04/19/2023 at 23:04 •
01/05/2023 at 22:21 •
This is something I was thinking about, having gotten my hands dirty in vacuum tubes, amplifiers, vintage electronics, but also materials for old-school manual and hot metal typesetting. See, as tech grows older, it becomes outdated and unpopular, superseded by something more modern... Happened with Linotype and Monotype. Happened with vinyl records, cassettes - hey, even CDs and portable MP3 players as these converged into phones. Same with computers, photo and video cameras, and while these are not my area of expertise, I guess cars are no exception here. Musical instruments, amplifiers, effect pedals, studio gear, whatnot... Decades ago the "last year's model" effect was not as prominent as today, things were generally built to last, if maintained properly and repaired when something broke (and they were actually possible to repair, but this one is not about the Right to Repair, or Right to Own Things).
These items, when their attractiveness or subjective usefulness (i.e. "can I still use it?" rather than "is it still useful, or at least usable?") passed, were either discarded, handed down to people who could still happily use them, or hidden away in basements, attics, storage spaces - often forgotten, sometimes found by accident. Thus, they lost all their value, became just another thing that takes space. Maybe even just a heap of junk. Trash. Sometimes treated as that, thrown away.
It is not said however that old tech will stay worthless forever. First of all, there's a small number of us retro geeks who are interested in old stuff, both for nostalgia and for its historical importance, or just for the quirks and engineering challenges that make the retro tech so much fun compared to the bland modern devices and components. Plus rediscovering the old art of electronics (or other stuff, mechanical engineering for example) has something in common with archaeology, delving into the lost and unknown. Maybe even something romantic and almost heroic? Like the Vault Dweller in the first Fallout game, who may find their way into a mysterious and dangerously contaminated high-tech research facility, rediscovering the story from before a century...
All is perfectly okay if that old-timer stuff keeps flying under a radar of wider public. Retro nerds always had their channels for exchanging information and trading items, still have them and it will surely stay this way, even if technical means will be different (remember those old IRC chats and phpBB forums? not as common as they used to be...). The problem arises when certain items become popular outside the small nerdy community, worse still when it hits wealthy collectors. They will soon catch a clue of vintage tech, even fight tooth and nail to get it, paying hefty amounts of cash. The sellers follow, because if there's someone who's gonna buy the item for a higher price, then why not ask that price? And more and more sellers follow, and what once was cheap and generally uninteresting tech, will become a rarity much sought after.
It's often thanks to pop culture (Steins Gate or Stranger Things, for example) or celebrities and youtubers (yes, the Techmoan effect!) that more and more people learn about the forgotten tech, reaching the critical mass of hype, and then the collectors and sellers come in. The more hype, the higher the demand, the higher the rise in prices. This is the right end of the bathtub curve drawn here, though... is it the end? I have yet to see the future of different retro technologies, if they will stay popular or fade and go cheap again.
12/09/2022 at 20:55 •
Check out this book, I can't recommend it enough! You'll be amazed by the intricacy of electronic components, both vintage and modern. We use them, we build stuff with them, but do we know what they are built of? See for yourselves!
Lots of thanks to @curiousmarc for getting me interested in that one. It was definitely worth it.