Picture the scene - it’s teatime and your mum is repeatedly calling - and then shouting - up the stairs to your bedroom. You are deaf to her attempts; singularly engaged in gobbling up gold discs and fruit while trying to evade ghouls called Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.
It was difficult for our parents to prize us away from Pacman and our games consoles; we’d never seen anything like them before, and while parents today are met with similar challenges, the games and consoles are quite different.
But, the generation who remember the dawn of the ‘consumerisation’ of games and electronics, and the companies who pioneered the goods and games which changed Western childhoods forever - are coming of a nostalgic age. They have more expendable income than their childhood selves, and an interest in reliving some of that sense of beating the computer.
The likes of Walkman, ZX Spectrum, Space Invaders, Gameboy and Sonic The Hedgehog create stirrings unique to the youth of today’s 30 and 40-somethings, and a small number of manufacturers are hoping to recapture some of the joy brought by the exciting new technology of the time.
Anyone for pinball? The original machines, coin-operated versions of the 17th Century French game, Bagatelle, pre-date most of us, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a hardcore of fans who want to play. The machines were actually banned in New York City for over 30 years from the early 1940s! At the Hungarian Pinball Museum, opened last year, the 130+ machines are not just ornamental; every one can be played.
ZX appeal makes a come-back
This month the Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer is being re-launched through a crowdfunding initiative. The console, marketed from Bedfordshire company Retro Computers in which the original creator Clive Sinclair is a shareholder, will be for gaming only. Its appeal will largely be to the 30 and 40 somethings, nostalgic for an escape to the pixelated game worlds of their childhood. Played through a TV, the console goes by the name ‘Vega’ and will run all of the original games, being loaded with 1000 to start with. This re-styling of the original version, which was launched 33 years ago, and sold over 5 million units, definitely bears a resemblance to the original, but the keyboard has been replaced with a joy pad. If you are one of the Vega’s (admittedly niche) market, it will set you back £100.
It’s not just the hardware which is enjoying a renaissance. The computer games themselves are just as important to fulfilling that nostalgic yearning; a raft of games from the 1980s are now available to play on PCs or smartphones; think Asteroids, Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong. One study reports that Pacman has the highest brand awareness of any video game character, being recognised by 94% of America consumers. Back in 2010, on its 30th anniversary Pacman made an appearance as a Google Doodle - you can still play it here!
Walkman revival in name only
To many of us, a Sony Walkman is a small portable cassette player with headphones. The device which launched in 1979 allowed us take our music with us wherever we went, revolutionising the way kids and teens in particular, consumed music. At the Consumer Electronics (CES) show for 2015, Sony launched the new Walkman; the device’s similarities to the 20th century original is in name and basic functionality only. The new Walkman NW-ZX2 will be marketed and priced as a high-end and for audiophiles; it claims to be reach the parts that a smartphone cannot reach, with 60 hours battery life, high definition sound and 128GB of upgradeable memory and optional micro SD card. The Walkman runs on Android 4.2 operating system, allowing you to play videos and Google Play games.
At £950 it is not about to become a sensation, but tech commentators agree that it is worth the price-tag if audio quality is something users care deeply about. We think you need to be REALLY into your audio to buy into it. A standard MP3 Walkman is mere pocket money by comparison at a much more reasonable £59.99 - but it’s only retro in name.
Drink & drive your Mario Kart
If you love nothing better than to share your passion for 80s and 90s games with a few friends and a bottle of Bud, there are several options in London. London Bridge is home to The Old School Yard where you can play Mario Kart to your heart’s content on an original Nintendo 64. Or why not seek out the pop-up ‘retrogaming’ event Reztron?
Loving the low-tech
In fact, for a few years now we’ve been seeing a return to all kinds of retro-tech products. Look out for the resurgent flip-phone as, in Japan at least, the design is growing faster than the smartphone. Editor in Chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour was seen using a $15 flip-phone at the US Open recently, so it appears that low-tech style has fashion’s royal seal of approval. According to the Daily Mail, good condition 1990s phone models are highly sought after on Ebay by those looking for simpler, app free phones with long battery life - and of course, a retro look.
Watch this space for our round-up of the best retro style promotional products - coming soon.