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The Retro Revival: How Digital Technology has fueled the Return of the Old
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The Retro Revival: How Digital Technology has fueled the Return of the Old

For those of us who are unfamiliar with the vinyl, they are those large black disks with holes at the center that used to be played on “turntables”.

Did I just say “used to be”? Actually, they are not ancient history like you may think. In 2015 alone, the revival of the vinyl saw its lovers buy a whopping 9.2 million records. In fact, although vinyl sales constitute only about 2% of record industry revenues currently, they have surged by up to 250% since 2009.

And the comeback of the vinyl is not alone: old-fashioned paper-&-ink books experiencing a renaissance despite the onslaught from ebooks; the sale of mechanical timepieces is surging despite having been once shunned in the advent of quartz crystal-powered watches; even archaic board games are coming back.

Modern consumers also tend to be obsessed with wanting to highlight their connoisseurship and distinguishing themselves from mainstream products. This is partly the reason why many are turning to purchasing retro products made via simple manufacturing. It is a rejection of mass production that reminds of the craft revival of the late 19th century that made artists print volumes in limited numbers using letter presses, handcrafted binding and traditional ink and paper in response to the advent of industrial book presses then.

However, contrary to what most of us may think, this revival of the old is not necessarily a rejection of the new. Rather, digital technology has played a major role in making the renaissance possible. To a large extent, this reawakening is part of a wider design trend that also includes retro-inspired interior decoration, cars as well as wine labels. 

Therefore, the return of the retro should not be completely separated from the new. In a way, rather than being substitutes, both are complements to each other. Many new board games are being funded via Internet-based crowd-sourcing ventures like Kickstarter that connects designers to small investors. The printing of books has become more efficient with new indexing software, digital production platforms for text editing and even new forms of mass printing.

The rise of the use of computers and the Internet has facilitated the development of specialized markets for niche products. Technology has become an enabler for the revival to take place.

Image source: flickr.com

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