Technology was better back in the good old days, right? Music you could touch as well as hear, computers as big as your car, and gaming where 8-bit was all you needed.
Today vinyls, cassettes, and games consoles have been phased out by newer, shinier Technology. So, whilst people up and down the country and modernising the technology in their homes with doorbell webcams, smart speakers, and smart meters, what are we doing with our old, retro technology?
To find out, we combined online research with a technology survey of 2,035 Brits. In the survey, we define “retro technology” as being released before the year 2000.
The results confirm that Brits have an affection for all things retro. More than seven in ten of us (71%) were found to own some form of retro technology such as vinyl records, cassettes, and instant cameras. The findings suggest Britain has a high level of ownership of retro technology; but it’s the increase in ownership and usage by (born in 1996 or later) and Millennials (born between 1977-1995) that confirms the UK is in the middle of retro technology revolution.
38% of Gen Z, and 35% of Millennials have purchased retro technology in the last 12 months. The trend looks likely to continue too. Over half (55%) of Generation Z, and four in ten Millennials (40%), plan to make a retro technology purchase in the next 12 months.
It’s not just their higher levels of purchasing either. These younger generations dig out their technology and use it more often than Generation X (born between 1964-1976) and Baby Boomers (born between 1946-64) too.
Whilst 24% of Gen Z, and 25% of Millennials, use their retro technology every week, well over half of Generation X (57%) and Baby Boomers (59%) dust off their retro technology no more than once a year.
When it comes to favourites, Generation X (41% ownership) and Baby Boomers (57%) love their vinyl records. As for Millennials, top of their retro pile is the games console (classics include the Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo); more than a quarter (26%) have one.
As the data confirms, we have an insatiable itch for all things retro. We wanted to find out why retro technology appealed to all generations, so we asked people in the entertainment industry, but first, here’s what our results say.
For most of us, it’s purely nostalgia. 47% said that retro technology “reminds me of when I was young”. Some of us just prefer the look and feel of older technology too. 23% agreed that retro technology is “more fun than today’s technology”.
When we asked our experts, we found the same themes of nostalgia and escapism. Ilend Di Toro from Just Movie Posters explains the tactile nature of retro technology. “Vinyl records and photos from a 35mm camera are things you can hold in your hand. You can't hold the music from iTunes in your hands. You can't hold the photos on Facebook in your hand. Digital is so ephemera. It exists as 0s and 1s in a computer somewhere.”
Ben Taylor from Home Working Club reaffirms a point around nostalgia: “I think a big motivation for buying retro-style products is nostalgia for a simpler time. They can also be a style statement and a talking point - people of the same generation often have something to say about the gadgets when they visit my home. It’s also a way of not completely letting go of childhood.”
Almost half (47%) said they feel that retro takes “reminds them of when they were younger.” For others, we can’t dismiss the impact of cultural trends, particularly when it comes to younger generations. As our survey suggests, Generation Z and Millennials are fuelling the retro technology revolution. Often, it only takes a ripple from a hit new TV show or film to lift a piece of technology back into relevancy.
Take the cassette player. Owned by one in five Millennials surveyed, it’s growth in popularity has been heavily influenced by its use in popular Marvel franchise Guardians of the Galaxy. The films funky, nostalgic 80s tone fits perfectly with the technology, leading to the second film’s soundtrack coming 4th in 2018’s top-selling cassette chart, with the first movie soundtrack in 8th.
The same phenomenon is now coming true for instant cameras like the Polaroid. Over a fifth of Generation Z (21%) own one, and their use in Netflix hit show Stranger Things has undoubtedly played a part.
So, what might be next? Music producer Clare McCaffrey gave us her prediction: “I think CDs will make another resurgence like vinyl, especially as 90s kids start to hit the 20-25-year anniversaries of favourite albums.”
There comes a time when the amount of enjoyment you get from your technology wanes, and it might be better in the hands of someone who will give it some love. When looking to get rid of your old technology, you’ve got three options: sell, wait, or recycle.
We’ve seen that there is a huge appetite for retro technology, so chances are there is someone out there willing to take it off your hands. Do a little research online and find out how much your technology is worth, and you could list it on an online classified ads or auction site.
Alternatively, you could wait. Like classic cars or old toys, their price can fluctuate depending on the demand. More than one in five (21%) Millennials plan to sell their retro technology when the selling price goes up. If you’re willing to wait, you could be sitting on a future gold mine.
Finally, if you can’t find anyone to take it off our hands, dispose of your old technology by recycling it. Your local recycling centre will take your old computer or games console off you, and often they will either find a new home for it or recycle the materials. You can find your nearest recycling centre here.
Like an old favourite album or film, retro technology is one of the best ways for us to reminisce, offering us an escapist break from modern life. Combine this with the physical nature of retro technology, and how powerful fashion trends can be on younger generations, and you can see why retro technology has such a foothold in households up and down the country.