When items become a victim of technological progress

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The next post in our series of getting closer to respondents looks at a nation of nostalgic hoarders. Ok, maybe that’s a little unfair of me! This inspiration for these questions came from a late night discussion in Oslo with a few of my colleagues. What items do we still own which we no longer have the means to use or play?

Nostalgia is an interesting and powerful emotion, many of us can remember our first Walkman, the feel of it snapping shut, or the noise as it chewed up our favourite tape (Old school technology “freeze”). In this short study we looked at items which are slowly becoming obsolete.

I’ve been ruthless and thrown mine out for this exact reason… however, a whopping 52% of people who still own floppy disks, no longer have means to use them. A third people no longer have the means to play mini disks, cassette tapes, VHS tapes or records and yet these things are still taking up space in lounges, bedrooms attics and basements across the UK.

When we asked people to estimate the value of these items (including music CD’s) which are slowly becoming obsolete, we discovered the average respondent is hoarding £150 worth of old items. Floppy disks, mini disks, CDs and records being the most valuable on average with cassette and VHS tapes holding the least monetary value to people.

Of all the reasons people keep things, nostalgia was by far the most popular reason. Except in the case of floppy disks where half of respondents do not know why they are holding on to them. Music CDs are mostly likely to be irreplaceable and collectors’ items while mini disks were most likely to be held on to in order to show future generations. The discussion of what nostalgia brings us is perhaps too long and too deep for this short piece although consensus seems to be it can be good for us!

It is interesting to see how many of these things are now stored in the cloud or provided by a different service type already. My Walkman became an Ipod with music bought from Itunes. Now I own a subscription to Spotify, but no music of my own. My computer storage, documents, music, photos, videos etc. were all stored on external hard drives as back up and are now all stored in the cloud. The business impact of the digital world is hard to quantify; from services to digitalise old photos to how we own music and movies in future given the rise of streaming services and digital content. 

So many of these old items, the kids of today will have never seen in action. While it is funny to watch them scratch their heads as they try to figure out how to use a Walkman, it leaves me wondering, given the speed of technological advance: What will they be nostalgic for in 30 years’ time?