Old tech’s new wave, the devices of yesteryear making a return

Milk floats

Imagine a start-up entrepreneur pitching the standard milk spherical to a project capitalist. “So we’re providing a neighborhood, sustainable, subscription-based protein supply device. And get this: it’s all going to be powered by way of electrical cars…” Back within the 1970s, 94% of British families purchased their milk this manner, however by way of the 2000s, for the overwhelming majority, it used to be a part of the weekly grocery store store. It wasn’t generation that killed the centuries-old custom such a lot as financial forces: deregulation of the dairy trade and supermarkets pushing plastic bottles. However, milk rounds nonetheless account for 3% of milk gross sales and they’re rising in reputation. The revival is most commonly right down to the “Blue Planet impact” – glass is a lot more environmentally pleasant than plastic. A regular glass milk bottle is reused 25 occasions. Come to consider it, why aren’t we reusing Coke bottles, too?


Pagers turned into fashionable within the 1980s as a quick method of sending a message to anyone… who couldn’t message again. You would possibly consider that the textual content message would have killed the pager. Web pageOne, the rustic’s ultimate carrier supplier, stresses that the pager stays essentially the most dependable and cost-effective method of sending out 1000’s of messages at a time, with some distance better protection than the cell phone community (together with on aeroplanes). Fire and ambulance services and products use them extensively, with the NHS accounting for an estimated 10% of use international – due to the 130,000 or so medical doctors who use them whilst on name. Many medical doctors say it’s sooner and more uncomplicated paging in emergency eventualities – cellular reception is patchy in lots of hospitals and paging doesn’t intervene with electrical apparatus – and if it ain’t broke, why repair it?

Google Glass

No device encapsulates the flip towards the tech corporations higher than Glass, the eye-mounted pc introduced by way of Google with nice fanfare in 2021. It used to be sunk nearly straight away amid privateness issues and snarky other people calling early adopters “Glassholes”. But it has an afterlife as a clinical analysis device. An MIT start-up referred to as Brain Power builds instrument for Glass that is helping kids with autism and ADHD to construct socio-emotional abilities. Google additionally expanded its Glass at Work programme, which seeks industry programs for the instrument.


The resurgence of vinyl is well-documented – data now outsell CDs – however final 12 months, cassette tapes additionally surged to 19% expansion in america. OK, we’re speaking low baseline – from 99,400 to 118,200, a some distance cry from the mid-1990s when gross sales hit masses of tens of millions. But the magnetic cassette is organising a distinct segment. The American corporate National Audio manufactures 18m clean cassettes yearly, promoting to 3,500 file labels the world over. Cassette Store Day, introduced at Rough Trade in London in 2021 based on the resounding luck of Record Store Day, has since grow to be a world tournament. Tapes are prized as a result of they’re inexpensive, simple to make use of and private in some way that Spotify playlists aren’t. If you can not consider how you will have differently discovered a female friend/boyfriend with out mixtapes, it’s cheering.


America is supposedly the arena’s chief in all issues monetary, however its retail banking methods glance mediaeval to travellers from Europe, Africa and Asia. Direct financial institution transfers and on-line bills had been sluggish to catch on, chip and pin is observed as witchcraft, and cheques are nonetheless extensively used. A 2021 learn about by way of the Federal Reserve discovered that buyers used cheques for 10% of purchases – greater than digital bills, which accounted for 8.9%.

The UK executive has been extra proactive in phasing out cheques – however has nonetheless met fierce resistance from banks and shoppers (aged other people like them, so do charities). Cheques nonetheless accounted for £550bn price of spending in 2021, the 12 months the United Kingdom Payments Council had promised to section them out by way of. Instead, the United Kingdom Payments Council has itself been phased out. Its alternative, wearepay.united kingdom, guarantees to section them out below the New Payments Architecture mission, due in 2024, on the earliest.

Dictaphones, calculators and maps

The stand-alone dictaphone, preferably reel-to-reel, stays an crucial merchandise for many reporters – in spite of apps that do the similar factor on telephones. The dictaphone is observed as extra dependable. It doesn’t forestall recording when you are taking a choice. It’s more uncomplicated to transcribe. And it doesn’t do this heart-stopping factor the place you hit “save” and your report disappears into the Cloud. “Something concerning the particular goal of dictaphones, versus a telephone’s a couple of purposes, makes them really feel extra protected,” says one Mod.

The similar is correct for lots of the purposes supposedly outsourced to telephones. Accountants stay connected to calculators. “Much sooner than opening an app for a fast sum and extra delightful to make use of,” says one accountant. Walkers refuse to forego actual maps – Ordnance Survey experiences rising gross sales for each paper and virtual variations – and the London A-Z doesn’t lose reception at the Tube. An precise alarm clock doesn’t bombard you with frustrating messages while you get up.


The Nokia 3310 used to be the AK-47 of cell phones – ubiquitous, utilitarian, nigh on indestructible. Introduced by way of Nokia in 2000, it quickly turned into one of the arena’s hottest cell phones, promoting over 120m. Its chat characteristic and inbuilt “programs” – reminiscent of a calculator! – had been thought to be innovative. Then it secured affection due to the sport Snake II. But its week-long battery existence and sheer sturdiness made it a long-term winner – till Apple made up our minds to make telephones out of glass and overload them with apps so the batteries run out in an afternoon.

The Nokia 3310 used to be relaunched in 2021 to in style acclaim and ushered in a brand new wave of “dumbphones” or “characteristic telephones”. Their cheapness, battery existence and sturdiness are key promoting issues – in particular in India, the Middle East and Africa – whilst westerners are embracing them as a remedy for distraction.


The time period “Tamagotchi impact” used to be coined in 1997 to explain the complicated emotional relationships that people shape with machines. It took its title from the Japanese digital puppy craze that impressed tens of millions of youngsters (and adults) to nurture virtual extraterrestrial beings on egg-shaped gadgets within the hope that they’d evolve into an cute Mametchi – and optimistically no longer a smelly Tarakotchi. At the time, there have been experiences of bereft schoolchildren burying lifeless Tamagotchis in graveyards or skipping faculty to stay their Tamagotchis alive. Recent relaunches have failed to restore the fashion, however there stays a loyal Tamagotchi group at the web site Tama Talk. “I in finding that on every occasion I want to do one thing a bit of bit tense or daunting, I generally tend to start out up a brand new or previous digital puppy as some way of having via it,” one person instructed the Happy Reader final 12 months.

DVD condo

DVDs: who wishes them? Well, Netflix introduced that it had made $200m from its video condo industry in america, the place 2.7 million of its shoppers nonetheless elect to obtain DVDs during the publish. The streaming large began existence as a DVD condo corporate in America (LoveFilm, now owned by way of Amazon, occupied the area of interest in the United Kingdom) and it sounds as if has no plans to desert the carrier till a minimum of 2025. One reason why is that web protection is so unreliable in rural spaces. But would possibly the deficient choice of movies on Netflix and different streaming services and products additionally lend a hand nurture call for?

DVD condo stores are nonetheless reasonably commonplace in Paris the place JM Vidéo and Potemkine are prized by way of cinéphiles who level to a loss of first rate film streaming websites. And a couple of well-loved institutions hang on in the United Kingdom. Bristol’s 20th Century Flicks, for instance, hires out its screening room for events and movie golf equipment, and its personnel suggestions beat an set of rules any day.


There continues to be a robust faculty of concept on information desks that dictaphones themselves are an needless encumbrance – by no means thoughts iPhones or fancy AI transcription apps. Pete Clifton, the editor-in-chief of PA, Britain’s greatest information company, not too long ago introduced {that a} shorthand pace of 100 phrases in keeping with minute used to be an “absolute requirement”. “Any application with out it is going instantly within the bin,” he instructed Press Gazette. Not best is it crucial for court docket reporting – the place journalists are forbidden from making recordings – however Clifton additionally asserted: “Any reporter who can take a speedy notice at the doorstep, then learn it instantly again to the inside track table or write it right into a tale, is at all times going to overcome anyone who has to concentrate again to a recording.”


The NHS is reckoned to be the arena’s most important buyer of fax machines – 9,000 had been nonetheless in use in 2021. Matt Hancock, well being secretary, has demanded that trusts forestall the usage of the “archaic” gadgets by way of the top of this month, mentioning inefficiencies and safety dangers. Still, in the event you’ve ever sat for your GP’s surgical operation whilst they refer you to a sanatorium appointment, you’re going to know {that a} fax stays the conversation instrument of selection.

But as soon as a selected generation is embedded, it’s no longer so easy to take away. In Japan, tens of millions of faxes are nonetheless despatched day by day to use for process interviews, ship eating place orders forward and RSVP to events. Japan is a famously tech-forward country. It additionally has three alphabets and an getting older inhabitants, a lot of whom in finding it more uncomplicated to put in writing the characters out by way of hand. Rather endearingly, the artwork critic Brian Sewell wrote all his critiques by way of typewriter and faxed them to the Evening Standard till he died in 2021.

Analogue movie

Kodak is arguably essentially the most well-known casualty of the virtual generation. The as soon as large corporate persevered to push analogue movie cameras lengthy after its competition had moved on – and collapsed in consequence.

Sales of digicam movie dropped from just about 1bn rolls in keeping with 12 months in 2003 to about 20m final 12 months. However, like vinyl and cassette, the marketplace has stabilised and 35mm photographic movie has witnessed a mini-revival a few of the Instagram technology, a lot of whom are rooting round of their oldsters’ attics on the lookout for unused rolls and frantically bidding on eBay for inexpensive cameras. When everybody else is making use of the similar virtual filters, you’ll make your pictures stand out by way of the usage of movie. “It’s fair and unprejudiced, no longer merely part of the batch of replicas that virtual images can produce,” writes one fanatic. Meanwhile, an not going secondary marketplace has advanced in used movie, which will opt for as much as £100 on eBay. Fans increase the thriller rolls and proportion the steadily disquieting effects at the Reddit discussion board r/forgottenfilm.


Polaroid used to be the Apple of its day. The SX-70 collapsible rapid digicam, unveiled by way of Edwin Land in 1972, used to be an rapid revolution in images. It used to be digicam and darkish room in one. Andy Warhol made Polaroids central to his procedure, as did David Hockney with Polaroid “joiners”. Until virtual cameras gave the impression within the 1990s, a Polaroid used to be the one method it’s good to see what you’d simply snapped immediately. The authentic company went bankrupt in 2001 and the corporate that took at the Polaroid logo went bankrupt in 2008. But the generation lives on below the Polaroid Originals logo and has discovered an entire new target market, particularly when rephotographed with a virtual digicam and popped up on Instagram. The hip-hop photographer @stillz has received an avid following for her Polaroids. Digital age gratification + analogue age authenticity = an impossible to resist aggregate.


The elementary textual content message or SMS (quick messaging device) has been frequently falling out of use within the smartphone generation from an international height of 8tr messages in keeping with 12 months in 2021. We are nonetheless messaging each and every different – greater than ever – it’s simply that we’re most commonly the usage of OTT (over-the-top) services and products like Messenger, Telegram and WhatsApp.

However, texts had been having a mini-resurgence: Three UK, for instance, experiences a 30% building up in textual content volumes final 12 months. With numerous us on other apps, a textual content message is most often the most secure method to make sure your message arrives with the considered necessary “ping”. It’s one reason why SMS is an increasing number of well liked by entrepreneurs and companies. According to one industrial survey, 90% of texts are learn inside three mins; texts have a 209% upper reaction charge than telephone, electronic mail or Facebook; extra other people can obtain texts than every other form of message; and persons are simply happier to obtain them, too. The Future Laboratory describes SMS as “the unexpected underdog as manufacturers are searching for alternative ways to take hold of other people’s consideration”. More non-public than a chatbot too. So get ready to obtain much more advertising and marketing texts in the following couple of years.

Public payphones

There are nonetheless 10,000 or so purple phone containers on Britain’s streets, together with Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s 1924 Kiosk 2 prototype, which you’re going to in finding out of doors the Royal Academy on Piccadilly in London. The K2 used to be voted the best British design of all time in 2021. But what’s to be completed with them within the age of the smartphone? Some have discovered new existence as mini-libraries, many space defibrillators, others are used as espresso stands and maximum are purely ornamental. But given the surplus provide and declining call for, why are 1000’s of brand name new telephone kiosks being constructed? InHyperlinks kiosks, which mix promoting displays, CCTV, public wifi and surveillance generation, are actually a commonplace sight in London. They are made by way of a consortium of BT, promoting corporate Primesight and “sensible towns” company Intersection, which is owned by way of Alphabet. Archaic making plans rules make it onerous for councils to object. Citizens would possibly not want telephone containers – however surveillance capitalists do.

Meanwhile, in the event you’re nostalgic for the times when phone containers had been good-looking, helpful pieces of boulevard furnishings, you’ll purchase a K6 field for £2,750 (plus VAT and supply) via BT’s licensed reseller X2Connect.