The charm of old technology – why are we drawn to it?
Friday, January 11th, 2019
PR video expert Seb takes a look at the nostalgia effect of gadgets and devices
HERE we are again – the beginning of a new year. Another New Year’s Day hangover, another fir tree chucked away. And most of all, the resolutions! This season brings with it renewed desires and aspirations – our hope for a better lifestyle revitalised.
And so, in the spirit of the new year, I aspire to become a firm – if not obsessed – hobbyist in analogue photography. I have just got myself an Olympus OM-1. The good old 35mm. The structural lines of the body and the predominance of the lens make it almost too beautiful to be used!
With a few ideas for a portfolio in my mind, this could be the first resolution I might actually fulfil.
But after the initial burst of excitement when unpackaging my new treasure, my thoughts deviated and I started asking myself some questions.
Why do I need this old camera, which isn’t even being manufactured anymore, when the art of photography has advanced so much with new technology?
And on a larger scale, why do we constantly look for and purchase old devices?
Take the film industry for example. Woody Allen writes all of his films using an old typewriter. Tarantino shot The Hateful Eight in a 70mm format. But why?
As superficial as it sounds, one answer to this question is aesthetics. My delighted reaction and satisfaction at the sight of the OM-1 is proof of that. And it doesn’t restrict itself to photography alone.
From the sophisticated elegance of a gramophone, to the unusual stylish appeal of an Atari 2600 game console, or simply the cover – and the sound – of a vinyl, they all have aesthetic value that competes with their up to date equivalent, emphasised by the rise in popularity of retro/vintage fashion and fuelled by the collective nostalgia for “the good, old times”.
Another reason is accessibility. Many rare, collectable audio-visual products such as old games have not been digitised. A game console or a VHS player might be the only way for a person to access these.
Conservatism may also explain this trend. We often like to keep the things that we know work and withstand the test of time. For many, the old translates to simpler, nicer and more trustworthy.
Caught up in the dynamic nature of today’s technology and bombarded by flashy marketing campaigns urging us to constantly upgrade our smartphones and gadgets, we begin to miss the Nokia 3310 and its legendary resilience. It will break a wall before breaking itself. And let’s not forget about the original version of the game Snake – undoubtedly the best version out there.
New audio-visual technology has offered a great deal of innovation and possibilities for consumers and artists but it doesn’t mean that old technology is condemned. We often think of new technologies as replacements for their outdated predecessors.
But I would say that new technology is just an expansion. By getting into 35mm photography, I will explore new lands of the photography trade, advancing my practice and skills even further.
The old and the new are reversed.
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