EMAILED ON October 7, 2019 BY Mia Sullivan

Research shows new tech can help bring old tech back from the dead

Vinyl and film are making comebacks. Revenue from vinyl has been trending up for 15 years, and it’s on its way to becoming the largest source of revenue from physical sales in the US music industry. Previously discontinued film types are also being resurrected. 

Why is old tech coming back from the dead? Researchers say third-generation tech, like digital music and phone cameras, can help rejuvenate first-gen tech, like vinyl and film photography, if the newest products lack something valuable the originals offer.

In this case, it’s tangibility

80% of American music industry retail revenues come from streaming — the way most 21st-century people listen to music — but rising record sales suggest people still value owning physical albums. 

Same with photography. While high-quality phone cameras are ubiquitous, people still want physical photos and are drawn to the film aesthetic.  

In response, Fujifilm started selling black and white film again, Kodak re-released its vibrant Ektachrome film, and there are tons of instant film cameras on the market.

This news is good for vinyl but bad for CDs

The fact that CD sales are stagnant and digital camera shipments are declining illustrates another principle researchers found: although third-gen tech can be a boon to first-gen tech, it often cannibalizes second-gen tech — in this case, CDs and digital cameras.