proved that it is not as efficient and working as thought.

  • 1
    It is not efficient over time, as in the longer it runs the less efficient it gets? Or a plain realisation at some point in time that there is likely a better way? Or both? Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 9:05

3 Answers 3


The phrase state of the art covers what you describe:

The term "state of the art" refers to the highest level of general development, as of a device, technique, or scientific field achieved at a particular time.

So you could say:

That was state of the art a decade ago, but much better techniques are available today.


If a better solution is now in use, the older one is outmoded and has been superseded, meaning that it's been replaced by something both more recent and (by some measure) superior. The implication is that the old way might well have been the best thing available at the time.

If there is not yet a better solution, but you want to show that the current one has flaws which weren't previously apparent, I'd consider something that stresses its age, for example archaic, hoary or timeworn.

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    outmoded was also my first thought. Answering machines and payphones are outmoded. We just don't need them any more. They still perform their functions perfectly well. We have not invented better answering machines to replace the old. They're just outmoded.
    – stevesliva
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 5:28

obsolescent "going out of use: becoming obsolete". (Obsolete "Of a type or fashion no longer current; out of date as, an obsolete machine.") both definitions from Webster's New Collegiate

Sentence: "Far from being an early adopter, he is content with obsolescent technology until it becomes too much of a hassle to maintain."

Sentence: "It takes only a few years for a piece of consumer electronics to go from state-of-the-art to ho-hum to obsolescent to obsolete."

Sign seen outside MIT lab, years ago: "If it works, it is obsolescent."

  • I had thought of this too, but something may be obsolescent that was never state of the art to begin with.
    – jxh
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 22:13

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