Although many of the devices listed below may be confined to your garages or dusty drawers, the influence they had on modern technology is pretty much unsurpassed.
Today’s infographic from Safe Company is a throwback to the 1980s and 1990s, making us nostalgic for the heyday of these popular gadgets.
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Tech Goes Mobile
The gadgets of the 80s and 90s were all about taking existing technology and making it more enjoyable while on the go, rather than solely being useful in the home or office. Even if that meant devices that were “portable” in name only, it was a huge step forward.
Devices like the Game Boy, Walkman, early Nokia phones, and other mobile technologies helped lead engineers to solve the problems that would lay the ground for today’s “world in the palm of your hand”. Improving power consumption efficiency, developing new battery types, reducing size, creating screens that were readable in a variety of light conditions, and even opening up the demand for aftermarket accessories were among these advancements.
Broadening Media Access
The latter 20th century will be remembered for democratizing access to all kinds of information, both for work and for play. Technologies of the 90s set a precedent for the bite-sized span of modern digital attention. Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia suite allowed comprehensive keyword search before the optimization of online alternatives. Simply type a word, and get every piece of information related to it – without the need to purchase updated versions including new data each year. It sounds almost comical to tout these as features in the age of Google, but compare Encarta to the alternative: carrying around a set of Encyclopedias!
On the leisure side, the wildly faddish Tamagotchi feels like a forebear of 2010-era mobile games – cleverly designed to create a cycle of short, addictive bursts of play with a low cost of access. The ever beeping, cutesy reward loop of caring for your Tamagotchi may have annoyed a generation of parents, but it inspired a whole genre of bite-size digital entertainment.
Even the Walkman launched a new frontier of access to media through the creative possibilities of mixtape-making, bootlegging, and sharing tapes. I’m sure anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s had a shoebox full of favorite tracks taped from radio and vinyl… or was that just me?
Old Tech, Lasting Impact
Though it is easy to downplay the quaint technologies that came nearly thirty years ago, we can’t ignore that its influence is in the DNA of the devices and digital interactions we encounter every day. Go back through your closets, dig out your Game Boy, and take a trip back in time to remember the curiosities and comforts of old-school tech!
Article by Chris Matei, Visual Capitalist