90’s nostalgia is a hit on the internet. People pine for classic Nicktoons like Rocko’s Modern Life to return, high school kids think it’s cool to like 90’s music, and the entire Sega Genesis catalog is being made available for iPhones and Androids.
People are even nostalgic for not-so-good 90’s movies like Space Jam.
But why are 90’s tech gadgets becoming such a point of obsession?
It’s an interesting question: no matter how cool a decade is, tech is supposed to get continuously better. Is there really a reason for this explosion? We decided to find out.
The tech world’s tendency to overpromise and underdeliver may be best embodied by Nintendo’s early experiment with VR, the Virtual Boy. The device offered incredibly immersive 3D if the user could forget that the entire thing was in black and white and the device could cause headaches.
What was most bizarre about the Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s attempts to market it as “portable” when the device was clearly bulky and difficult to use.
Other tech devices became classics frozen in time. Think of the Walkman, Gameboy, and Playstation. Each device shaped the technology of its time and was incredibly common.
90’s tech was about experimentation and growth. There were some spectacular failures, in the form of overpriced early smartphones and bulky early tablets. The Virtual Boy, in particular, was exceptional in its failures.
There were other devices that were able to change the face of technology by influencing a generation of innovators to reach for the stars.
Today’s tech industry remains focused on creating highly polished apps and devices. There’s more consolidation in the industry, with iPhones being 30 percent of smartphones owned in the US.
We’re also seeing the results of 90’s era experimentation benefiting today’s consumers. This decade’s been defined by the birth of the iPhone, and smart devices have reached the point that we’re here debating smart TVs and refrigerators.
We also see many innovations ahead. Virtual and augmented reality headsets are just beginning to gain ground and wearable technology has become a lot more accessible. It’s clear we’ve gotten far away from the days of the Virtual Boy.
So why are we obsessed with 90’s technology today?
The answer is influence and imagination, mixed with good old-fashioned nostalgia for childhood.
Those in their 20’s and 30’s had their childhood defined by 90’s technology. Things like the Walkman, Gameboy, and Sega Genesis provided formative childhood memories for a generation of emerging adults.
They’ve also seen the groundwork of today’s tech built up from their youthful interests. The same spectacular ambitions that lead to failure or at the very least inaccessibility in the 1990’s lead to success today.
These devices might not have had the best hardware or software, but they certainly shaped our world.