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Tech Throwback: Do you miss these retro devices?

Reminisce about some everyday tech items we thought would be around forever.

Game Boy

Everyone gets a little nostalgic for days gone by. Even when it comes to tech devices, there are certain items that hold a special place in our hearts — either because of the good memories associated with them or just because they were so cool.

Here are a few of our favourite “tech throwback” items which used to play a big part in our lives, but have now been pushed aside — or eliminated completely — with the introduction of newer, more modern tech.

Polaroid Cameras

Polaroid camera

It’s hard to believe that a significant portion of the adult population has never seen, let alone used, a Polaroid camera which reached soaring popularity in the mid-twentieth century.

In fact, for some readers it’s likely that their only interaction with a Polaroid camera is dancing along to the OutKast song “Hey Ya!” which features the famous line, “Shake it like a Polaroid picture!”

While taking and viewing photos immediately is completely normal today, the ability to develop pictures instantly made Polaroid a sensation. However, as a result of emerging digital camera technology, Polaroid stopped manufacturing film cameras in 2008.

What do we have now?

For everyday on-the-fly photos, we use our smartphones, of course. Apps like Instagram, one of the largest social networks in the world, integrate right into our smartphones with built-in cameras — leaving little need for another device. Since we can instantly take, edit and share photos day-to-day, this new tech has almost made digital photo albums a thing of the past, too.

Polaroid cameras were used by people who wanted to take fun and casual photos of their everyday lives. Now, Instagram and Snapchat have stepped in to fill that void, allowing folks to share images not only with friends and family, but with total strangers around the world.

Interestingly, there’s been a recent resurgence of Polaroid alternatives like the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 instant camera. Clearly, the nostalgic appeal of the instant film camera is real, but we’ll likely never see the level of success of the original Polaroid camera.

Game Boy & Tamagotchi

Game Boy

Many adults who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s look back fondly on the Nintendo Game Boy, which was released in 1989 and offered portable gaming that kids could throw in their backpacks and play on-the-go.

These gaming devices paved the way for the future of portable technology. Game Boys were gateways into the world of the handheld digital world, helping a generation become familiar and comfortable with the idea of taking your devices with you wherever you go.

Another gaming sensation, Tamagotchi, was one of the first digital handheld pets to become popular in North America. Released in late 1996 and riding the new wave of portable gaming to instant fame, Tamagotchi were small egg-shaped devices that allowed users to feed, pet, play and raise digital monsters.

What do we have now?

Insert Candy Crush, Angry Birds and Pokémon Go. App development in recent years has led to an explosion of games that are available on almost every portable digital media device, including our smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Not only does modern-gaming provide an incredibly rich selection of games from a wide selection of categories, but modern Wi-Fi capabilities now allow users to compete in global leaderboards, share information, connect with friends and post updates about their activity to social media. Portable gaming has developed into a truly global, connected phenomenon.

VHS Tapes & DVDs

Kodak VHS tape

For many of us, going to the video rental store and browsing a selection of VHS tapes (and later, DVDs) was a normal part of life.

However, renting movies had a few drawbacks like cost, convenience, selection and availability. Remember the frustration of trying to rent a certain movie or game for weeks on end, only to find it was always out of stock?

Kid: “Hey, yeah, I-I was just calling to see if you had Addams Family Values yet.”

Guy at Blockbuster: “Hey lady! I’ll tell you when we get Addams Family Values!!”

What do we have now?

CraveTV, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix and other content streaming platforms are now the go-to source for film viewing and rentals.

These well-known content streaming platforms have completely decimated the movie rental industry thanks to their constantly-changing titles, predictable monthly payments, and the convenience of not having to put on pants to go rent your favourite flick — enter The Big Lebowski.

Not only do digital streaming services allow us to watch whatever we want, whenever we want, but they have also eliminated the need for physical media since all the content we subscribe to is stored in the cloud.


IBM typewriter

Most people under 30 have never touched a typewriter, but these important pieces of machinery date all the way back to 1714, when Henry Mill filed a patent for “an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters, one after another.”

Until very recently, the typewriter was the go-to tool for anyone who didn’t want to spend all their time writing out notes and letters by hand. Typing was a class that was taught in many schools, and being an adept typist was seen as an essential skill in many business roles. Remember your asdf jkl; exercises and trying to impress your friends with WPM scores?

What do we have now?

Henry Mill’s idea proved to be a popular one, and the typewriter has been the foundation for many advancements made in electrical and digital computing. The Turing Machine, considered by many to be the first “modern” computer, could perform basic functions and store limited data, and may have been partly inspired by the “mechanical” functions of the typewriter owned by the mother of inventor, Alan Turing.

Nowadays we can type on just about any digital surface, but the most obvious replacement for the typewriter is the laptop. Like a lifeline for many in the corporate world, laptops are portable, used for writing and communicating, and are considered essential for business in the same way that typewriters used to be.

With the constant changes and updates being made to the technology we use every day, it will be interesting to see which of the present-day items on this list eventually goes the way of the dinosaur and paves the way for even more life-changing tech.

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Alyson Shane

Alyson Shane is a writer and business owner from Winnipeg, Manitoba who has been publishing content online for 16+ years. She runs Starling Social, an agency which develops digital marketing strategies that combine social media, paid advertising and content strategy to keep businesses growing and engaged with their customers. Outside the office, Alyson is a passionate urbanist who loves gardening, riding her bike and thinking about the public spaces that bring us together. She can be reached on social media at @alysonshane.

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