Demand for vintage items like typewriters, records and movies grows, even as Big Tech launches the metaverse

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  • As people tire of screens, vintage technology like typewriters and recordings are back.
  • Insider spoke to sellers of records, typewriters, vintage video games, and cameras.

Gramercy Typewriters, one of New York’s last typewriter stores, looks like a portal to another era.

“Our shelves are a little empty right now,” said Nick Campano, a salesman in a checkered suit and blue velvet jacket, pointing to a dozen typewriters lining the walls of the narrow store. “We sold six machines yesterday.”

In the last five minutes, three customers and a dog have walked through the store door. Business is booming, Campano explained, and sales only increased during the pandemic – mainly thanks to young customers.

“I think it has to do with being fed up with looking at our computer screen,” he said. “We watch it so much… that what is old has become new again.”

And it’s not just typewriters. Vinyl Retro records, cameras and video games have all seen an increase in popularity over the past two years, sellers told Insider.

DKOldies, a family-owned vintage games company based in Morgantown, Pa., Has been “considerably busier” this year than ever.

“It’s been pretty tough getting all of these orders out,” said Joey Walker-Denny, who heads the social media department at DKOldies. The most popular products right now include the Nintendo 64, GameCube, and Wii consoles, he told Insider.

Gramercy Typewriter sales associate Nick Campano stands outside the retail store.Hannah Towey / Insider

The same goes for vintage cameras, according to Silvio Cohen, vice president of sales at the Adorama camera store in New York City.

“There is a much greater demand for analog cameras or film cameras,” he said. “It saves you from having to use a computer for everything in your life.”

The retro aesthetic has become so popular that mobile apps like Dispo, which require you to wait a day before viewing your photos, are being used for the sole purpose of mimicking the experience of a disposable camera.

Why intentionally downgrade a $ 1,000 iPhone to mimic a $ 13 camera? Or write on a device without a spell check or delete key?

Some researchers would say that the answer lies in the 20 year cycle nostalgia: in the 2020s, the year 2000 is all the rage. Others defend the “Golden rule of 40 years”, asserting that “the main site of nostalgia is still everything that happened, or is supposed to have happened, in the decade between 40 and 50”.

The difference this time around is that the technology is deeply ingrained in our recent memories of the past. As Kyle Chayka explained in a New Yorker article exploring the recent boom in pixel art, we are in the midst of the “first wave of digital nostalgia”.

Add in a global pandemic, constant Zoom meetings, new addiction to TikTok, and limited in-person interaction, and you get “Line fatigue”, giving rise to a strong desire for simpler times – whatever the decade.

In the case of vinyl sales, the past two years have just accelerated a trend that was already there, Sharone Bechor, CEO of the Rock and Soul record store, told Insider.

“Vinyl has been steadily increasing over the past five years,” she said. “During the pandemic, people were less on the move… they were at home and they were just enjoying their lives.”

But while many tried to distance themselves from their screens, the creators of the technology argued the opposite – a virtual reality that you must never leave. This so-called “metaverse”, recently featured in Facebook’s renaming to Meta, has been mentioned at least 449 shares on third quarter earnings calls.

Even with Web 3.0 on the horizon, vendors say they believe the technology of our past is here to stay.

“I feel something different when I flip through the pages of a photo album… it’s not the same when you just look at it on your phone and swipe,” Bechor said. “There’s something special about having something tangible that you wouldn’t get from the Metaverse.”


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