The Rising Popularity of Vintage Devices

Earlier this week, a leak reported that Nokia plans to unveil an old favorite, 17 years old to be precise, the Nokia “brick phone.” While it’s reasonable to suppose that this is just an affordable option for those that want the convenience of a simple, portable phone, without the high price tag and breakability, we wondered, is this in fact a nod to the rising popularity of other vintage devices? Read on as we explore this trend.

The Typewriter
The concept of the typewriter dates back to 1714, based on a patent filed by Englishman Henry Mill, which refers to ‘an artificial machine or method for impressing or transcribing of letters…’ However, the first practical typewriter wasn’t invented until more than 50 years later, by American inventor, Christopher Latham Sholes. Inspired by an article in the Scientific American journal about the development of a British-invented machine, Sholes created the initial model, then improved and patented his second model on June 23,1868. After many improvements and years later, he signed a contract with E. Remington and Sons in 1873, allowing for mass-production of his invention, finally dubbed the Remington. Fun fact: Mark Twain was the first author to submit a typewritten book manuscript. 

Since its invention, the typewriter continued to evolve and improve over time, eventually becoming a critical device for authors, journalists, secretaries and more. However, with computers and laptops offering both ease of use and access to information, why are typewriters seeing a resurgence in their popularity? The BBC asked the same question and received some compelling answers.

We’ve rounded up a few here:
Typewriters are practical: "People still use typewriters because they still work. They offer a distraction-free alternative to the modern day methods for producing a document. They challenge the user to be more efficient and see their errors on paper." (Anthony Casillo, Collector, BBC).
Typewriters are cool: Tom Furrier, who owns a typewriter repair shop in Arlington, Massachusetts, says: "Young people or the under-30 crowd [as] I call them, have grown up with this new technology and never experienced analogue toys and games. They are fascinated by the sensory feedback they get. The feel, the sound, seeing the printed image, immediately amazes them. (BBC)
For entertainment: Typewriters are also very much in demand for period dramas or for plays. Meanwhile, Milton was recently contacted by a production company working on a war-time detective drama. They wanted typewriter lessons for a female secretary actress so she could "appear natural at the desk," he says.
For nostalgia: Engaged couples are looking to years gone by for inspiration for their big days - and that includes retro or antique typewriters. Milton says many couples now opt to create their invitations on typewriters and they then have them at their wedding so guests can write a few words of congratulations. (BBC)
It would seem that there are a number of valid reasons to justify using a typewriter. Do you or someone you know still use one?


In 1857, Frenchman Edouard-Leon Scott built a device which utilized a vibrating pen to graphically represent sound on discs of paper, sans playback, known as the phonautograph. While the device was designed to inspect the characteristics of sounds, the inventor failed to realize it actually recorded the sound.
20 years later, Thomas Edison modified the phonautograph into the better known phonograph (or gramophone), for the purpose of replaying the recordings made. The recordings were initially made on tinfoil for the purpose of office dictation. However, in 1888, Emile Berliner invented lateral-cut disc records, used exclusively in toys until 1894 when he began marketing them under the Berliner Gramophone label. Disc records dominated the market until they were supplanted by the compact disc in the 1980’s.

Nowadays, CD’s have taken a backseat to ever more popular music streaming services like Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music. So why exactly is vinyl making a comeback?
According to CNBC, the surge in vinyl sales, at least in part, is being driven by younger consumers. “Industry researcher MusicWatch reports half of vinyl record buyers are under 25, and men are more likely to buy LPs than are women.” 
In a statement to CNBC, RIAA’s Josh Friedlander said “In an increasingly digital age, vinyl records can provide a deeper, tactile connection to music that resonates with some of the biggest fans.”
Frankly, this sounds pretty similar to some of the reasoning behind the resurgence of the typewriter: a desire to feel and to connect more deeply through a non-digital medium.
In an article by Newsweek, music commentator Simon Reynolds suggests vinyl’s return to popularity is due to something he dubs “retromania.” Essentially a contemporary condition in which “the enthusiasm for fashions and cultural paraphernalia of the past is endemic.”

Finally, Gizmodo offers that what the invention of the CD did away with, nostalgic listeners want to return to: the scratch. “It adds texture and warmth. Some musicians go as far as to add it to digital recordings to give them”’character.’”  

Whatever the reason, vinyl sales are up and the music industry is best advised to figure out why such that they can capitalize on it. The question is, once they do, will vinyl-lovers rejoice and purchase what the industry offers or continue their habit of buying and swapping used records?


The Polaroid Camera
As with the typewriter and vinyl, a notable spike in the popularity of the Polaroid camera has been observed. It is probably safe to suggest the reasons for this are much aligned with the aforementioned products. While we will seek to dig into this spike further, first let’s discuss the history of the polaroid camera.
Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, first unveiled and demonstrated the instant camera on February 21, 1947 at a meeting of the Optical Society of America in New York City. Originally known as the Land camera, it made more than $5 million in sales in its first year, and would be the prototype for Polaroid cameras for the next 15 years. A color version of the camera was released in 1963. 

With a little history in mind, we can now investigate possible explanations for polaroid’s comeback. While the most-cited cause is that they are popular among young people, the question remains: why? Fast Company suggests that the younger generation views Polaroid as “retro and fun.” Polaroid’s response was to create the Polaroid Pic-300, a modern twist on the classic camera that instantly prints wallet-sized photographs. So perhaps in addition to being retro and fun, it feeds the need for instant gratification.
We must note, however, that digital photos via smartphones also offer instant gratification, but again only at the digital level. So it would seem there’s something more to the story. The Guardian offers that the surge in popularity is due in great part to celebrities. After a number of nude celebrity photos were leaked, one of the victims, Kaley Cuoco declared “Polaroids are the way to go. No one can get those.” That doesn’t really seem to be a satisfactory answer though. 

Our favorite hypothesis is echoed in a statement by The Impossible Project CEO, Creed O’Hanlon, who said “Teens are turning their backs on digital for something more tangible.” Supporting this statement, Paul Bryant, the curriculum manager for media, visual and performing arts at Wiltshire College said he “has seen a huge increase in the number of photography students wanting to study wet processing techniques.” Both of these statements about youth behavior and interest in printed photos suggest a glaringly obvious trend: a nostalgia and preference for the days of yore.

After exploring the trend of vintage devices making a comeback, namely the typewriter, vinyl, and the Polaroid camera, we believed we’ve settled on one plausible explanation for why Nokia is re-releasing the phone it first produced 17 years ago. There exists an undeniable shift toward yearning for the times of yesteryear, particularly among the younger generation. Perhaps it’s simply in vogue to be nostalgic for things of the past. Or perhaps younger people are a bit burned out on being constantly connected digitally and are idealizing days when things moved a little more slowly, books and photos were printed, and music rang out with a warm & fuzzy, albeit scratchy tune. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to see the younger generation embracing things which we remember (and in some cases still use) fondly. Perhaps the Nokia 3310 will also benefit from the youth’s reverence for things of the past as the typewriter, vinyl and Polaroids have recently enjoyed.

Is there anything you wish would make a similar comeback? Comment below!