In October 2016, Microsoft unveiled the latest upgrade to its 31-year-old Paint app, making it capable of designing 3D objects. Called Paint 3D, it builds on the existing software and allows users to experiment with the new tech of basic 3D modeling but without extensive software training or expensive software.
This is the most recent example of an “old tech” revival that is squarely aimed at a world where 3D elements are increasingly important, being employed in everything from 3D printing and movie special effects to virtual reality and game design.
Is knowledge of old tech necessary for new products? What drives consumer behavior and encourages an old tech revival?
Compatibility and Extendibility
New technology is generally backward compatible as few manufacturers introduce new products and expect users to stop using their existing ones to blindly adopt new ones. Whether it’s software or hardware tech, the majority of new products will work with previous versions or act as an extension or module that works with existing technology, merely adding new features and capabilities.
A USB 2.0 memory stick will work in a new desktop with USB 3.0 ports, for example, and a USB 3.0 device will work on older computers with USB 2.0 or 1.0 ports, although the data transfer speed is determined by the slower port type.
However, there are cases where old tech is revived or has endured, whether due to user nostalgia or the fact that specific industries still use the technology and have processes in place that still require the use of older equipment.
New Tech Draws from Retro Concepts
In some cases, both millennials and older consumers are interested in older technology, driven by several factors, including but not limited to:
- Avoiding automated features in the latest products. Camera enthusiasts go old-school by buying manual SLR cameras, with rolls of film that require standard processing. Case in point: Nikon still sells its manual FM10 model – unchanged since its 1995 release.
- A desire to go low-tech to prevent cyber attacks or loss of data. Aspiring writers often choose a manual typewriter to circumvent the dreaded blue screen.
- The feeling of nostalgia. Perhaps the greatest examples of this lie in entertainment with the 80s boombox from Sony, which includes features such as CD, cassette player, and an AM-FM radio to boot.
Long Live Old Tech!
Collectors of music rave about vinyl records, a technology that dates back to the 1880s. In fact, according to The Verge, U.S. vinyl sales are up by 30 percent in 2015, with Adele and Taylor Swift leading album sales in this format—clear evidence that the younger generation are involved. Thanks to Sony’s USB turntable that plays vinyl and records to digital, vinyl fans can convert their vinyl collection for use on a portable device.
Of course, there is one other that needs a mention —SMS. A go-to for “instant messaging” in the 80s, it has in many cases been superseded by social media, VoiP and email. However, it is still highly valuable as a redundancy feature for emergency alerts in hospitals. SMS to 911 has been rolled out in several U.S. locations.
Older tech is still considered valuable and even cutting-edge tech produced these days is often built on a foundation of older ideas. This integration of knowledge allows companies to produce products and service to satisfy all consumer markets. Long may it continues!