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By Aron Vaughan

Vintage Tech: How Nostalgia is Shaping Modern Trends

Everything is better through the eyes of nostalgia. That Peking duck from a restaurant in a town you moved away from years ago, the classic N64 game that seemed so real when, in reality, it still used 8-bit graphics, the best friend from college who you forgot irritates the hell out of you (and still won’t pay for dinner).

Yes, sometimes it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie and reminisce fondly on days past. Of course, the free market has other ideas. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yesterday’s technology harnessed some tangible and intangible resources that got lost in the sands of time, to the detriment of the modern consumer. 

Vinyl

It’s no secret that vinyl has made a resurgence in the last decade. The analog medium saw an 18.5% year over-year increase in sales in 2020 alone. Renewed interest in vinyl is not exclusive to hipsters, either. Music lovers are choosing to spin LPs and 45s instead of bluetoothing music from their phones to their AirPods because records just have more soul. It’s all about the harmonics.

Any music — any sound in fact — consists not only of the main frequency, but also all of the countless sub-harmonics and superharmonics created by that fundamental note. Now, with analog, the initial note is seamless — continuous — so that its harmonics are unbroken. That majestic sonic landscape is how we have traditionally experienced music. In digitizing music, we break an analog wave up into separate bits, and process the information that way, making it much easier to work with.

Unfortunately, in doing so, we produce a main wave that consists of millions of small sections — like a picture composed of millions of dots creating an image of high resolution. Music, when played live, is a continuous wave. Vinyl preserves this, and in doing so, preserves its soul. No matter how many bits of information are stored and transported using “lossless” methods, there will always be a piece missing, no matter how infinitesimal. And the audiophile knows it — somehow — deep in his or her subconscious.

Nostalgia Worship

Sometimes companies play on nostalgia by updating classics simply to ignite consumer interest. The tactic is more than welcome, however, when the product in question had a number of admirable qualities to begin with. To this end, Sony dropped an updated model of its classic Walkman mp3 player in February.

There are myriad benefits to having a device where music is stored locally rather than streamed. Firstly, for rural or mountainous areas with a spotty internet connection, a device that has your favorite hiking playlist is invaluable. Secondly, the updated Walkman has an abundance of built-in upgrades that rival high-end stereos. The Sony Walkman NW-WM1ZM2 uses a full amplifier that is manufactured and made to fit inside the tiny bodies of the new music players. The result is a powerful amp that is capable of reproducing sounds at a greater dynamic range.

Sony fitted various FT CAP3 capacitors that offer large electrical capacitance and low resistance for the purest possible sound. Sony has also included DSEE Ultimate — a technology used extensively in their premium audio products. The algorithm allows any sort of music file in the player to be played at 16-bit 44.1/48kHz lossless audio, filling the gaps that are created when music is compressed and restoring all the acoustic subtleties and dynamic range lost due to the compression. For the collectors, the new Walkman even comes in a gold and copper plated model that is designed for function as well as being an object of envy.

The digital grounding from the material combination ensures cleaner electrical signals from the internal components to produce cleaner, richer, expansive, and more accurate sounds. Best of all, it can still be taken on those mountain hikes because the chassis is made with rigidity in mind. 

Another Brick in the Wall

Marketing departments may initiate the resurrection of many classic products, but in some cases, companies don’t have any other choice but to breathe new life into the greatest hits of decades ago. This is certainly the case with Nokia’s famous “brick” phones from the early 2000s. Smartphones are a monument to human achievement.

Advanced computers that live in our pockets are the stuff of 1950s sci-fi. But, everyone loves a comeback story.

The brick is making a case for its place in the new world for several reasons:

1. Constant connectivity can be exhausting.

The heyday of the Nokia 3310 was a simpler time. People could interact with the world without the endless distractions of social media and mobile gaming. For some, smartphones have become a legitimate addiction, and those brick-style phones could be the methadone needed to wean away from the digital monkeys on our backs.

2. It takes a substantial amount of energy to power a smartphone, which means most phones stay charged for less than a day.

The 2017 Nokia 3310 boasts 22 hours of talk time and 27 days of standby.

The 2022 re-launch of the classic phone stays charged for a shorter amount of time but has 5G capability and an improved camera, so there is something for everyone. For people who are living off-grid or hiking the Pacific trail, the 3310 offers specs the new iPhone couldn’t possibly live up to.

3. It’s called a brick for a reason.

The 3310 is virtually indestructible. Repairs on smartphones happen often and are almost as costly as the initial purchase. For people who work in highly physical jobs, a brick could save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year. Trends come and go, and technology will continue to move forward at a blistering pace, but there are some feats in style and engineering that can’t be surpassed. That is why we will always be looking backward for inspiration to update modern classics.

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Vintage Tech: How Nostalgia is Shaping Modern Trends

August 12, 2022
By Aron Vaughan

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