Dude with a boom box

Retro tech still holds unique appeal for all age groups

Image credit: Krakenimages | Unsplash

Cassette tapes, Tamagotchis and Game Boys are amongst the list of vintage technology most missed and still desired by successive generations, from Gens X and Millennials to Gen Z.

A national survey of 2,007 UK adults, commissioned by financial deals site money.co.uk in November, has revealed the gadgets each age misses the most from times gone by and how much it would cost today to acquire these memorable gifts.

The Etch-a-Sketch drawing device topped the list for those in the Generation X category (born between 1965 and 1980, approximately). Tamagotchis - the small digital 'pet' toy - were frequently cited by those in Generation Z (1997-2012), while Millennials (1981-1996) fondly recalled the Nintendo Game Boy handheld games console.

The Japanese egg-shaped Tamagotchis were hugely popular throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s and were owned by more than one in three adults now aged between 16-24 (38 per cent). Today, nostalgic purchases of an original Tamagotchi is likely to set people back around £26: not a huge increase on the original 1997 RRP of £14.

The Game Boy was the retro choice of Millennials surveyed, with the 1989 handheld console coming top in the list of tech missed the most by those aged 25-34. Approximately one in every two people surveyed (51 per cent) owned this device at some point. Current prices for a vintage Game Boy in good condition averages around £190: a significant increase on the original retail price of £67.

For the older generation, the low-tech doodling tablet Etch a Sketch was a popular reminiscence. Almost half (49 per cent) of this age group claimed to have owned one of the mechanical drawing toys when they were younger. A vintage example in good condition can be bought for around £20 today.

Other popular technology choices from bygone days were cassette and video tapes; mothballed games consoles such as the Sega Megadrive; early Nokia phones and the Sony Walkman.

The iconic Commodore 64 home computer was also a top choice for Gen X, with around one in four (26 per cent) claiming to have owned a Commodore 64 back in the day and one in five (19 per cent) expressing nostalgia towards this ground-breaking gaming computer.

Originally priced at an RRP of £399 in the mid 1980s – equivalent to around £1,418 today – good examples of this early classic computer can be found on eBay today for a bargain £72.

The number one choice for vintage tech most missed across the board was the audio cassette tape. People of all ages expressed a lasting affection for this humble analogue medium.

The good news is that cassettes have been making something of a commercial comeback in recent years, with 2020 on course to see UK sales top 100,000 for the first time since 2003. Recent album releases from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa have been released on the cassette format, as music lovers from all generations return to the unique pleasure to be had in purchasing a physical product over digital streaming.

Ghetto blasters, or 'boom boxes', are also being manufactured again, available from high-street retailers such as Argos, with the vintage styling updated to include thoroughly modern appointments such as Bluetooth and DAB digital radio.

The Official Charts Company has reported a huge surge in cassette tape sales and it compiles a weekly cassette-exclusive chart, separate from the main album chart, to record sales of this specific format.

Describing the cassette as “the unlikely comeback kid of music formats”, the Official Charts Company said there was a 103 per cent increase in cassette sales in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The price of new albums on cassette is decidedly wallet-friendly, typically under £10, compared to vinyl releases which frequently cost over £20, with some single-LP releases from high-profile artists even priced over £30. The diminutive nature of cassette tapes might also help explain their renewed appeal, more easily finding space in people's homes.

Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: “It’s fun to look back at some of the iconic tech through the ages and to see how the costs of these items have changed since their launch date.”

“It’s also interesting to see how much people were willing to spend on some of these pioneering pieces of tech and how far we’ve come in terms of the advancement of the technology and the variety of devices that are now available at much more affordable prices.”

"Most of the nation's favourite pieces of retro tech have depreciated in value over time as we’d expect. However, there are a few standout items such as the iconic Game Boy that have since become collector's items and now surpass their initial launch cost, with inflation applied.”

The top 10 consumer technologies that Brits miss the most:

1. Cassette tapes

2. Etch-a-sketch

3. Video tapes

4. Game Boy

5. Tamagotchi

6. Sega Megadrive

7. Early Nokia phones

8. Walkman

9. Hi-fi system

10. Kodak camera

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