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Retro tech - the cost of iconic devices through the decades

From early smash hits like the Etch-a-sketch and the Tamagotchi (remember those?) to the latest mobile phone phenomenon, the UK’s love affair with buying new technology has developed through the decades to become a national pastime.
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The average UK adult now owns 11 pieces of tech and almost a third of consumers we spoke to said they had planned to increase their tech collections by up to 5 new pieces this Black Friday.

To delve further into the nation’s passion for tech products, we have gone retro and looked at which items over the last 60 years have secured their place in our hearts, and which ones we wish would make a comeback.

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As part of our research, we asked more than 2,000 consumers to tell us their favourite gadgets from the last six decades, how much they paid for them, and what they were planning to buy this Black Friday.

Iconic technology launches throughout the decades 

Check out the below timeline which compiles a selection of the most iconic technology launches over the last century and details how much each item was worth - both then and now.

Retro Tech: Landing page copy (image)

The top 10 pieces of technology Brits miss the most

  • Cassette tapes

  • Etch-a-sketch

  • Video tapes

  • Gameboy

  • Tamagotchi

  • Sega Megadrive

  • Early nokia phones

  • Walkman

  • Hi-Fi system

  • Kodak camera 

The classic cassette tape holds the number one place in the nation’s hearts as the piece of tech they miss the most. 

While it doesn’t match the meteoric return of vinyl sales, in positive news for those yearning for a come back for cassette tapes, The Official Charts Company has reported a huge surge in cassette tape sales, with artists like Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa releasing music in the retro format. 

Describing the cassette as “the unlikely comeback kid of music formats”, the Official Charts Company said there was a 103% increase in cassette sales in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. 65,000 cassettes were purchased in the first half of 2020 and the figures are on course to top 100,000 for the first time since 2003.

Today’s tech habit

Today, the average adult claims to own an average of 11 pieces of technology with a combined total value of £3,248.

 Mobile phones are undoubtedly a key factor in this high tech spend with most adults now owning their own smartphone, which have also seen dramatic price rises. 

The original Nokia 3310 retailed for just £49.99 when it launched in the year 2000 (equivalent to £84.79 today) but its modern equivalent, the Nokia 9, fetches a much higher price of £549. 

 Despite far more advanced technology, modern games consoles are fetching a very fair price in comparison to their retro predecessors. The highly anticipated PlayStation 5 went on the market for £359.99 on 12th November - just 25% of what the original Commodore 64 would cost if it were to be released today (£1,418). 

Black Friday’s tech boost

Our research reveals that this year’s Black Friday event could see the average number of tech devices Brits own hit even higher figures. Almost a third of those surveyed said they are interested in acquiring an average of five new pieces of technology, with headphones, laptops and mobile phones topping the list of desires. 

Top 10 items Brits hope to snap up in the Black Friday sales:

  • Headphones - 49%

  • Laptops - 48%

  • Mobile phones - 48%

  • Tablets - 46%

  • Smart TVs - 46%

  • Smart home devices - 44%

  • Televisions - 40%

  • Smart watches - 39%

  • Fitness wearables - 38%

  • Speakers - 33%

Make your money go further this Black Friday

If you’re planning to borrow money to finance your Black Friday shopping, it may be worth considering a 0% credit card. Choosing a 0% purchase credit card could help you save money as they offer long interest-free periods and low APRs. As with all credit cards, they require regular repayments and can accrue interest if you do not pay back the full amount.

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Research Methodology

A national survey of 2,007 UK adults was conducted by money.co.uk in November 2020.

Links to information on products featured in the timeline, including launch dates and costs:

We used https://www.in2013dollars.com to calculate the real terms costs of all items included in the above information and timeline.

Resale data for each item was calculated by taking prices of up to 30 different eBay listings for each product detailed above, which were listed on the site between 5th and 11th November 2020. 

About Salman Haqqi

Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press such as The Express, Travel Daily, and The Daily Star.

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.

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About Salman Haqqi

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.