Like mullets, mustaches, and Guy Fieri, old technology has inexplicable staying power. And at CES, some ancient (and very ordinary!) tech is making sure its presence continues to be felt. There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?
During Press Day in Vegas on Tuesday, there were insanely thin TVs, crazy drones, and wonderfully weird robots. But the stuff I was most interested in has been around for decades. It’s the kind of technology that was supposed to die in this Brave New World of technology. But it has somehow come back and is more relevant than ever.
Your parents always complain about tech being too complicated; it’s why they can’t quite figure out email. But in an ironic twist, I’m sure they’ll have no trouble at all figuring out Fossil’s new Q54 Pilot, or Sony’s brand new turntable. They might even teach you a thing or two.
While retro design has always been favored by big companies, taking an old-fashioned approach to functionality has always been perceived as backwards. Why use an old analog watch when you can wear a device running Android Wear? And why the heck would you keep your vinyl collection when you can stream music through services such as Spotify?
And yet, these old technologies continue to stick around, and rise in popularity. It’s cyclical—what’s old is new and what’s new is old, so the rise of seemingly outdated technology shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. But it isn’t just our nostalgia keeping turntables and watches around—it’s because these things are incredibly easy to use. Strap on a watch and you’re good to go. Place a record on a turntable and music will begin playing; no accounts or email or cell signals needed.
Devices like the Sony turntable and Q54 Pilot are exciting because they work in a very old fashioned way. Technology has a tendency to take over and ruin what should otherwise be a simple experience, but with the devices announced yesterday, anyone can immediately pick them up without first needing to read a confusing tutorial. Instead, companies have realized that sometimes the best approach is for new ideas to almost take a backseat; watches don’t need to be dominated by an OS.
I hope this trend continues to rise in popularity. I mean, we already knew turntables were rising in popularity; Amazon said a turntable was the best-selling audio device over the holidays. But it’s nice to see even more companies acknowledge that not every old thing needs disrupting.
You can have your Apple Watch; I’m just fine with a “smarter” watch like the Q54 Pilot.
Fossil Q54 Pilot
It looks like a plain watch, but look deeper, and you’ll find some really handy smart features. When paired to an iOS or Android device, the Pilot can alert users through LED notifications, and it can also track your steps and calories burned. No complex menus, no battery restrictions. Instead, simple complements without ruining an experience that doesn’t really need disrupting in the first place.
Your cousin the DJ probably lauded Technics turntables in the early 90s because of its precise scratch performance and high-torque, so he’ll probably be excited to hear that the audio company has introduced a new Technics 1200G. The form factor is pretty much the same as it was years ago, though the direct-drive motor has been tweaked to ensure there are no more annoying motor vibrations.
Sony’s approach to the revived world of vinyl is a little different from its competitors. Instead of offering a straight up turntable, the Japanese company has made it so you can easily convert vinyls into Hi-Res audio files. That’s a nice perk to have if you do decide to take your music collection on the road. Purist might prefer not to convert their vinyl collection into a convenient digital library, but at least the feature is there.
Kodak Super 8
Does the vast majority of the smartphone generation even know how to use a film camera? I’m guessing no, which makes the introduction of Kodak’s beloved Super 8 camera all the more exciting. Kodak’s new Super 8 camera, which has some digital functionality, is part of the company’s effort to keep the film dream alive. Combining classic features and design, the new Super 8 camera comes with a digital viewfinder for framing shots. But you shoot on film, which means you better got those shots right the first time.