What's with the Millennial/Zoomer fascination with old crap?

So in this thread, we go into a lot of depth about old abandoned formats of various sorts making comebacks. Vinyl records, photographic film, etc… Apparently something like 60% of photographic film users have started using it in the past 5 years, and 30% are under 35 years old.

I’m a Gen-X person, and generally subscribe to the onward & upward mentality that characterized my parents and their parents - newer is generally better. Cassette tapes were more portable than records, CDs sounded better, didn’t wear, and were considerably smaller and less fragile. Digital cameras just beat the shit out of film in nearly every regard. I never had ANY urge to go back to cylinder recordings, or medium format film when I was a kid- LPs and 35mm or 110 were just better and more convenient. And now that I’m using digital cameras, I don’t look back on 35mm with any real fondness either. Same for records. Or CDs for that matter. I never have wanted to go scrounge up an old 19" B&W tv and watch anything on that either.

But there’s apparently a significant cohort of young people who think it’s cool for some reason to go back and use the old obsolete stuff their parents and grandparents happily kicked to the curb decades ago.

My question is why? There are very good reasons that the older tech has ceased to have an effective presence in the marketplace, which are usually some combination of quality, durability, portability and ease of use. There seems to be some sort of fascination with the technology of the past among today’s young people and at risk of sounding like a grumpy old fart, it’s something I don’t get at all.

That’s true of technology, but not of fashion.

Fashion tends to be somewhat cyclical though- beards were popular in the 19th century, and they’re popular again. At some point, clean-shaven will be the thing again I’m sure. And for some things, it’s not so much a move away from modern, but a rediscovery of essentially lost arts (the renaissance in cocktails/mixed drinks for example).

What I’m talking about is more of a situation where technological advancements have made something better in one or more ways, and the old technology has been discarded. And now younger generations are picking it up and using it for… reasons? I’m curious why- it’s not like the old stuff like LPs or film were markedly better quality than say… CDs or digital photographs.

And I suspect that those reasons have more to do with fashion than with function. They select their photographic equipment or their music-playing equipment the way many people select their transportation equipment (i.e. cars) or clothing.

Just because it’s newer doesn’t make it better. A lot of the new tech is there simply because ‘they can’. Some stick around, others might become a brief fad.
Vinyl records do sound better - played on the right equipment. Vinyl and CD both surpass MP3, which exists primarily because it’s a lossy format and one can fit a whole lot of sound onto a relatively small drive. In most instances none of this matters because most don’t own playback equipment capable of distinguishing the difference to any great relevance. And many simply don’t care - convenience over quality for them.
I always enjoy when I throw on old LP’s from time to time. However I’m now too damn lazy to get up every 15-20 minutes to turn the record over - a sad state of affairs in itself.
I’d bet that unless people have over 5 grand invested in equipment, more people are buying turntables & vinyl because it’s trendy.
I can’t speak to film vs digital cameras. Pretty sure overall quality of photos has decreased though. In the old days of film, people would be more selective and take more time shooting photos. They had the cost of film and developing to keep in mind. Now we can throw away any photos we don’t like, but I reckon if truth be told most of those shots taken while on vacation have been kept in a file somewhere. Soooo, now we end up sorting through 50 shots to find a keeper instead of sorting through 10 shots to find a keeper.

Interesting. I don’t ever recall it being fashionable to deliberately go backward on stuff like that, save maybe muscle cars, and I think that was more of a special case. Nobody wanted a 1970 sedan when I was in high school, while a 1970 Mustang would have been prized.

But nobody said “Man, those 8-tracks are cool. I want one of those, rather than a cassette or CD player in my dashboard.” in 1990.

Hipster culture is a huge part of this. It’s ironic to these folks to use old/impractical/obsolete devices. Of course, they want to ensure someone sees them doing it. I’m pretty sure none of them listen to their cassette Walkman alone at home, but they’re definitely going to have it clipped on their belt on the subway, complete with old school foam headphones.

The idea that any given person is the special exception that can hear something on a CD or a vinyl record (!) that isn’t on an MP3 is scientifically ridiculous, and I don’t know that most people who use old media actually subscribe to that nonsense.

There’s nothing wrong with “fashion” or a general interest in how older, more mechanical things worked. In my case the reason I have a lot of physical media is because the promise of the digital revolution turned out to be a total crock. 90% of books from the past have never been properly digitized and I don’t want to subscribe to 18 different streaming services to watch movies, many of which also are not legally available anywhere, so I have a lot of physical books and discs. The “long tail” is a lie and the shift to digital everything has meant that only the most popular things are available at all.

Note that the “old crap” that is the most popular is the stuff that give a different experience that is sometimes better or at least leave room for hipsters to state that it’s better.

Vinyl records have a particular sound that has been considered superior (right or wrong) over every technological advancement since. They’ve also always been more collectible than their “replacements”.

Photographic film cameras have a pleasing “mechanicality” to them, and you get a hands on physical representation of the image you took. And resolution wise it is as good as your average digital alternative.

In contrast collecting and using DVDs, CDs, cassette tape, VHS, DVDs etc. is a niche hobbyist or technological holdover activity.

I still have LPs bought in the 1960’s that I can play with only minimal loss of fidelity.

I’ve had quite a few CD’s becomes spontaneously unplayable.

LPs represent a technology that, while it had drawbacks and limitations, also has a certain longevity.

Then there is my sewing machine - pre-electrical 1910 treadle machine. Still works just fine and it’s my main machine for sewing. Again, there are limitations and drawbacks, but you can say the same about a very modern sewing machine, such as greater expense for most repairs.

Newer isn’t always better, or preferred. Sometimes, it’s just different or more fashionable - which aren’t bad things, either.

As for the “I don’t understand it”. Do you also find it incomprehensible that some people enjoy practicing archery? Guns have been around forever and are much better for making holes in targets after all.

Not really. There’s almost always an intended benefit of some kind - quality, durability, accessibility, ease of sharing, etc… Whether or not it succeeds in the marketplace is dependent on whether people perceive it as better or not, and vote with their wallets.

So for the stuff that’s become adopted, it was “voted” on in a crowdsourced sort of way through purchases because people liked it more. It’s not perfect- sometimes slightly better products lose out due to other effects than absolute quality (see Beta vs. VHS), but in terms of generational change it holds true. If people had not liked digital cameras, they would have continued buying film. Same for CDs and cassettes vs. LPs. Or cars vs. horsed-carriages. Or computers vs. typewriters. Or treadle sewing machines vs. electric-motor powered ones.

So in some sense, new has been voted better for every technological evolution like those. That’s what I’m not getting- are these people buying $5k stereo systems to tell the difference between a LP and CD (assuming their ears are good enough in the first place)? What about digging out old Nikon SLR cameras? Or are they just doing it because it’s “cool” and dinking around with P&S cameras and film?

There are probably people from both categories.

I think many gen-xers (like myself) lived through a period of seeing our grandparents and parents hoard so much old crap that that it really left a bad taste in our mouths. If you were ever tasked with having to go through a deceased relatives lifetime accumulation of stuff you go into a “just get rid of it” mode that never wears off and you swear to yourself you will never amass old useless possessions.
Millennials may now have parents who live a decluttered lifestyle and grandparents in retirement community homes, condos, trailers, etc that have gotten rid of these possessions long ago. They may be fascinated by finding something dad or grandpa had in their youth and have no other way to check it out.

I think there’s also an element of just how BAD some of the old stuff was, and how much better the newer stuff was/is. I mean, despite this fashion trend, we don’t see people going and buying tube color TVs, or 110 film cameras, or anything like that. I mean, in most cases it was seen as an unquestionable step up for one reason or another. I mean, I was something of a hobby photographer in the film days, and digital was so much more entertaining that I haven’t looked back. I don’t miss film one bit. I’m not stuck lugging film around, I don’t have to pay for it and its developing/printing, I get more than 24/36 shots per roll, and so on. I can see what I took right away and correct, without having to take lots of (expensive) shots and hope for the best later on after it’s developed.

I kind of think that if you grew up with digital cameras, film might be intriguing, but only in the sense that you know that you can always go back to your phone camera or whatever.

My replies in the thread cited by the OP more than touched on this. Streaming music, like taking photos, with an ever-present, idiot-proof phone is so easy, effortless, mundane, and available to anyone, regardless of skill or dedication, that there is a perceived value in doing things in ways that are more laborious, more involved, and also rarer for the cool factor.

Isn’t the question in this thread just “What is nostalgia?”

There’s no doubting the quality and efficiency of modern tech.

I bought my first CD player when they became affordable ($400 for a CD player). I never got into the stratospherically expensive vinyl stereo equipment, but on a passably good record player I could still hear the needle going through the groove. My friend went out and got a CD player when he listed to my classical piano CD, and in absolutely crystal clear sound on a moderately priced stereo system, you could even hear the piano pedals squeak during the recording. My copy of “CCR’s Greatest Hits” was an interesting tour of the evolution of studio recording quality, since the original did very little digital cleaning up of recording studio white noise - which gets noticeably less over the years as each new hit was recorded. Today - I dragged some old CD’s from the 1980’s recently to re-digitize. Everything is on MP3 and to my non-discerning old ears, sounds marvelous and is incredibly convenient.

My first digital camera was 2.4Mp; the pictures it produced I described at the time as “painfully sharp”, more detail than I got with 35mm film and consistently so. I have one blown up to 11x14 and it is still acceptable. Again, maybe it’s because I used “OK” equipment, but my pics, even 35mm SLR, were never that sharp. I used to develop my own pics (I even tried a hand at colour developing). When I moved in 2007 my darkroom equipment, untouched for a decade, went into the dump. It’s not even worth buying a nice high quality colour printer - Costco will do poster-sized prints for about $20 and snapshots by the dozens for peanuts.

I have my dad’s Curta hand calculator from the 1950’s - fascinating (Speaking of houses full of accumulated junk). It will do 11-digit math in something smaller than a soda can; but I don’t use it regularly. My computer and hand calculator work far better.

This is the thing - vinyl or film is an affectation, a fun thing, for people who have never had to endure the frustration or limitations when that was the only choice. It’s like camping - people who have to live in the wilderness would probably never choose camping as a hobby, but those surrounded by modern life will do it - knowing they can hop back in the SUV and order a pizza any time they change their mind.

Speaking of junk, I took hundreds of photos, negatives and slides my dad accumulated, and digitized them. So much easier to clean up a picture on the computer - I even tried an AI colourizing service, which conveniently was able to produce colourize childhood pics of my uncle for his funeral memorial.

All this reminds me of my father-in-law’s story of one of his friends. When they were growing up in the 50’s, his friend was totally enamored with the '57 Chevy, and dreamed of owning one but could never afford it. Around 2000 he finally got to drive one for a while at an antique car show. His reaction? “What a piece of shit!!”

I know a couple of professional photographers that started in film, transitioned to digital, but still like occasionally playing with film as a hobby. Part of it (for one of them) is enjoying hands-on development, part of it is the mental difficulty imposed about having to think much more carefully about composition, part of it is the small subjective superiority many feel film still has in black and white photography specifically due to the different ways film handles dynamic range vs. digital.

So part just enjoying puttering around with an older technology in the lab, part a deliberate challenge posed by the limitation of the older technology, part a possible and subjective small advantage conferred by the older technology.

That’s what I was getting at when I (and md-2000) said that it’s something someone young might play around with, secure in the knowledge that they’re backstopped by the new tech, and won’t actually HAVE to use the old stuff for anything important.