Tech nostalgia—in with the old

Originally published by Raymond James.

What inspires the recent appeal of obsolete technology.

Everything old is new again – even the dusty tech in your junk drawer. Millennials and Gen Zers are resurrecting vintage technology, and not just for the novelty kick. Tech nostalgia can save consumers money, or help them unplug. The trend reflects a simple truth: Newer isn’t always better.

Though popular, e-books offer a clear demonstration of what so much new technology lacks – a sensory experience. The smell of an old book and the sound of a turning page largely explain why print books still dominate the market. Retro junkies seek tech that delivers a physical encounter. And with physical connection so often replaced by virtual connection today, it’s easy to understand a desire to turn back time.

Let’s talk about some of the reasons tech nostalgia is in – and why old tech might be here to stay.

Money, money, money. Tangle-prone or not, wired headphones have upsides. Losing old-school headphones won’t ding your wallet as badly as losing their wireless counterparts – and wires are more difficult to lose in the first place. Flip phones are another popular retro tech product with a consumer-friendly price tag. Why buy the latest iPhone – which will be outdated soon enough – when you could opt for a fun, funky and cheaper flip phone and sock away the difference for a vacation?

Quality counts! Vinyl records aren’t as affordable – or as mobile – as Spotify, and you can’t play a record in your car. And yet, vinyl sales now outpace CD sales. Besides offering retro-appeal, vinyl records sound better than their digital descendants, according to vinyl enthusiasts. Records capture all analog waves in the original performance, which digital music can’t do, making vinyl more faithful to the original studio performance. And for those who appreciate the romance of clicks, pops and white noise, digital music simply can’t compete.

Memory lane is good for the brain. According to Psychology Today, the affection for retro devices is “inextricably linked to the simpler times they belong to.” Between artificial intelligence and automation, you might think times would be simpler now, but it seems the opposite is true. “Doom-scrolling” and nonstop news alerts can be bad for mental and physical health. Old tech can take us back, and calm us down.

Repurposing the past. Some trending tech is more vintage-inspired than vintage. Phones with foldable screens are both old and new. With smartphone capabilities but the pocketable size of flip phones, models like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 are experiencing a surge in popularity. Motorola has also entered the foldable screen game, hinting at a growing market for new tech with an old vibe.

From e-learning to remote work, online shopping to contact-free delivery, much of the face-to-face interaction we need in order to feel connected has been stripped from our day-to-day. There’s wisdom in a yen for vinyl records and Polaroid cameras. Unlike their digital alternatives, these items offer something tangible to collect, to hold, to share. Over time, a beloved book or photo becomes an heirloom, something to pass down to children and grandchildren. And so it goes.



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