Thursday, May 25, 2017

Retro tech: First gen is the new gen

Old tech still sought.
It’s classical conditioning. Pavlovian response. Each year, new technology is unveiled, and suddenly we hunger for the latest, shiniest thing.

My 2016 iPhone SE? That’s so yesterday. Today? It’s the Nokia 3310. Wait, what? Yes, it’s back and being heralded as iconic and a timeless classic.

Originally introduced at the turn of the 21st century, the simple Nokia cell phone has become “a modern classic reimagined,” with extended battery life and low price of 49 euros. Yes, euros, because the phone won’t be sold in the U.S.—at least not with its current incompatible frequencies.

Still, the new-old Nokia is a sign of the times. This year also saw announcements of an Android-powered Blackberry with a physical keyboard. I had been a blindingly loyal Blackberry fan, spending many hundreds of dollars on new devices I was sure would return the company to its former glory. No such luck; hence my switch to the iPhone SE.

Smartphones aren’t the only technology in the midst of a nostalgia boom. How else to reconcile buyers' interest in these items:
  • My old Aiwa boombox was essential to my short stint as aerobics instructor, but had been stored away, unused, for decades. Last month it sold on eBay. And this week a colleague emailed in hopes of borrowing just such a boombox for an event.
  • eBay also came through in attracting buyers for several old-tech items: a Polaroid Land camera, which went to China; a Mamiyaflex twin-lens film camera, sold to an art student at UCLA; and an early-model Garmin Forerunner GPS watch, to a runner with strength enough to wear such a big and bulky device while exercising.
  • My collection of vinyl LP records has moved with me since college days, and that’s been a dog’s age. Finally I found an entrepreneurial couple in the business of buying and reselling albums. They sat in my basement, using a raking light to illuminate the grooves and detect scratches, warping, and other imperfections in each one. Eventually, they bought 100. 
I don’t know if this retro trend is here to stay, but I certainly hope so. New is fine when there are worthwhile advances in technology, but I still have closets and drawers full of old technology. It's good to know someone somewhere might someday want to own a piece of it.

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