The two largest companies on the US stock market launched their latest phones this week. The Google Pixel 2 went on sale on Tuesday and the first sales of the iPhone X started today. With the latest technology on offer from these two behemoths of the technical world, you might think that I would be talking about the great features of the latest phone on the market.

I’m not.

There are lots of articles about the latest phones on the market. Today I want to go retro. Just when we think we have killed off a technology with a new and more advanced version, it seems to come back. I have spoken recently about the advances in the delivery of music to our ears and the current live streaming. Well blow me down if the old vinyl records aren’t making a comeback. We all used to complain about the large size of vinyl and the scratches on the records when someone bumped the player with their over-enthusiastic dancing – so we loved when CDs came out. Now the audiophiles are saying that vinyl is better quality (I can’t pick the difference) so vinyl is making a bit of a comeback. Count me out of that one!

Once upon a time only the keenest photographers carried a camera with them – but most of us now carry a camera everywhere. Our mobile phones carry sophisticated cameras that are used for all manner of videos of cats playing with fluffy toys. Why then is 35mm film and Polaroid instant film still being sold? Walk into many department stores and you will see multiple choices in old-fashioned film. In fact, it seems to be trendy amongst the millennials to now have a Polaroid camera that produces (incredibly expensive) printed photos a few minutes after each shot. It goes against all the logic of only printing the best photos and allowing people to take multiple shots to get the best one – but sales are on the increase. Personally, I will skip that one as well.

Recording shows off TV to watch later on your shiny new VHS machine was once a sign of sophisticated technology usage. Getting the right tape and programming the VHS were critical steps in this process – one friend of mine has a beautiful wedding video that quickly morphs into a Rugby League Grand Final! This was all before the days of streaming TV and On Demand abilities. Production of VHS cassettes stopped a couple of years ago but there were so many made over the 40-year life of VHS that you can still buy new cassettes – and people are doing just that. The last VCR was made in July 2016 and even those VCRs were coming with internal hard drives so I struggle to work out what people are doing with blank VHS cassettes but, if you want clumsy and low-quality video recording, you can still make those purchases.

When I started my first IT business in 1989, the printer to go with your computer was a big decision. Laser printers were a similar price to a small car and dot-matrix was cheap and noisy and slow. Not great options. When inkjet was released, it gave the better print quality of laser at a price that was closer to the price of dot matrix. As time went on, laser and inkjet became cheaper and faster, and dot-matrix fell by the wayside…or so I thought. Epson; Lexmark and Fujitsu still make dot-matrix printers today. I can’t quite understand why but there must be a market for them. I would prefer to read documents on my nice clear screen or print to a high-quality laser than try and piece together the dots.

The last item that caught my attention as I was out shopping the other day was a Street Directory. I remember these from my youth. Dad would drive and Mum would sit in the front of the car with the Gregory’s on her lap as we negotiated our way through Sydney traffic. It led to confusion and arguments and occasionally arriving at the correct location. Satellite navigation gave way to portable SatNav devices which gave way to mobile phones that do everything. I struggled to think why anyone would buy a paper directory – maybe they are a backup for when your phone battery goes flat? A battery Power Pack sounds like a better idea to me!

Mathew Dickerson

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