When a new piece of technology generates a great deal of hype, one can typically expect excited consumers to line up around the block for it. And once they finally get their hands on it, whatever came before it is instantly forgotten.
But while there's usually a big selling point that attracts customers to a new gadget, something can also be lost during the jump to the next generation. So after the hype dies down a little, some people will reach back into the past and rediscover what they loved about seemingly obsolete technology. And the products they're revisiting are as numerous as they are surprising.
17% Of Americans Still Use Dial-Up Internet
Once high-speed internet options started to dominate the market, most consumers couldn't wait to abandon the slow, unreliable connection that tied up their phone lines for more advanced services.
However, that's not a luxury that every American has, even if the lower cost of dial-up isn't considered. According to PBS affiliate Flatland, about 17% of rural Americans don't have access to the nation's broadband infrastructure, making the simpler dial-up a viable internet option.
Polaroid Cameras Came Back Into Style In 2020
After a successful run during the 1980s, Polaroid's single-picture instant cameras declined in popularity until the company phased out the product line in 2001 and then declared bankruptcy in 2008. But according to TechCrunch, a firm called The Impossible Project bought Polaroid's old film assets in 2009 to revive the brand.
That finally happened to a degree with the launch of the Polaroid Now camera line in 2020, and a competitor has since arisen in the form of Fujifilm's Instax camera line. It's a niche market, but it's more of a comeback than most people would expect.
Retro Happy Meal Toys Are Worth Some Money
Although McDonald's has hardly stopped including toys with their Happy Meals, a growing number of adults are finding that they want these little plastic figures as much as their kids do.
Yahoo! Entertainment reported that certain classic Happy Meal toy sets from the '80s and '90s are selling for anywhere between $60-$1,000 among collectors. Furthermore, CNBC reported that the toys from McDonald's more recent limited edition Adult Happy Meal promotion have been selling for up to thousands of dollars apiece on eBay.
43.6 Million Vinyl Records Were Sold In 2022
The decline of CDs as the dominant medium to listen to music has largely given way to the current streaming era, but another trend among music listeners has taken hold since this change started to occur during the 2000s.
Namely, there has been a significant resurgence in the popularity of vinyl records both due to their unique sound quality and the satisfaction of collecting music physically. According to ABC4, 43.6 million of these records were sold in the United States alone in 2022.
Nintendo Game Boys Have A Fanbase
Although the rise of mobile gaming had left classic handheld systems like the Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advanced a long way from their heyday when they were sold by the millions, that doesn't mean everyone's abandoned them.
The Game Boy's remaining fanbase may be relatively small, but it's passionate. So much so that Gizmodo reported superfan Sebastian Staackshas found a way to live stream Game Boy footage in 2022, 33 years after the system's release. Moreover, Nintendo Life reported that game developer PixelHeart released a game on a limited run of original Game Boy cartridges that very same year.
Typewriters Are Still Used For Important Documents
Although many people may not even remember the last time they saw a typewriter, entire industries, cultures, and subcultures still rely on them.
According to Vice, funeral homes still largely use typewriters to type up death certificates. They're also widely used for important documents among communities in parts of India and South America, where electricity grids aren't always reliable. And as The New Yorker reported, they're one of the only options available to prison inmates for correspondence or journaling their experiences.
People Like The Simplicity Of Nokia 3310 Cellphones
The famously durable compact cell phone was the primary choice for early cell phone users at the turn of the millennium, but they were largely forgotten for years once the capabilities of smartphones became publicly apparent.
However, the simpler workings of the Nokia 3310 are precisely what is now making the classic phone attractive to consumers who are tired of social media and burnt out after being constantly connected for so long. That's why one The Guardian writer went back to one, and similar sentiments led Nokia to update the 3310 in a 2017 release covered by Forbes that puts a fancier sheen on the same retro charm.
Nothing Beats The Storage Space And Battery Life Of iPods
Apple's iPod played a large part in revitalizing the tech giant during the 2000s. Still, its era officially ended when Apple discontinued manufacturing the iPod Touch, the last holdout of the now-classic era. With every iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch now capable of streaming music, the iPod is now considered a thing of the past.
But that's not where some users want to leave it. As Becky Scarrott wrote for TechRadar, not even this lack of support convinced her to give up her iPod Classic. And its storage space, battery life, and lack of licensing or technical roadblocks to music enjoyment make it precious for its remaining die-hards.
Pokémon Cards Are Now Collector's Items
The Pokémon card game is still very much alive among fans of the entertainment juggernaut, but the cards that so many adults obsessed over during the '90s are often not playable by modern tournament rules.
However, these retro cards are likely even more popular than the game itself nowadays due to their value as collector's items. According to Barnaby's Magazine, YouTuber Logan Paul broke a world record by buying an incredibly rare Pikachu card for $5,275,000. At the same time, French auction house Ivoire Troyes saw the sale of a Charizard card break the entire nation's auction record after it fetched the equivalent of $12,687.
PlayStation 3 Parts Are Being Made Into Supercomputers
Although it's hardly the most retro piece of technology in existence, the PlayStation 3 is nonetheless considered largely obsolete among gamers as it's two console generations behind the coveted PlayStation 5.
But the value some people see in PS3s has nothing to do with gaming. As The Verge reported, both the U.S. Air Force and astrophysics researchers at UMass Dartmouth have used clusters of multiple PS3s to make relatively low-cost supercomputers. Unlike with later models like the PlayStation 4, the chips inside these consoles make this a viable practice.
80% Of Hospitals Still Use Pagers
Two-way pagers were all the rage for professionals on the go in the '90s and early 2000s, but they mostly fell by the wayside after smartphones became sophisticated enough to let consumers do everything with one unit.
However, it seems they're as widely used as ever in hospitals. According to HealthTech Magazine, at least 80% of hospitals still use pagers because they can quickly alert entire medical teams at once, even in Wi-Fi dead zones and during power outages. All at a low cost, to boot.
VHS Tapes Are A Collector's Item (Worth Money!)
According to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News, there hasn't been a VHS release for a new movie since A History of Violence came out in 2005. And since no VCRs have been commercially manufactured since 2016, it would be hard not to call VHS a dead format.
However, the newspaper also identified a massive collector's market springing up for old VHS tapes in recent years thanks to the hype generated by three Heritage Auctions listings in 2022. These saw copies of Back To The Future, Jaws, and The Goonies sell for $75,000, $50,000, and $32,500, respectively.
Board Games Came Back Into Fashion In 2020
Board games have always been fun for families and hobbyists, but the once-vibrant industry surrounding them has definitely been outweighed by the rise of the $90 billion video game industry.
But according to market research firm Spire — who also provided the video game industry figure — that hardly means the board game industry is dead. In fact, board games have seen a resurgence since 2020, when global sales for them totaled $11 billion. Spire attributes this to a widespread desire for non-digital entertainment.
Fax Machines Are Still Used In Law Enforcement And Healthcare
It was hard to find an office that didn't have a fax machine in the '90s and the early 2000s. However, they became less prioritized as the decade went on, and emails and other communication platforms became more widely used.
Yet while the BBC reported that efforts are underway to make fax machines fully obsolete in the United Kingdom, The Atlantic reported that this is a more difficult prospect in the United States. Due to an ongoing regulatory limbo around faxes and network security concerns over other tech solutions, fax machines remain commonly used in law enforcement and healthcare.
Rotary Phones Are Rare But Not Gone
In an era where landlines, in general, are being replaced by cell phones, one might assume that the use of rotary telephones is so far in the past that they'd have to go to a museum to see one.
However, that's not entirely true. While their use is rare enough that most phone company employees have to be reminded they exist, a representative from TDS Telecom told the Concord Monitor that less than 1% of the American population still have theirs connected. And other than when touch-tone capabilities are required, nothing prevents them from working with modern telephone infrastructure.
Around 1.5 Million People Still Rent From DVD.com
Before Netflix ushered the world into the streaming era, their primary business model involved renting out DVDs by mail. And while USA Today reported that the company might soon shutter its mail-order operations, it is still possible to rent DVDs through their subsidiary: DVD.com.
And about 1.5 million users still do this today. Although they've noticed that the streaming giant's DVD library has shrunk in recent years, taking advantage of this rental service has given those users access to titles that aren't available to stream.
Arcades Are Ancient But Revenue Is Still Steady
Once upon a time, seeing an arcade on every corner wasn't unusual. But as early as the turn of the millennium, arcades saw a steady decline as home consoles, and their capacity for online play grew in popularity.
Although arcades will likely never reach the ubiquity of their heyday, ABC News reported that sales of arcade machines have largely remained steady in that time. Moreover, it's becoming more common for certain clubs and taverns to brand themselves as quasi-arcades to capture their patrons' nostalgia.
2020 Saw A Resurgeance In Pinball Machines
Before arcades even featured video games, they were places to enjoy pinball machines' unpredictable, fast-paced intricacies. And while those would adopt some elements of video gaming in dazzling screens and sound files as years passed, the decline of arcades made them less common.
However, they've been steadily making a comeback over the last decade, and that comeback seemed to come to a fever pitch in 2020. According to the CBC, that year saw a five-fold increase in sales from Stern Pinball, one of the world's largest manufacturers for the niche.
Around 100,000 Payphones Still Exist In The USA
The meteoric rise of cell phones has led to a decline in the need for payphones, which makes them a rarer sight on the streets than they were even ten years ago. But while it's unlikely that payphones will make a comeback, that's not to say that people don't still use them
According to Slate, about 100,000 payphones still exist in the United States, which means they still outnumber every McDonald's location in the country. Nowadays, they're typically found in travel hubs, rural areas with poor cell phone reception, and prisons.
440,000 Cassette Tapes Were Sold In 2022
Given how easily they can be destroyed and their often muddled sound quality, it wasn't exactly a surprise to see cassette tapes disappear from public life when CDs did their job better.
But whether it's due to nostalgia or the fact it's not unheard of for some independent bands and artists to use them still, cassette tapes are making a small comeback too. ABC4 reported that 440,000 cassettes were sold in 2022 (a 28% increase from the previous year), and according to Rolling Stone, some major pop artists are making their records available on cassette again. Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, and The Weeknd are among the artists who have embraced this trend.
Since 2016, The Walkman's Been Making A Comeback
Once it became clear that the cassette tape was on the cusp of a minor comeback, it only seemed natural that the most popular way to play one back in the day would as well.
According to Forbes, the sudden spike in demand for analog music options started in 2016 when French company Mulann saw an 80% rise in demand for a new portable cassette player. This led them to develop Le Parisien, a device that's supposed to work like a classic Walkman while improving on its infamously sketchy sound quality.
Floppy Disks Are Still Used In The Airline Industry
Even before Cloud data storage solutions made saving and sharing files between devices more convenient, the once-dominant floppy disk started to fall out of use when re-writable CDs and thumb drives offered better storage.
However, that doesn't mean there isn't a market for them anymore, tiny as it may be. In an interview with NPR, floppydisk.com President Tom Persky noted that floppy disks still see significant use in the airline industry. In his words, "If you made an airplane 20 years ago and you wanted to get the information in and out of the avionics, you would use the up-to-date, high-tech system available to you, which 20 years ago was a floppy disk."
Home Milk Delivers Saw A Steady Increase In 2020
The idea of a milkman bringing a rack of bottles to people's doorsteps seems like a distant memory of the 1950s, but extenuating circumstances can sometimes give the old ways new life.
According to Today, businesses like the King Brothers Dairy in Saratoga saw their milk sales increase in 2020 and received unprecedented home delivery requests. As co-owner Jeff King said, "We started getting a lot of phone calls. We had to put some customers on hold just because of the big influx that we had."
New Drivers Are Becoming Interested In Manual Transmissions
Jalopnik reported that according to J.D. Power, manual transmission vehicle sales hit an all-time low in 2021, accounting for less than one percent of all new vehicle sales.
But in the years since, those numbers have started to trend back upward because adults between 18-35 are becoming increasingly interested in learning how to drive stick. From the sounds of things, it's a way to feel more connected and hands-on in a world that's constantly getting more automated.
Flared Jeans Are Coming Back Into Style
Bell bottoms are typically shorthand for an outdated fashion style with no real chance of coming back, but that label may be applied a little prematurely.
According to Vogue, fashion houses Celine, Dior, and Altuzarra introduced flared jeans in their collections for the spring of 2023. But rather than resembling the hippies of the '60s and the '70s, modern wearers make bell bottoms look more sleek and sophisticated with sharp jacket and sweater pairings.
CD Sales Are Booming
According to the CBC, the decline of CDs as the dominant music listening format was clearly evident when sales went from almost a billion in 2000 to 46.6 million in 2021.
However, if that 46.6 million figure doesn't sound so bad, it's worth noting that it marks a 50% sales increase from the previous year. Not only that, but it marks the first time CD sales have seen an increase since 2004. Billboard has since declared their return and cited the availability of the latest Beyoncé and BTS releases on CD as evidence.
Wired Headphones Are "Vintage" And In Style
Although the popularity of Beats by Dre headphones in 2008 made wireless headphones trendy, the real death knell for wired headphones seemed to sound in 2016 when Apple introduced AirPods and — more importantly — removed the headphone jack from their newest iPhones.
But according to Today, the ubiquity of wireless headphones today is actually driving some teens and TikTokers to embrace what they describe as "vintage" wired headphones. As The Wall Street Journal proposed, "In short, AirPods have become too widespread to be cool. So, perhaps inevitably, contrarian trendsetters are reviving some ancient technology: corded headphones."
Wristwatches Are Making A Comeback
During the rise of the smartphone in the 2010s, people started to realize that they were using their phones to tell time more often than their watches and, thus, no longer needed them.
But according to Fox News, that trend started to reverse as both affordable, and luxury watch brands crept back up in sales. Moreover, the dying art of watchmaking is seeing new life as an increasing number of millennials are taking up the mantle of their forebears and learning the trade.
In 2019, 666,000 Paper Maps Were Sold
In an era where most people seem to follow GPS routes when driving and where there's a $5.6 billion industry for digital mapping programs, it's easy to assume that nobody buys paper maps anymore.
However, USA Today reported that this is simply not true. By the end of the 2010s, road maps and others made from paper saw a five-year annual compound growth of 10% in sales. In 2019, 666,000 of these maps were sold, 7% higher than the previous year.
Usenet Saw An Increase In Users In The 2020s
Although it was the dominant way to connect with other users during the internet's earliest days through a series of newsgroups, one might assume that the rise of social media has killed Usenet entirely.
However, Usenet still seems to have a fairly robust userbase in the 2020s, as TechRadar outlined that the best services used to access the network can reach over 120,000 active newsgroups.