I’m prone to rambling on about technology and social media. This is true in my day to day, and it’s true in my writing. Despite my best efforts to be concise, I always have to mention rising trends in tech and media. Luckily, the goal today is to focus on a trend related to returning to past technology.
In the last few years, many people have sought older technology. Some find it to be more reliable than the newest gadget, while for others it’s nostalgia that drives their search for the old and the vintage. Regardless of the reasons, new communities have risen as a response to this movement, and analog technology has seen a significant rise in use and collection in the last few years. I’ll be looking at four of those less than contemporary technologies and trying to break down the why’s and how’s for their return.
Before we begin talking about the true vintage technology, there’s been an interesting rise in almost analog that I want to speak to. This trend comes in part as a response to the hoarding of DVDs and CDs that happened from the 90’s to the 2000’s. It’s not rooted in any true return to old technology but rather is a convenient response to the rise of media streaming.
DVDs were a popular alternative to VHS. When Blu-ray came along, DVDs didn’t become entirely obsolete, but some folks did begin making a transition away from them. With the additional pressure to move away from DVDs brought on by streaming, the result were massive hoards of DVDs to be pawned off for cheap. Some people have jumped on this opportunity to collect as many as they can and create truly impressive collections of movies that can be watched at any time without an internet connection. Something similar has happened with CDs, as they’ve seen a similar life cycle and remain accessible.
Along with this newfound appreciation for CDs and DVDs came a newfound appreciation for the technology that actually runs those disks. CD and DVD players are becoming scarcer, and as such are being cherished in their ability to make use of what would otherwise have been discarded technology. Along with that comes the mobile equivalent through people collecting players like the iPod Classic. Many people have let go of their MP3 collections, and don’t have a convenient way to play those files anymore.
Cathode-ray tube televisions are also making a comeback. While their use is somewhat less prominent because of a limited utility, they are seeing a resurgence in specific circles. This trend has been ongoing for quite some time with articles about it dating back at least to 2018, but it continues to this day.
One circle in which CRT televisions have come back in a big way is in the Super Smash Bros. community. Without going into specifics, Super Smash Bros., and especially Super Smash Bros. Melee, require the lowest possible latency and input lag, something a CRT television can provide. This has led to many people in the scene to collect them and even lug them around to competitions.
While the resurgence of CRT TVs hasn’t seen as profound of a movement as the other technologies we’ll be getting into, it’s important to mention because it shows a return to older technology on behalf of a younger crowd. It also doesn’t rely as heavily on nostalgia. Nancy, the owner of a decluttering business has this to say about the resurgence of analog media:
“I think a part of it is that people have too much stuff. As some people get rid of their old things, others are bound to pick them up. That means things that people have a lot of like CDs, DVDs, books, and magazines are in this cycle where they get handed down from one person to the next. There’s also a lot of appeal for vintage goods, and what ends up happening is that people who like vintage end up collecting a lot of it. Some people that had decluttered also find themselves in a wave of nostalgia and end up recollecting items. Eventually they have to let some of it go, and that’s when you see younger people pick those items up.”
Records and LP’s
Along with the surge in demand for old television sets is the newfound demand for records and LPs. While I understand that technically speaking all LPs are records but not all records are LPs, I’ll be using the two terms interchangeable. The demand for records is driven by a few different factors but isn’t limited to vintage records and LPs. In fact, records outsold CDs in 2020, and this is in part because modern artists are releasing their albums on vinyl.
Where it concerns true vintage records, the vinyl revival is mostly led by proponents who claim that records sound better than modern recordings. There’s also a case to be made for truly rare records that won’t be found on other mediums, such as classic and indie EPs. Unlike modern EPs, vintage EPs were often small-scale productions with limited distribution, making them quite rare. Whether for the quality of the music or because of the rarity of the record, sound is the biggest driver behind the vinyl revival.
Another reason for the resurgence of vinyl is the aesthetic of it. While not as many people are jumping on the trend purely because of how vinyl looks, it is an important reason behind the production of new record players. The vinyl vibe is real and is a part of a larger mid-century revival. While these fans of records won’t be as dedicated to the revival of LPs as an analog technology, they’ll continue to subtlety support it.
Finally, some fandoms and specific subgenres of music have found success in newly established communities entirely dedicated to vinyl LPs. One notable community can be found on reddit. Members of this community focus on finding vinyl records relating to video game soundtracks and music. This is one example of a community finding solid footing in the vinyl revival.
In the photography sphere, the return to vintage and analog technology comes as a direct result of the advances that have been made to cameras and photography in the last few years. In the past, photographers would have to be extremely careful in lining up their shots. They would be limited in the number of pictures they could take on a single film, and they wouldn’t be able to preview those pictures before they were developed. This made photography a difficult hobby because it relied heavily on being in the right place at the right time.
Nowadays, cameras aren’t limited in the number of pictures they can take. That’s not to say that there isn’t a limit to how much memory they have, but rather, memory is so cheap and commonplace that the number of pictures that can be stored is essentially unlimited, even though technically a limit exists.
The concept of being in the right place at the right time has also been eroded by technological advances. New cameras have such powerful autofocuses that they can take multiple pictures in a single click and can automatically recommend the best picture based on the focus of the subject. Not only that, but these can all be previewed before a picture is kept or not. While this hasn’t made photography any easier in terms of choosing subjects and editing pictures to highlight them, some folks believes new cameras have taken the art out of photography.
One notable trend in the return to vintage photography is the rebirth of instant cameras. Popular a few decades ago, instant cameras have returned as a way to capture the moment in a physical memento. The idea is that digital pictures can’t capture a moment if they’re never looked at again, so instant cameras provide a way to make that memory tangible. There’s also been a return to older style cameras, but the complexity of developing pictures from film remains a barrier to using these. After all, it’s one of the main reasons why digital cameras became the new standard soon after they came out.