Some tech gets better with age

The Best Retro Tech to Still Hunt for Today


July 17, 2019 Tech By Photo by Japan Camera Hunter

It’s easy to understand the appeal of heirloom watches, classic cars, or vintage clothes, but it can be harder to imagine how gadgets and gear more broadly classified as “technology” can have usefulness that stands the test of time. Old computers are a fun novelty, but you’ll be hard-pressed to use them in any remotely modern way. Smartphones from as little as seven or eight years ago are often worthless as anything more than paperweights. But there are exceptions to the rule, bits of gear that work just as well — if not better — today, albeit perhaps a little differently. Here are some examples.

Buckling Spring Keyboards

Photo: Wikipedia

If you’ve ever thought about how computer keyboards used to be louder and clickier back in the day, chances are you’re thinking of the venerated Model M. These classic beige beasts were included with IBM PCs starting back in the 1980s and sport a unique “buckling spring” design unlike what you’ll find in a modern keyboard, even a mechanical one. The Model M may be old, it’s not obsolete. Enthusiasts collect, restore, modernize, and even sell these pieces of computer history, and you can use one with your laptop, if you’re willing to pay the price.

Old School Stereo Recievers

There’s no shortage of new hi-fi audio equipment, but classic Marantz equipment from the 70s is not only still functional but still desirable. Not only do Marantz receivers have retro flair, but they offer incredible sound and have stood the test of time for decades already. Models like the Marantz 2270 will cost a pretty penny nearly 50 years on, and you can expect to pay over $1,000 for one, but you can also expect it to be the last stereo you’ll ever need to buy.

Film Cameras

Photo: Japan Camera Hunter

Digital cameras are absolutely terrific, even if the ability to see a picture right after you’ve taken it seems old hat after several decades of dominance. But good old-fashioned film cameras still have their charm, not only thanks to the long, long legacy of film photography and development, but also because they can do things that a digital camera could never dream of—like shooting with no battery power required. There is a whole army of vintage cameras worth exploring, depending on your price range, your preferences, and your access to film, but the Fuji GW690III is a great place to start thanks to its hefty build quality, price, and the size of its negatives.

CRT Displays

Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum

The modern TV and monitor market is obsessed with size and resolution. The age of 8K is on the horizon. But if you’re trying to recapture the warm, fuzzy visuals of classic retro gaming, that added resolution is only going to make your NES graphics look uncanny. If you want authentic visuals, you’re going to need scanlines, those faint, classic, horizontal stripes that define the pre-digital picture of cathode ray tube TVs. CRTs are, for the most part, out of production but plenty of old models are still floating around. Among the various choices, vintage gamers often point to the Sony Triton as an option worth hunting for. And in addition to those beautiful lines, you’ll also have all the retro ports you need to plug in your old Sega Genesis with no need to fiddle with adapters.

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Eric Limer is Gear Patrol’s tech editor. A resident of Weehawken, NJ, his current obsessions include mechanical keyboards, mechanical pencils and Formula 1.

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