Sunday, February 27, National Retro Day! We thought we’d celebrate by looking back at some of our favorite retro tech items that bring back memories, ordered by age of the technology. Some of them will feel newer than they really are.
Taking us back, Victor’s pick is Vinyl Records and Turntables. Must be his love of salsa. Vinyl records have been around, in some form, since the late 1850’s. Records made it to the better known “disc” form in 1889, playing from a ‘graphophone’, and you spun them by hand. In 1948, RCA Victor (no relation) developed the beloved 45 rpm disc, or just “45’s” and the Beat Generation was formed. A 45 could hold 15 minutes on a single side, but it did have a neat feature; you could record on the other side! A single 45 could hold about 30 minutes of recordings… about half of what a CD could hold uncompressed.
Arcade video games were introduced in the early 1970’s, notably Pong as the first successful video game. It can be directly attributed to the success of the early arcade video games the fast development of computer systems in the 70’s and 80’s, as arcade goer’s demanded better gameplay, better graphics, and more developed story lines, which all required more processing power. But the success came at a price. In 1983, the market was saturated with poorly designed games, and the market suffered a crash. The arcade market recovered around 1986, but the rise of in-home game consoles marked the end for these cherished devices. There are arcade cabinet’s that are built with modern technology available today, but these are usually very expensive compared to modern game consoles.
Compact discs. The compact disc (CD for short) is a form of optical storage. First developed in 1982 by Philips and Sony to play audio recordings, the CD took computers by storm containing anything and everything from the mentioned audio recordings to archival storage for documents and such from computers. From day one, full sized CDs could hold just under 700MB of data… most hard drives in 1982 had a capacity of about 10MB. CDs took off in the 1990’s when the ability to write to CDs was made available to computer users via CD-Rs. CDs were only eclipsed when solid-state memory was made available in a small enough form to fit in your pocket. CDs are still manufactured today, mostly for niche markets like archival storage in which special CDs that can last over 1000 years are made.
The oldest in the office would like to recognize something a little more “modern” than the vinyl record. DSL, or digital subscriber line, is a form of internet access still used today, mostly in very rural areas. DSL is on its way out… so we will let him call it retro. Before DSL, internet access to the millions was only available at internet café’s or with dial-up internet (beedoo beeeeee ggrrraaaah). Dial up had a handful of speeds, but maxed out at 56KBps, or about 6% of the most popular broadband internet speed of 100MBps. In our area (Miami with first Southern Bell, then Bellsouth, then AT&T) DSL allowed speeds up to 6MBps; over 100 times the speed of dial-up!
Mike (1989 in the US):
Enter the gamers. St. Aubin’s resident millennial, Mike has a special memory bank for the Sega Genesis. The Genesis, known as the Mega Drive outside the US, was mostly a failure in Japan but quite the success in the US. The processor of the Genesis was able to run 16-bit games, and games came on ROM cartridges. For all those too young to remember, troubleshooting a cartridge game included the steps “gently blow on the cartridge and replace” followed by “if that didn’t work, blow harder”. The popularity of Sonic the Hedgehog and a very aggressive marketing campaign geared towards children made it the cool console for adolescents. The Genesis was console 1 in the “console war” in 1991. Over 30 million Genesis were sold worldwide, and many games have been remastered for modern consoles.
Josh (1991 in the US):
A fan favorite, and console 2 in the 1991 console war, Josh has picked the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES. Released in the US in 1991 (sparking the console war), the SNES was an instant hit due to the popularity of and established market of the NES. Also using ROM cartridges and a 16-bit capable processor, competition between the SNES and the Genesis was fierce. The US Congress got involved when the violent nature of games geared toward adolescents was seen as a national threat. Troubleshooting steps also included the magical blow… though it never said blow harder. The SNES was one of the first consoles to sport backward compatibility, assisting in its success in the US with users that already had NES games. Many of these games have been remastered and released on modern consoles as well.
One of Carlos’s fondest memories was a Game Compilation CD his dad bought when they still lived in Cuba. Game compilation CDs were popular in the US in the 90s and early 2000s when PC gaming began to rise. Prior to the internet, sharing small indie games was difficult, as they were too small to sell at a market price that would produce a profit in the mass market. Game compilation CDs solved the profitability problem by selling gamers many games in one disc. Instead of having only 1 game to play, gamers came home with many, and would enjoy hours of gameplay with a variety of games. As an added benefit, compilation CDs were usually cheaper than mainstream games.