Demand for vintage items like typewriters, records, and film is surging, even as Big Tech pitches the metaverse
- As people grow tired of screens,
vintagetech like typewritersand recordsare making a comeback.
- Insider spoke to sellers of records, typewriters, vintage video games, and film cameras.
Gramercy Typewriters, one of New York City's last remaining typewriter shops, looks like a portal into another era.
"Our shelves are a bit barren right now," Nick Campano, a sales associate dressed in a plaid suit and blue velvet jacket, said as he pointed to a dozen typewriters lining the narrow store's walls. "We sold six machines yesterday."
In the past five minutes, three customers and one dog have walked through the shop's door. Business is booming, Campano explained, and sales have only increased during the pandemic — mostly thanks to young customers.
"I think it has to do with being fed up with looking at our computer screen," he said. "We look at it so much ... that what's old has become new again."
And it's not just typewriters.
DKOldies, a family-run vintage-gaming company based in Morgantown, Pennsylvania, has been "considerably busier" this year than ever before.
"It's been quite a scramble to get all these orders out," Joey Walker-Denny, who runs the DKOldies' social-media department, said. Right now, the most popular products include the Nintendo 64, the GameCube, and Wii consoles, he told Insider.
The same goes for vintage cameras, according to Silvio Cohen, VP of sales at the Adorama camera store in New York City.
"There is a much larger demand for analog cameras or film cameras," he said. "It takes you away from having to use a computer for everything in your life."
The retro aesthetic has become so popular that mobile apps like Dispo, which requires you to wait a day before viewing your photos, are used for the sole reason of mimicking the experience of a disposable camera.
Why intentionally downgrade a $1,000 iPhone to mimic a $13 camera? Or write on a device without spell-check or a delete key?
Some researchers would say the answer lies in the 20-year cycle of nostalgia: In the 2020s, Y2K is all the rage. Others defend the "Golden 40-Year Rule," arguing "the prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between 40 and 50 years past."
The difference this time around is that technology is deeply embedded in our recent memories of the past. As Kyle Chayka explained in a New Yorker article exploring the recent rise of pixel art, we're in the midst of the "first wave of digital nostalgia."
Add in a global pandemic, constant Zoom meetings, a new TikTok addiction, and limited in-person interaction, and you get "online fatigue," giving rise to a strong desire for simpler times — regardless of the decade.
In the case of vinyl sales, the past two years have just accelerated a trend that was already there, Sharone Bechor, CEO of Rock and Soul record store, told Insider.
"Vinyl has been steadily going up in the past five years," she said. "During the pandemic, people were less on the go … they were at home and they were just enjoying their life."
But as many tried to distance themselves from their screens, technology's creators pitched the opposite — a virtual reality you never have to leave. This so-called "metaverse," recently featured in Facebook's name change to Meta, was mentioned at least 449 times on earnings calls in Q3.
Even with Web 3.0 brewing on the horizon, sellers say they're confident that the tech of our past is here to stay.
"I feel something different when I'm flipping through the pages of a photo album ... it doesn't feel the same when you're just looking at it on your phone and swiping," Bechor said. "There's something special about holding something tangible that you wouldn't get from the metaverse."
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