DECEMBER 12, 2016

Tech Nostalgia: Where Next for the Industry?


Tech buzzwords such as 'innovation', 'forward-thinking' and 'progress' usually dominate the thinking of people within the industry, and the columns of those who report on it. However, now a new trend is emerging in the tech-space – 'nostalgia.'

To be clear, this nostalgia is not going to take over, and dominates tech produced that is aimed directly at consumers, not at businesses. This said, two recent releases including Samsung’s Staedtler stylus, and the re-release of the Nokia 3310, demonstrate a return of retro in tech.

A closer look, however, actually reveals two quite different motives behind these two launches.

The Nokia 3310 release appears to be a concession by the tech industry that there are some areas of life where people don’t want to use expensive tech for fear of it being damaged, lost or stolen. This is not to say that the tech industry is not working incredibly hard to allay or work around these fears that people have, so that in the future there will be no aspect of life, whether it is a walk in the wet, muddy countryside, or a round-the-world backpacking extravaganza where it won’t be safe and convenient to carry the latest tech with you. It certainly seems to constitute a temporary step-back, however.


The release of the Staedtler stylus, which is essentially the latest version of Samsung’s stylus (the S Pen), repackaged to resemble the infamous black and yellow Staedtler pencil, reveals a quite different impulse – to integrate the tech world with the analogue world. Staedtler themselves have said as much in a statement, revealing, 'We believe that analogue skills, such as writing, drawing and crafting play a necessary and complementary role in the digital world as they build a foundation for human development. With the Noris digital for Samsung, Staedtler can build a bridge between these two worlds.'

To do this, they've tapped into something we all remember, and that feels fundamentally safe and unthreatening. It’s the same impulse that has led to the updates to Amazon Alexa which gave her catchphrases like 'Bazinga' from popular culture to soften the blow of such potentially invasive tech.

So, while these two product releases have been packaged together by much of the tech press, they actually reveal two distinct paths for the tech industry – to admit temporary defeat, or continue to innovate and integrate.