The death of the landline was premature.
Picture this: a teen girl is chatting on a chunky Nokia phone that’s not connected to the internet, taking pictures of her friends with a silver Canon digital camera, and listening to her fave pop star on cassette.
No, it’s not the late 90s or early 2000s; it’s 2023 and old tech is making a generational comeback. Gen Z is embracing the blurry, overlit visual aesthetic of digital cameras and the lessened screentime of “dumb phones.”
The tech we use in our daily lives today barely resembles that of 50 years ago. But some tech you might assume was obsolete never really went away. Floppy disks still power decades-old industrial embroidery machines, many healthcare professionals continue to use pagers, and fax machines remain prevalent in Japanese offices.
It’s hard to predict what sticks and what doesn’t, what will be rescued from dusty attic boxes and resold for many times its original price, and what might just as well have been thrown away. Cassette and VHS tapes may reach the cult status of vinyl records one day, and who knows—in 20 years, all the cool kids might be hanging out at internet cafes.
Explore the surprising afterlives of “obsolete” technologies in the articles below. And if you think you can predict the future of innovation’s past, start stockpiling DVDs, iPods and maybe even lightning cables today.
Image by luplupme / Getty Images.
Turns out the obsolete floppy is way more in demand than you’d think.
A resurgence in dumb phones in the U.S. may be tied to concerns about the mental health impact of smartphones, especially among younger generations.
From 2003 to 2012, music was disposable and nothing survived.
Young people are opting for point-and-shoots and blurry photos.
The most unlikely of music formats is staging a return. Part novelty and part nostalgia, here’s how to dive in.
The slow extinction of physical media is bad news for movie fans. We’re told that “everything’s streaming now”, but it’s simply not true.
While Netflix leverages nostalgia for a format it helped destroy via the sitcom ‘Blockbuster’, cinephiles from Liverpool to Los Angeles – and notably former video shop employee Quentin Tarantino – are heralding a newfound appreciation for the VHS tape.
Despite its cutting-edge image, Japan has a soft spot for the decidedly 20th-century machines.