Blast from the Past: Gen Z’s Infatuation with Vintage Technology

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Aiden Powers, Writer

We are living in the digital age in 2021. Smartphones come with high-quality cameras that rival professional cameras, and everyone has the opportunity to enjoy music for free through YouTube, the radio, or a Spotify account. But as technology has advanced, vintage technologies from the 20th century have become popular amongst teenagers. Why?

As a fellow owner of both a polaroid camera and a record player (along with what I would consider a pretty impressive record collection), I feel as though I can offer some insight into the trend. 

For those who may not know, a polaroid camera (also known as an instant camera) is a camera that instantly prints the photo you took. To many, this may seem inconvenient. You have to spend money on packs of film and you can’t even preview the image before it prints. Mess up, and you just wasted a dollar. But I believe there is a lot more to it. For many, the vintage aesthetic is enough to lure them in. The white borders of a polaroid image are instantly recognizable and a massive part of pop culture. For me, being able to capture small moments and save them in a photo album to look back on is invaluable. Sure, you could take images on your phone and get them printed at your local Walgreens, but somehow it is different. With instant film, you can’t edit the picture, choose the “best” one, overlay a filter, etc. You are able to capture a pure moment, and if the picture isn’t perfect, that only adds to the character and the story behind each photo.

This is obviously a luxury to be able to own and take part in. It can get expensive and isn’t practical at all. Take it from me, I wanted to take my polaroid camera on vacation with me out of the country. I had to have my bags hand-checked in security so that the harsh x-ray scanners wouldn’t damage my delicate film. So I completely understand that it is not for all, but for many, it is an enjoyable harmless experience.

Now let us shift our lens to the great big world of music. Collecting music is a century-old practice, and as technology has progressed the industry has seen vinyl records, cassettes, CDs, iTunes, and now the streaming era. In the streaming era, anyone with a device and internet connection can access billions of songs. So why spend money on tangible music when it is much cheaper and more convenient to just stream? Turns out there is a lot of motive in the music collecting world. 

First of all collecting tangible music is the best way to support your favorite artist. Physical albums are how most artists make money, and how artists are able to continue creating your favorite music! Streaming services usually only pay about ⅓ of a penny per stream, which unless you are one of the biggest artists in the world, is not enough to support an artistic career. Not just that but CDs and vinyl records are great collectables. They are aesthetically pleasing and fun to play.

Naturally, physical music is a lot of work to play. The discs are incredibly delicate and have to be taken care of or else the music can be damaged. It brings a new value to the music you listen to.Having to put a record on a player and flip it makes you pay extra attention to the music you are listening to. It requires your attention which in return, allows the listener to get the most out of the musical experience. 

Vintage technologies are a trend and a luxury. Admittedly, there are easier and cheaper ways to enjoy media, but for many these technologies allow you to enjoy the little things in life a little more. What do you think about vintage technology?

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