Retro technology

Shock of the old

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Pac-man

Dave Cook revels in the joys of retro technology

In some ways Jack Black and Mos Def’s new film Be Kind Rewind highlights the end of an era for old technology such as the VHS. Today it’s hard to imagine DVD disappearing completely and being replaced by Blu-Ray and HD DVDs, but the sad fact is that it has to happen sometime. You just never know how soon.

Despite advances in technology, many people feel nostalgic for the good old days of clunky video recorders and computer games on cassette that took a day-and-a-half to load. Who doesn’t remember watching videos of Alien or Candyman underage while round at their mate’s house while their parents were asleep? It was just so much more user friendly (and scratch resistant) than DVD. There were no ‘this function is not accessible at this point’ warnings and you could skip the piracy blurb by simply pressing fast forward. And, of course, recording was so much simpler on VHS. Remember the excitement you felt when you bought your first ever ‘album’ on cassette? And vinyl? It still sounds better than any other music format in existence.

For those who refuse to let go of the past, it can be difficult tracking down these ‘artefacts’ of technology gone by. Major stockists have given old vinyl and game consoles the boot while many consumers today are content with their iTunes and PlayStation 3s. Some stockists are defiant and hold onto these items because there is still a demand for them. Avalanche (34 Dundas Street, Glasgow and 63 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh) 23rd Precinct (23 Bath Street, Glasgow) and Vinyl Villains (5 Elm Row, Edinburgh) are just the tip of the iceberg for music rarities, picture discs and nostalgia.

Even retro games are coming back into style. Take download services such as Wii Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade; these are chock-full of classic titles that, for a small fee (usually £3–£8), let you purchase the kinds of titles that set the foundations for pretty much every platform game that has ever existed unaltered and just as you remember them, from Super Mario Bros to Sonic the Hedgehog. However, for the purist who prefers to have an actual physical copy of a game rather than a download, there are many independent stores and smaller chains that are handy when looking for that evasive copy of Duck Hunt on the NES. CHiPS (136 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, www.chipsworld.co.uk) is a great place to start but their prices often reflect how rare a title is; it’s not one to visit on a tight budget. G-Force (77 Union Street, Glasgow) dabbles in retro and imported goodies and every so often a few real gems will appear on the shelf.

The best retro gaming site on the web for Atari would have to be www.retrogames.co.uk. As for that venerable old classic, the walkman, Maplin still deal in them online at www.maplin.co.uk. VCRs can be tracked down on the net (www.pixmania.co.uk stock a range of combined DVD/VHS recorders and www.tesco.com sell their Funai 29-B250 VCR at just £31.88). As for VHS cassettes, most secondhand stores (Cash Generator and their ilk) and charity shops sell them cheaply, and if you keep your eyes peeled you can pick up a few gems that still haven’t made the leap to DVD.

And if you want something more specific there’s always eBay. Happy hunting.

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