Tech advances at an astronomical pace. Blink once, and you’ll miss several new iterations of flagship smartphones. Blink twice, and you’ll realize all your favorite video games are nearly indistinguishable from real life.
We’re fortunate to live in a world where advancements are so quick that we can enjoy what feels like new eras of tech every few months or so.
But no matter how many inventions or impressive achievements the world of tech manages to surprise us with, we still return to the old ways. Whether it’s an instant camera or reliable mechanical clock, there’s plenty of value in retro tech.
Sometimes, you don’t want to stream all your favorite songs, so you go back to your trusty MP3 player. You want to take your favorite physical photo with you wherever you go, so you pick up an instant camera.
There are plenty of reasons anyone might want to return to the days of classic tech. Whether you want to let a warm wave of nostalgia rush over you or you just want something potentially more reliable than a battery-powered clock, we’ve got five picks for retro tech products that are far from obsolete.
In a world where Insta-ready shots dominate the internet, sometimes you want to take a step back and drink in the way photography used to be. Luckily, Polaroid cameras still exist, and adorable versions that mimic the classic models have been created to help give you the instant gratification of your very own physical photo — you and your besties partying or you and your loved ones during a special moment.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 instant camera can capture memories and spit out fun, instant photos that you can take with you, decorate with or frame to keep forever.
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera ($87.95; amazon.com)
This camera comes in several different colors and prints instant photos, which develop before your very eyes. The photos are smaller than regular Polaroids and require special film that can be purchased online or at retail locations, but it’s worth it to have a small piece of life captured on a physical print. Plus, no one can resist tiny, shareable photos.
How many times have you been late to work or a meeting because your alarm clock didn’t go off? We’ve all been there, and we’ve all witnessed how easily a digital clock can start losing time.
In today’s world, sometimes being punctual can mean the difference between nabbing your dream job or being left in the dust. The same thing goes for important events. You don’t want to miss a family wedding or graduation! That’s where mechanical clocks are handy.
- Sternreiter Double Bell Mechanical Alarm Clock ($164; amazon.com)
This attractive clock doesn’t rely on electronic power or batteries to make sure it’s still ticking away, and it has loud enough chimes to make sure you’re ready and waiting to take on the day. Plus, it makes for an attractive wall piece if you want to display it in your home. It’s gorgeous, functional and reliable. That’s retro tech for you.
Sure, it’s great to have all the music you could ever want at your fingertips with streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify. But sometimes it feels good to own the music.
When you buy a CD, you want to feel like it’s “yours.” Or, more importantly, you want to be able to listen to it without being connected to the internet.
For many of us, there likely won’t be many scenarios where we’re without the internet, so it won’t matter. But if you are and want to listen to music, an MP3 player can be an absolute godsend.
- Apple iPod Touch, 7th Generation ($194.95; amazon.com)
For this purpose, you can’t go wrong with a classic iPod Touch. The latest model, the 7th generation, is affordable and an excellent choice for storing your music.
Whether you rip your own music from CDs or buy iTunes cards to buy tracks, you’re building a portable library that you can take with you anywhere. There are plenty of other MP3 players that offer the same opportunities, and they’re fantastic items to keep on hand.
Any audiophile will tell you that there are a few universal truths when it comes to music, and one of them is that vinyl records have to be heard to be believed. Vinyl usually features higher-quality recordings of an album’s master copy, and as such, there’s less compression.
Vinyl is a lossless audio format as well, and as such records produce a warm sound that differs from the crispness of digital audio. Music feels a little more “real” than when listened to via other sources.
- Audio-Technica AT-LP60X Stereo Turntable ($99; amazon.com)
That’s why a record player is a good thing to have. This particular Audio-Technica model is one that’s affordable and slick, and it can play any record. Plus, it’s a reliable name in the audio industry.
It’s a small investment to make in terms of what you’ll get out of it in terms of the vinyl collection you’ll build when you fall in love with this retro form of media.
Smartphones can be way overrated, especially when it comes to preserving and nurturing your mental health. Sometimes you need to step back and take a break from the constant social media updates, the doom and gloom that comprises the news cycle and having access to the entire world’s worth of knowledge and live updates in your pocket doesn’t help you look away from it all. That’s why sometimes we could all benefit from “dumbing down” our phones.
- Nokia 2720 Flip Phone ($124.99; amazon.com)
This Nokia 2720 flip phone may not be able to keep up with your Apple or Samsung smartphones, but it’s a seriously stylish flip phone that can handle phone calls, text messages and limited internet connectivity, so you can check mail and log in to various apps, but they won’t take over your life.
That kind of disconnect is healthy every once in a while, and you’ll be thankful you spent some time with an older phone to take time away from it all. It sounds like a digital vacation, doesn’t it?
There’s nothing wrong with going back to the past to use the more reliable pieces of “antiquated” tech on the market. If something tickles your fancy, don’t be afraid to get more analog with your life. You never know how much things could change for the positive.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.