The Craze for Retro

Posted on Nov 19, 2016

Recently, I’ve found myself making plans and choosing the necessary parts in order to soup-up my old iMac for Christmas break. I like old technology and generally old things that are in good working condition. To be quite honest, I’m definitely not alone. An original Apple I computer was sold around two years ago for $280,000, an expensive testimony to the appeal of the old to many. The appreciation for merchandise that has withstood the test of time even has its own lexicon of words such as “priceless”, “vintage”, and “collector’s item.” But to be honest, my appreciation for the old has only as of recently reached its current height, and currently,it would appear that I only appreciate old technology.

Up above is a picture of my 2000 iMac G3 that boast the last edition of Classic Mac, an impressive 64Mb of ram, and 10Gb of disk space, 7 of which is free. I found this guy in my high-school’s media center, gathering dust, ready to be thrown out. My curiosity whetted, I plugged in the machine and pressed the start button and was pleasantly greeted by the iconic Apple chime. The system works rather quickly and was a comparatively high-end machine for the market of that day. To be quite honest, the computer outperforms today’s machines in areas such as resource management. With such modest computing capabilities, software back then had to be written as efficiently as possible – and the quaint software packaged with this machine runs as fast as it’s contemporary equivalent.

But the main question I would like to answer is why do people like old things? The first old thing I remember enjoying was playing NES Mario Bros. For me, old things provide a portal into the past. My dad’s puzzle that hasn’t aged since he was twelve helps me understand what it was like to live in the 80’s. Being around old things allows me to feel the stillness of time and to understand that time only exists in our heads. Playing Mario Bros. allowed me to understand the different and simple expectations of first generation gamers – perhaps that gaming wasn’t so much of a lifestyle and identity element as it was a simple pastime.

I also like old antiques because they give me a sense of importance. Using my archaic iMac to browse the internet allows me to feel like I’m a detective from the early 2000’s on law and order scouring the web for information with the same machine.

Essentially, I believe that the magic of old objects lies in the fact that they allow us to access our past. Playing with my old RC car allows me to become a child again. Upon finishing my escapade into the past, I am reminded how far I have come, and greeted by a welcome warm cool wave of nostalgia. The house is empty, the air is still, and I’m looking, listening, and waiting for my 6 year old self to thump carefree down the staircase. But I never see my younger self, all I see is my 12 year old RC controller and missing stickers but perhaps that’s close enough.

Old items allow us to connect with the past, not just personal past, but with the past of others. In addition, old items are often equally utilitarian as their contemporary equivalents, allowing us to even live in the past. Old items can allow us to live in the past because sometimes, providing the best alternative to a time-mahcine.