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Why people still love retro technology like iPods and instant-film cameras

Record players. Gameboys. Alarm clocks. All these things are technically outdated, yet plenty of people still use and love them. CNN Business explains the trend of retro tech.

Posted: Jul 12, 2019 8:02 AM


That beaten up Walkman buried in your basement might be someone's hot new accessory. The retro tech market is alive and kicking.

In May, Apple refreshed the iPod touch for the first time in four years. Vinyl record sales clocked in at 400 million on average over the past four years, according to data from data tracker Statista. DVD player sales are trending downward, but they still consistently hit four million units sold every holiday quarter, even as recently as 2018.

Other gadgets that have stayed the course: camcorders, radios, clock radios, desk phones, and DVRs. Millions of these are still in use in US households in 2017, according to Statista.

What drives people to continue purchasing vinyl records, instant film cameras, and iPods, long after new products have made those objects irrelevant?

Older gadgets have a lot of staying power because they allow people to unplug from the constant ping of smartphones and tablets.

"There's a growing segment of people that would like to be disconnected but still have access to the things they want," said Ryan Reith, program vice president of mobile devices at International Data Corporation, "So it fills a void in the market."

Many vintage products attract a strong cult following. For example, IPod lovers anticipate Apple's product refreshes on social media and online forums.

Apple also appears to be targeting kids in its iPod marketing, according to Paul Gagnon, executive director of research and analysis at IHS Markit.

"The brands are starting to build a young consumer base and then eventually transition them as they grow older to more expensive products the company might also make," he noted.

Instant cameras with film are also popular among teens. Fujifilm, which makes Polaroid-like cameras with film that instantly develops, said its sales are holding steady. In its fiscal year ending in March, it sold over 10 million cameras and smartphone printers worldwide. Fujifilm says it's been able to cross generational boundaries by attracting photographers in the digital age.

Nostalgia plays a big part in old tech's popularity, too. It can give people that comforting feeling of their childhoods or remind them of a specific time and place.

On social media networks like Tumblr and Pinterest, vintage images rack up thousands of likes and shares. Disposable cameras often trend on Pinterest.

"The pace of companies selling new devices and forcing old technology into obsolescence means that certain devices are associated with certain periods in history," said Michael Connor, artistic director of Rhizome, a digital art organization.

Vintage gadgets can help people enjoy technology while allowing people to feel connected to the real world. Smartphones often have the opposite effect.

That's why people still buy alarm clocks and calculators, even though a smartphone has all those functions.

"The smartphone is a bit of a Swiss Army knife. But it's not necessarily specialized," said Gagnon.

Some people will find it easy to use the phone to replace all those older gadgets, he said. But "a lot of people out there either don't own a smartphone, or for them using those functions is not easy. For those people, legacy products will always exist."

And some people like the artistry of older gadgets. People seek out physical items, but they want "a filtered, idealized version" of those things, said Amanda Brennan, Tumblr's "meme librarian" and head of content insights and social.

"Polaroids often look blurry, vinyl sound quality is nowhere near an MP3 or stream — but it makes them feel more vibrant, more real-life," she said.

Older products carry with them unique experiences. Connor, the artistic director, describes how a pixel looks different on an old cathode-ray-tube monitor when compared with a modern-day display. On a CRT monitor, a pixel has a "soft low res quality" that can be artistically appealing, said Connor.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 513622

Reported Deaths: 10264
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34892556
DeSoto33234432
Hinds32638641
Jackson24854389
Rankin22507403
Lee16337242
Madison14922283
Jones14113247
Forrest13766259
Lauderdale12270324
Lowndes11305193
Lamar10659140
Pearl River9719244
Lafayette8846143
Hancock7836132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7210138
Monroe7010179
Pontotoc6990109
Warren6863178
Panola6759134
Neshoba6730210
Marshall6678141
Bolivar6445151
Union638297
Pike5928156
Alcorn5879107
Lincoln5530136
George510180
Prentiss503884
Tippah491482
Itawamba4844107
Scott477899
Adams4768125
Tate4756116
Leflore4729144
Copiah456495
Yazoo456491
Simpson4546117
Wayne443072
Covington433695
Sunflower4299106
Marion4277112
Coahoma4237109
Leake413990
Newton395781
Tishomingo383593
Grenada3777109
Stone365866
Jasper340666
Attala338290
Winston317892
Chickasaw315467
Clay312278
Clarke301195
Calhoun285049
Holmes271889
Smith269052
Yalobusha243947
Tallahatchie231553
Greene224749
Walthall221666
Lawrence218740
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster205348
Noxubee188742
Montgomery181657
Carroll174541
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152939
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134338
Humphreys131239
Franklin125529
Quitman107628
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65221
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845284

Reported Deaths: 16116
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161552006
Mobile742111380
Madison53307732
Shelby38338368
Baldwin38085589
Tuscaloosa36022641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25562263
Calhoun22586518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20018517
Marshall18782316
Houston17731425
St. Clair16884358
Limestone16148218
Cullman16054303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14989306
Talladega14196299
DeKalb12972269
Walker12030380
Blount10717192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10162194
Coffee9417192
Colbert9342208
Dale9020191
Tallapoosa7256201
Russell708165
Chilton7018170
Escambia6957143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5406130
Dallas5285209
Pike5119109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369580
Butler3435100
Marengo342493
Monroe337266
Randolph334867
Pickens333188
Fayette330385
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317863
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244864
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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