In Praise of Old Technology


Want to know what I got for my birthday (that I pretended not to have)? A pair of Spectron 4 sunglasses to protect my Irish eyes, and the Sega Genesis Aladdin game.

Talk about partying like it’s 1999!

“I didn’t know you play video games,” my mother-in-law commented.

I don’t. But back in the day I used to play Aladdin. It was the only video game I ever beat. Neil had the game too, and we reminisced about it after showing our kids the movie Aladdin for the first time. On VHS.

Yes, we own a VHS player. And our TVs are CRTs.

There’s also the tape player in my car.  My mom’s given me a host of children’s stories on tape. And mix tapes featuring Simon and Garfunkle, Neil Diamond, and the like. Which is awesome since the oldies station is now playing 80s music.

My laptop is coming up on its 9th birthday. It doesn’t shut, which mostly defeats the purpose, but it works.

My phone also testifies to the past. It’s decidedly dumb. Yet its charge lasts a whole day (my old one lasted nearly a week!). And it doesn’t tempt me to stare at Twitter all day.

You guys, I write down directions when I drive to a new place. It’s crazy.

I do own a broken iPod nano! It works as long as it’s plugged in to a power source.

I don’t collect vinyl. I don’t think it’s virtuous to stay behind the times. I’m sure I’ll have to forsake my nearly obsolete technology soon. I just don’t like buying new stuff when my old stuff still works. And in some ways, the old technology works better. My childhood audio tapes are still intact, but my iPod’s power button is stuck and doesn’t work. Audio tapes = 25 years old. iPod = six years old.

If you don’t have children you might not know that Disney obnoxiously “locks” their movies in a “vault” to artificially create scarcity. Then they release one every so often and sell it for whatever they want because demand is high.

VHS tapes go for 60 cents at the thrift store near us. That’s less than one day of library fines on an overdue DVD! There are plenty of familiar titles to choose from. They also don’t get scratched, and they’re cartoons, so who cares whether they’re in HD?

Neil kept the Nintendo he bought in high school, and his Sega Genesis. When my dad moved out of state, he gave us his Bally Arcade system, Atari, and games. We don’t play a lot of video games and we definitely won’t let our kids waste too much of their lives in front of a screen. But playing them together makes a good family night activity every now and then. And they are much simpler and less over-simulating than newer games. Pacman is perfect for a five-year-old.

When my last phone broke, I got a new one on Craigslist the same day. For $10. And it won’t start malfunctioning when Apple stops supporting older versions of the iPhone.

And I already told you about That Time I Invented the Kindle…and Why I Still Don’t Have One.

It’s important to stay technologically literate and we consider having a TV and some video games part of being hospitable. Neil is an electrical engineer–he loves electronic technology sooo much and waited sooo patiently for his work to pay for a smart phone.

Yes, we love technology. We’re just not ready to pitch perfectly fun and functional media, even if it is outdated and takes up a bit more space than the digital counterparts.

Does anyone else own outdated technology or media? What benefits do you see?

50 Responses to “In Praise of Old Technology”

  1. Holly says :

    I actually wish I had a VHS player again. We have so many good movies on VHS. Eventually we’ll have to get rid of the movies or buy a VHS player!

    • Kalie says :

      Apparently new VHS players just stopped being manufactured–not that you were probably going to buy a new one. Maybe pick up the next garage sale one you see, just to have as a relic–and play those old tapes!

    • Holly says :

      I saw a DVD/VHS combo the other day. They’re still alive….! I’m sure they’re on the way out.

  2. Olga King says :

    I finally got rid of VHS, but simply because I don’t watch much TV at all and my kids are all grown up (I also don’t have cable or dish or whatever). We bought simplest smartphones in February for the first time because last flip-phones died via natural death (and personally, I don’t have a single app on it, though I do check email when travel). I like ipod shuffle, and while they crap out on regular 2-3 year basis, I run a lot, and carrying a tape player is not my thing. But most importantly – I write down directions also! 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      I thought my iPod should last forever. Obviously not going to run with a tape player, lol. I’d definitely replace the iPod in that case.

  3. Tonya says :

    I think my car is always behind the times because it doesn’t have all the latest gadgets and cool things new cars do like having the camera in the back so you can back up (even when I borrowed my mom’s car I still don’t rely on the camera to back up) or any blue tooth features. I think that’s why people really resonated with the Netflix show Stranger Things. People are feeling nostalgic! I do like my iPhone though!

    • Kalie says :

      iPhones are amazing, no doubt! I’m glad my husband has one–I benefit from the access to information all the time when we travel together.

      Yeah, after being used to turning my head to back up, I’d be nervous to rely on the camera. Better to stick with what you’re used to in that department.

  4. Diana says :

    VHS are so much more kid-proof then DVDs. I do hate how much room they take up, but my kids touch the back of a DVD once and it never works right again! The VHS’s are still going strong!

  5. Amy says :

    This is how I feel about cars! I drive a 2007 Camry, and while I realize that’s not super-old, it has over 177,000 miles on it. I can’t stand the thought of buying a new (to me) car, when the old one is still kicking.

    • Linda says :

      I agree! I love my 2005 Honda CRV with 155,000 miles. It is the perfect size and color and still in excellent condition (if you ignore the door dents from the parking lot at work!) and has everything I wanted: heated leather seats, sunroof, both a 6-dvd AND cassette player, good safety features and was paid for long ago. I would buy the same car over again–but will keep this until it’s no longer economical to fix.

      But it’s a family trait. My mom had the oldest car in the neighborhood (18 years old), my siblings keep their cars at least 10 years…and I also have my dad’s 1997 cadillac–it was too good to not keep! And it’s still solid and drives like a dream.

      Older IS better.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, we keep our cars as long as possible. My brother is driving our old car, and it’s older than him at 26 years.

    • Kalie says :

      Absolutely–our cars are 2002 and 2003. It’s interesting how little the engine technology has changed since the invention of cars!

  6. Josh says :

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only millennial without a flat screen. They are nice and I enjoy the fact that they don’t take up much space, but I told my wife we will get one once our tube tvs burn out. That might take a while as we inherited one a couple months ago from somebody upgrading to a flat screen.

    I still have our Playstation One (Christmas 1998) and a Gameboy Color that I purchased around that same time. I never play them and we are currently in the process of deciding to keep them for our children or put in the sell pile as we go through boxes of belongings we will never use again and are either listing on Craiglist or donating to the local thrift store.

    • Kalie says :

      It seems like used TVs are the easier item to come by ever. Someone is always giving one away. I’d hang onto the old video games for the kids. Even though I hate stashing stuff like that, our kids have enjoyed seeing the old games a lot.

  7. Amanda says :

    Our kids play our old Nintendo (though they do have a Wii) and we still own a VHS player (and have most of our home videos on VHS tapes). I was reluctant, but converted the cell phones to smart phones over the last couple of years. It’s funny, even though I didn’t have a cell phone as a 16 year old and survived, I really love that I my 16 year old has one and can let me know what he’s doing and where he’s at anytime (though, admittedly, this wouldn’t require a smart phone!).

    • Kalie says :

      I’m sure we’ll appreciate our kids having cell phones when they’re older, even though we didn’t have them at that age. Pay phones are almost non-existent now so that changes things a bit!

  8. CarolineRSA says :

    My mom and I timeshare a Kenwood chef circa 1950. I wonder if any of the appliances produced today will still be reliable in 2076…

    • Kalie says :

      Kitchen appliances are a great example of where older is better. My grandma gave me her Kitchenaid mixer when I was in college. Not sure how old it is, but it’s still going strong. Older appliances definitely last longer.

  9. Matt says :

    Yes! That Aladdin game was great! We were always an iteration behind on video game consoles, so it was much cheaper, but the games were still as fun.

  10. Brian says :

    I wish I had my Sega Genesis or any of my old video game systems. We still have a VCR and plenty of VHS tapes, but have a DVD player too. It does seems like a lot of today’s technology is made to be disposable. We tend to stick with our stuff as long as possible or as long as we can hold three teenagers off from wanted the latest gear.

    • Kalie says :

      Neil regretted getting rid of some old games/systems, so now we are hanging on to them! I’m sure having teens makes it tempting to trade up for new stuff. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

  11. Hannah says :

    Wow! You’re really kicking it old school!

    The only old technology we have is my seven year old laptop which we actually upgraded a few years ago, so it runs like a four year old laptop.

    We have a 13 year old laptop that I tried to get my husband to sell. If he doesn’t I suppose I can teach my children how the ancients used to access the internet.

  12. Kate says :

    The point about directions is also key. We live in the DC area, and I don’t think anyone could get around without a smart phone. That makes me a bit nervous, so we use our phone directions to learn to get places and then try to wean ourselves off it, so now we can get around if something happens to our phone. Which is good, because my smart phone just crapped out and now refuses to give me directions!

    • Kalie says :

      I would definitely need a smart phone in a new place or a huge city! But that’s awesome you’re relying on it less and less because sometimes you lose signal or your phone dies or whatever. That’s when classic map skills are invaluable–but also calling someone helps!

  13. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    What a great post! There is such a prevalent tech-addiction in our society. People around here line up over night to be among the first to get the new . . . whatever it happens to be. I admire your ability to decipher between functionality and fad when it comes to technology. You might find that you’re navigating different terrain as your kids get older. They can exert a lot of pressure in their teens. But who knows? Maybe yours won’t.

  14. Millennial Moola says :

    You dont ever have to worry about it breaking because its so cheap and so old. My brothers and I love to play super smash bros on the N64 because its so straightforward and doesnt require extreme skill. Loved Aladdin too

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, I agree that not having the stress of protecting nice, new stuff is great. We loved Mario on N64 because you could explore and do flips and stuff not related to the game.

  15. Doug says :

    The phone is the newest gadget I have not to much into newer technology. I guess I’m what you call old fashioned still.

  16. Dividends Down Under says :

    Why replace something when it’s still working? We have 3 year old smartphones which probably coulddd do with replacing soon, but we’ll be keeping hold of them for quite a while I think.


    • Kalie says :

      I have a hard time replacing even broken things sometimes, if I think they have any hope of limping along. Hanging onto the same smart phone for several years is definitely the route I’ll take whenever I get one.

  17. ZJ Thorne says :

    I still rock a DVD/VCR and will pick up VHS for 10 cents at yard sales. No reason to “upgrade” when that means I’ll lose so many movies that I would have to replace for a much higher cost.

  18. Kathy says :

    Remember the old (really really old) dial phones? The ones with the bakelite shell and receiver that could be used to club and intruder over the head and put him completely out of action…Well, the one we had as a kid never ever went out. Now I have a phone connected to a modem with the latest fiber optic lines to the house and we are always getting disconnected, dropped calls and situations were we can hear the other speaker but they can’t hear us. We have to reboot the modem or call the company and have them reboot it from their control area. What a pain in the patooty. I couldn’t access the internet with the old one but at least I could complete a call.

    • Kalie says :

      I do remember those old phones, and that’s amazing how much longer those lasted. Your phone now sounds like a real inconvenience 🙁 I wonder if there’s a better option out there for you?

  19. Kurt says :

    We only recently replace our last CRT television with a flat screen. And I still use a flip phone, while my spouse uses on cell at all. Someday I’ll have to sit down and figure how much money we’ve not spent by avoiding the iPhone cycle and monthly subscription. Probably paid for our several trips to Hawai’i. 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      Wow, I don’t know many people without a cell phone. That’s intriguing. I’m sure you’ve saved a ton–Hawaii’s gotta be a better deal than constant distraction!

  20. Ten Factorial Rocks says :

    I use an iPhone 6, iPad 3 with Retina display and a Sony Vaio laptop. When I calculated how much more efficient they make my life and work become, the ROI realized from owning them was simply too large for me to ignore. At times, I do get nostalgic about the bygone days (being in my mid 40s) but I remind myself that’s only because our memory cleverly edits out the ‘bad parts’ and retains the romantic side of the good old days!

  21. Frugal Millennial says :

    I agree – I also don’t like to get rid of old technology if it still works. My laptop is pretty old, but I’ll keep using it as long as it’s still in working condition. No need to waste money on a new one when I could use that money to pay off my student loans instead.

  22. Bonnie says :

    My husband and I had flip phones until the end of 2014, when both of ours died completely. Now we have smartphones but won’t get new ones until these are dead. Just bought a new laptop, but the other one was 8 or 9 years old and died completely to where it wouldn’t even turn on. Husband’s car is 15 years old and mine is 11; planning on driving them into the ground! We have never downloaded anything (music or movie) & still have our records, CDs and tapes (we do buy new LPs, but we collect records). We do have a flat screen but only because our tube one died a few years ago. We love being old school and it def. helps us keep our 3-year-old away from the screens. I plan on doing that as long as possible. She watches a bit of PBS kids and she loves ballet documentaries, but she has never touched our laptop or phones.

  23. Sikasem says :

    Hmmm… I upgraded my phone from Samsung Galaxy S4 to S6 last year. My S4 still looked good in both appearance and performance. However, I changed it. All because of technology. But here I am now- My Galaxy S6 has been given me he’ll since. The worse of it is the poor and unprofessional customer service I have received throughout this warranty period. So, sometimes it pays to stick to old technology.

    • Kalie says :

      Avoiding the hassle is definitely another reason I stick with old technology. I remember the time I switched phone companies and both the old and new company gave me such a headache.

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