The long life of old tech (aka when millennials discovered TV aerials)

Posted on by Guy Cookson

1947 Longines Single-Button Flyback ‘Chronostop’ – sold on Hodinkee for $29,000

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal millennials across America have been sharing details of how to watch a range of major television channels without paying.

The new technology they have discovered? The aerial.

“I was just kind of surprised that this is technology that exists,” a 28 year-old told the newspaper. “It’s been awesome. It doesn’t log out and it doesn’t skip.”

The pace of technological change is now so fast it is perhaps not surprising this kind of thing happens.

Sometimes we are so quick to adopt new things we forget what came before.

But there are plenty of old technologies that have thrived way past the date when many assumed they would expire.

A great example is the analogue watch. After surviving the first digital onslaught spearheaded by Casio in the 1980s, traditional Swiss-made wristwatches remain popular, even in the age of the connected smartwatch.

The market for vintage watches has never been bigger, thanks to websites like Hodinkee, which curates and sells some of the best examples.

And high-end watchmakers are still finding a significant, if smaller, audience for their new products.

It is a safe bet that misty eyed grandfathers will be passing mechanical timepieces down to their grandchildren long after the last screen has gone black on the current crop of Apple Watches.

Vinyl is another technology that refuses to die, and one that helps illustrate how change is not linear, but messy and overlapping.

People buying vinyl records today also probably use streaming services like Spotify for music discovery and when on the move.

The two can happily co-exist, just as radio survived the advent of television, and TV lived on despite the internet.

In fact, according to the British Phonographic Industry, vinyl sales are on track to be the highest in 20 years, with 1.2 million expected to be sold by the close of 2017.

But perhaps the most interesting technology to refuse to be extinguished is the oldest of them all.

After decades of bricking up fireplaces in favour of gas or electric imitations, the nation has been in a frenzy of wood burning stove installations. Now that is progress.

A popular Charnwood multi-fuel stove.

This post first appeared as a weekly column in the Lancashire Post, Lancaster Guardian and Blackpool Gazette.

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