Why Some People Still Love Retro Gadgets and What They Can Do for You

Funky but still functional

  • Vinyl record sales are booming in a sign of the growing interest in retro gadgets. 
  • Victor has released new turntables, some of which offer Bluetooth connectivity. 
  • Observers say that retro electronics offer a taste of a simpler time. 
Victor all-in-one radio and turntable


Most manufacturers are constantly racing to craft sleeker and more powerful gadgets, but there's also a growing demand for gizmos that look to the past. 

Victor has released a new lineup of wood music centers, suitcase turntables, hybrid record players, and desktop stereos. Record sales are booming, and the latest music players offer modern conveniences like Bluetooth but cater to users whose tastes run to vinyl. 

Ryan Mungia, the co-author of a book about retro tech called "Do You Compute? Selling Tech from the Atomic Age to the Y2K Bug," said in an email interview that old tech reminds us of simpler times when technology felt like more of a novelty. 

"From CD changers to calculator watches, there is a sweet naivety to retro electronics that "take us back" in the same way that hearing a particular song can," he added. 

The Needle Hits the Record 

Victrola Stream Carbon turntable next to a Sonos speaker


The nostalgia trend in personal electronics can be seen clearly on turntables. Vinyl record sales nearly doubled in volume last year, from 27.5 million albums in 2020 to 41.7 million in 2021, according to MRC Data's 2021 US Year-End Report. It's the 16th consecutive year of growing vinyl sales in the United States, according to the report.

The brand Victrola has been selling record players for more than a century, and the company is still releasing new models. Some of its latest offerings, including the $800 Stream Carbon, work with the Sonos wireless sound system. 

Victrola's head of product and brand, Don Inmon, told Lifewire via email that the appeal of record players "goes beyond what's coming through the speakers; it's pulling the album from the shelf, enjoying the artwork, and even placing the album on the turntable. Every aspect adds its own element that might be overlooked with newer mediums."

Tech That Never Dies

Aside from new releases like Bluetooth record players are also eager communities of enthusiasts seeking out gadgets discontinued years ago. Take, for example, Sony's MiniDisc players, which use physical media that were first released in 1992. 

Hand holding a blue MiniDisc Walkman with a red MiniDisc inserted at the top.

Lifewire / Rob LeFebvre

Alvin Lopez, a MiniDisc enthusiast, told Lifewire in an email interview that he enjoys the format because of "the physicality of the device and the media. Like some people who love vinyl, the look & feel of the disc, the 'ritual' of inserting the disc and then listening to it has a calming effect on me, and it is the same feeling when you are recording." 

Lopez said that MiniDisc technology has held up well even against modern upstarts like the Mp3 format. A MiniDisc, which can be inserted into a dedicated player to listen to and record music, "isn't prone to scratching, doesn't degrade in audio quality with each use, and can be reused for recording for more than a few hundred thousand times [which] makes it quite appealing and my music medium of choice," he added. 

Some older tech items never went out of style, Mungia said. He points to the Casio Calculator Watch as one gadget that’s retained its popularity since it first appeared in the 1980s. 

“When I saw Marty McFly wearing one in the movie “Back to the Future,” I was hooked,” Mungia said. “I never saved up enough allowance to get one back then, but I bought one on a whim last year for about $20,”

Mungia said he enjoys playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo NES.

“My taste for video games (and watches) is stuck in 1988, and I’m okay with that,” he added. 

Updated 11/1/2022: Removed a quote from the story at the request of the source.

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