What ‘Old’ Technology Do You Think Is Cool?

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Do you think “old” technology is cool? Do you appreciate vinyl records, for example, or Polaroid cameras? Eight-track tapes or printed newspapers? What do you find appealing about these items that our modern world has already made — or may still make — obsolete?

In the 2016 article “Why Vinyl Records and Other ‘Old’ Technologies Die Hard,” Nick Bilton wrote:

For a glimpse of what teenagers are into these days, all you have to do is visit Abbot Kinney Boulevard in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. On weekend nights, the half-mile shopping drag is packed with style-conscious kids who traipse past coffee shops, ice cream parlors and boutiques, often while taking selfies.

Yet one of the most popular destinations for these teenagers is a white, single-story building with big pink letters on the roof that spell “Vnyl.” The store sells vinyl records, and the kids who gather there are often in awe.

“I’d say half of the teens who hang out in my store have never seen a record player before,” said Nick Alt, the founder of Vnyl. “They will walk up to the turntable, and they have no concept where to put the needle.” But once they figure out that the needle goes into the outermost groove, those smartphone-toting teenagers are hooked.

In a Style article from this past weekend, Hannah Selinger writes about the demand for old VHS tapes:

The last VCR, according to Dave Rodriguez, 33, a digital repository librarian at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., was produced in 2016, by the Funai Electric in Osaka, Japan. But the VHS tape itself may be immortal. Today, a robust marketplace exists, both virtually and in real life, for this ephemera.

On Instagram, sellers tout videos for sale, like the 2003 Jerry Bruckheimer film “Kangaroo Jack,” a comedy involving a beauty salon owner — played by Jerry O’Connell — and a kangaroo. Asking price? $190. (Mr. O’Connell commented on the post from his personal account, writing, “Hold steady. Price seems fair. It is a Classic.”)

If $190 feels outrageous for a film about a kangaroo accidentally coming into money, consider the price of a limited-edition copy of the 1989 Disney film “The Little Mermaid,” which is listed on Etsy for $45,000.

The article explains why VHS tapes are special to the people who collect them:

“Anything that you can think of is on VHS tape, because, you’ve got to think, it was a revolutionary piece of the media,” said Josh Schafer, 35, of Raleigh, N.C., a founder and the editor in chief of Lunchmeat Magazine and LunchmeatVHS.com, which are dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of VHS. “It was a way for everyone to capture something and then put it out there.”

There is, Mr. Schafer said, “just so much culture packed into VHS,” from reels depicting family gatherings to movies that just never made the jump to DVD. Mr. Schafer owns a few thousand tapes himself, and his collection, he said, includes “a little bit of everything,” including other people’s home videos.

Michael Myerz, 29, an experimental hip-hop artist in Atlanta, who has a modest collection of VHS tapes, finds the medium inspirational. Some of what Mr. Myerz seeks in his work, he said, is to replicate the sounds from “some weird, obscure movie on VHS I would have seen at my friend’s house, late at night, after his parents were asleep.” He described his work as “mid-lo-fi.” “The quality feels raw but warm and full of flavor,” he said of VHS.

For collectors like April Bleakney, 35, the owner and artist of Ape Made, a fine art and screen-printing company in Cleveland, nostalgia plays a significant role in collecting. Ms. Bleakney, who has between 2,400 to 2,500 VHS tapes, views them as a byway connecting her with the past. She inherited some of them from her grandmother, a children’s librarian with a vast collection.

Ms. Bleakney’s VHS tapes are “huge nostalgia,” she said, for a child of the 1980s. “I think we were the last to grow up without the internet, cellphones or social media,” and clinging to the “old analog ways,” she said, feels “very natural.”

Students, read both articles, then tell us:

  • What technologies from the past hold the most interest for you? Why?

  • Why do you think there is still so much interest in obsolete technologies like Polaroid instant cameras, record players, Atari game systems or VHS tapes?

  • Would you ever want to collect old tech like vinyl records or CDs? Why or why not?

  • In your opinion, what old technologies are likely to make the biggest comeback in the future? Why?

  • The two articles discuss the role that nostalgia plays for many collectors. Do you think you might be nostalgic for any technology from your own childhood in 20, 40 or 60 years? What tech, and why?

  • In your opinion, which is better: today’s technology or that of the past? Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?


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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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