80s Technology Gets a New Look

As time goes on, we grow nostalgic for the “simplicities” of yesteryear. What was once a hulking radio-transmitter fitted with a tape deck holding 12 songs has now become a pencil-thin computer with the ability to categorize and sort every song you’ve ever heard.

Refurbished technology has come to be important for many reasons–amongst which are ecological and economic concerns–but many have considered the possibilities of utilizing this process for the sake of art. Artists and innovators have taken the old 1980′s technology and gadgets and turned them into something eye-catching and perhaps inspiring. Here are some brief examples of modern spins on outdated technology:

Let’s start off with the example I’ve already provided: the Sony Walkman.

This revolutionary piece of technology, popularized in 1980, gave birth to the idea of “the mix tape.” Music lovers could fashion their blank tape to hold their favorite tracks, or artists that inspire some kind of mood worth sharing. Then, with the rise of cheap CDs and MP3′s, the era of the mix tape had come to a bitter and tragic end.

Next comes the Commodore 64. Initially sold with a 64kb memory, many argued that this was the largest amount of hardware memory anyone would ever need. It was a popular product in 1982, especially because it could be easily plugged directly into any home television set. What was once used to play simplistic games like Asteroids and Paper Boy can now–through the miracle of refurbishment–play such modern games as Guitar Hero.

In 1985, we were introduced to the latest in home entertainment: The VHS Player. The video cassette player was meant to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it wasn’t too long before hints of its early extinction began to arise. The Laser Disc was gaining some attention, but not nearly enough to pose a significant threat. But when CDs replaced cassette tapes, the dark future of the VHS player began to come into focus. Obviously, you’re never going to get rid of all those old VHS tapes lying around your house. The future is currently in the semi-capable hands of Sony and their Blu-Ray discs–but here’s something to pass the time anyway…

VHS Hack!

It should be no secret where Nintendo has taken us over the past 20+ years. Their products have captured the imaginations of so many and pulled through several major trial and error periods. The NES system of 1986 has such high staying-power that refurbished and re-built versions of it are still being sold as “new” quality almost everywhere on the internet today, despite the breakthrough of the Nintendo Wii and buzz around Nintendo‘s next generation system.

Typically, when one thinks of “refurbished” technology, they think “used” or “of lesser quality than new.” The truth is that most refurbished technology turns out to be better or more reliable than the new products themselves. People who professionally refurbish gadgets and hardware learn to weed out the bugs, restore run-down elements, and build it back up to last. This goes for everything from an old 1986 Nintendo Entertainment System to a 3G Apple iPhone.

–Alex Gross

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