With the advancement of modern technology, we are about to witness a strange and counter intuitive phenomenon that will be called something along the lines of “Retro Tech” (noun) and “Retro Tech-ing” (verb). Our smartphones have become so powerful, that there are a number of completely sane and logical arguments to never let it out of one’s sight. It is my observation that smart phones and devices are also introducing a number of harmful behavioral modification issues. Walk into any restaurant today, a place where people used to engage each other in meaningful conversation and instead we see entire tables of people staring down at their phones.
Retro Tech is the intentional use of older technology to accomplish equivalent tasks that new technology can easily perform, but is otherwise undesirable for associated problems that might come with the new technology.
For example, most everyone I know either sleeps with or near their smartphone. The result is that instead of getting to sleep early, we find ourselves staring at our devices, surfing the internet, news or social media. This can go on for several hours if one is not mindful. Same thing in the am when one does not have work or an appointment. How many mornings have been wasted surfing the internet from bed on a smart device?
I recently had a discussion with a friend about this opportunity for distraction, and how I now leave my iPhone in another room when I go to bed (highly recommended if you have never tried it), her answer was “I can’t do that! I wouldn’t hear my alarm and get up for work on time!” and there is the excuse that justifies the continued wise use of a smart phone, despite the risk and potential for distraction to use it in other undesirable ways.
This is where “retro tech” comes in; that old digital alarm clock that has one function and nothing more. To help wake you up in the morning. No smart phone, no chance of surfing the internet.
If you do not think Retro Tech is an actual thing (it is), there are now cell phones that are significantly stripped down and "less connected". No apps, no fancy cameras. Just a cell phone and ability to send messages:Retro Tech Phone
I find myself slowly going back to a pen and physical notebook instead of making digital notes in my smart device, simply because it helps me stay on task better than opening my iPhone and surprise there are 10 text messages waiting for me. Ill even keep a standard flashlight near my bed to make notes in such a notepad, simply because I do not want a smart phone nearby at night.
Several of friends mine have completely deleted their social media accounts for various reasons, but the most common is to avoid the distractions that come associated with it, including wasting time, on-line arguments, or feeling as their privacy is invaded. How often do you look for something on Amazon, only to find a never-ending stream of ads for that product in different places. Yes, with tech comes less privacy and some find it too invading.
For years I had a BGAN unit, which allowed me to access the internet anywhere in the world during disaster aid trips, but the device itself was too big, and heavy for what I did. I learned I could do the same with a much smaller, older and lighter satellite phone. So even thought the BGAN unit gave far more capacity and firepower, it wasn’t worth it for the hassle and cost.
Another problem with Tech, is that it can make life too convenient
and instead of engaging each other in real world ways, we click a like button and that is that. I haven't written a blog article like this for literally years, thinking that a few pictures now and then are enough to keep my blog visitors satisfied. How shallow and insignificant! Yes, it might take an hour to write an article like this, but the result is more meaningful and thought provoking. Imagine that, actually writing my thoughts down, instead of just posting a picture quickly means more
. Would you prefer many smaller, less meaningful interactions with others, or one or two quality ones? There are many who might have started to read this but stopped because it wasn't short enough. "Too many words." lol
Sometimes I will write actual letters and mail them instead of texting someone, because it is more meaningful to the recipient. How fun it is to receive an actual physical letter in the mail! As a producer, sometimes I will take polaroids on set to give to the cast or crew, simply because it is more meaningful- only they will have that one physical image.
Retro Tech is also making headway in other less practical ways. Air Jordans and ancient Nintendo video game systems are still as popular as ever even despite far more advanced substitutes being available, not because they are more useful, but because they are more cool. Some of the gaming systems are just jaw dropping in terms of the graphics, storyline and speed of play, but they aren’t nearly as fun as the original Super Mario. I believe sometimes products are improved too much and actually become less than desirable because of it.
Yes, technology is incredible. There is no question it improves our efficiency and productivity, when used wisely. But like a knife or car, such tools can also be used in ways that are harmful. Tech today actually comes after you with messages, push notifications, ads, etc. I think as a society we are still getting a grasp on how to maintain discipline of these powerful tools, and until then going “retro” might be the answer.
Michael Andrew is an efficiency and productivity guru and the author of “The Efficiency Playbook” which is scheduled for release in April 2017. The book will be given away for free to all of his newsletter subscribers.