Friday, 4 October 2013

04/10/13 - Pricey Tech/Cheap Tech

Sometimes it’s worth holding on to gadgets. You need to exercise a little self-control to stop your house filling up with redundant and unnecessary devices, but if you have a discerning eye and a reasonable instinct for what might prove collectible or desirable in the future, you can really cash in with all your old electronic shit.
The other side of this is that there are plenty of people out there who are hoarding their technotat, hoping to surf the retro gizmo zeitgeist and missing the mark by some margin, which means that some quality old stuff can be snapped up for a bargain price. So that’s the theme of this week’s JuicyPips: pricey tech/cheap tech.

First-generation iPods
We’ll start with a pricey one. The first iPod was released way back in 2001, if you can believe that (think about it, if someone was born on the iPod’s release day, they’d be almost exactly twelve years old today – how do you feel about that, you old bastard?), and it seems almost comically archaic compared to Apple’s current line-up. It’s not the one with the four big buttons along the top, like you’re thinking of – that’s the third-gen iPod. It’s the one before the one before that, with the mechanical scroll-wheel, the FireWire connector, and the 5GB hard drive that promised to ‘put 1,000 songs in your pocket’. It’s the genesis of a game-changer – the 21st-century Walkman, revolutionising the way we consume and interact with music. Nobody really thought it was a good idea at launch either, meaning they’re pretty scarce today.
Current eBay price: er, there aren’t any. Closest you’ll get is a 3rd-gen for £50. (Expect to pay upwards of £150 if you can find a 1st-gen…)

These are still impressively cheap. The Nintendo 64, the company’s third major console, arrived in Europe in early 1997, and blew people’s minds with its racy 64-bit processor whilst still using the interchangeable game cartridges that folk were used to. It introduced various timeless titles to a wide audience – MarioKart, for example – and ran possibly the greatest video game ever made: GoldenEye. You could play this as a 2-, 3- or 4-player game, hunting each other down with a variety of 007’s weapons… or, if you didn’t have any mates, the 1-player version allowed you to complete the entire plot of the GoldenEye movie as James Bond. But it was the multiplayer option that was the best, as a generation of drunk students will tell you. Unbelievably addictive.
But people today don’t seem to give that much of a shit about the N64, meaning they’re cheap as chips.
Current eBay price: £30 (N64 + GoldenEye, controllers & various other games)

Game Boy
The other end of the retro Nintendo price spectrum. The old-school Game Boy was the progenitor of modern handheld gaming, and its timeless chunky construction and pimply A & B buttons, ubiquitous in its day, represent countless misspent hours of the youth of thousands upon thousands of grown-ups who are yearning for that blocky, dot-matrix gaming of yore. I had one. You might have done too. And your mates definitely did. Nintendo sold over a hundred million of them so they’re not hard to find today, but... well, they’re not really robust enough to stand up to over two decades of regular use. If you’re going to invest, get one that’s been looked after!
Current eBay price: £100 (boxed, working)

Game Gear
Yeah, nobody cares about the Sega rival to the top-dog Game Boy. Sure, the Game Gear had a colour screen, but it didn’t have Tetris or Mario.
It was actually pretty good, though – it had loads of cool titles, but the best thing was that you could play Master System games with an adaptor cable; you could play Alex Kidd or Sonic on a little screen in your hand! (With, er, loads of cables and wires and stuff.)
It was horizontally oriented, as opposed to the Game Boy’s portrait setup, which made a lot more sense. And you could even get a TV tuner to plug into it too. It was way ahead of its time. But like I say, nobody cares.
Current eBay price: £30 (£60 with TV tuner)

Rabbit phones
Remember these? Rabbit was introduced in the late eighties by Hutchison (who later set up the Orange GSM network, then 3 Mobile). It was a rudimentary kind of location-based mobile phone – you’d buy a handset and base station, the latter of which would plug into your landline. When you were near home, any calls you made would route themselves through your landline; when you were out and about, you’d need to find a Rabbit spot and stand near it to make calls. (And you couldn’t receive calls either, it was a one-way system…) I was only seven or eight years old when Rabbit arrived on the scene, and I thought it was incredibly space-age. Largely because I had no idea what it was.
Current eBay price: yeah, good luck. You’ll never find one. And if you are lucky enough to happen across a Rabbit someday, you’ll be looking at four figures.

Motorola RAZR V3

This is, smartphones aside, the coolest mobile phone ever made. It’s like something from Tron with its achingly cool neon-blue lines and sturdy aluminium-alike casing. Clamshell phones were usually a bit tacky, but this one changed everything. Unfortunately Motorola don’t really have a sense of perspective, and decided to market nasty versions in metallic red and bright pink and various other ghastly shades, but if you’re after a retro-cool mobile and don’t care about smartphones, track down an original black RAZR V3. It’s the phone Steve McQueen would have had. Probably.
Current eBay price: £20

So, what gadgets and gizmos do you have in your attic that might be accumulating value? MiniDisc players, 1980s pocket calculators, Digital Compact Cassettes, something bearing the Amstrad logo? And more importantly, what are you using right now that might be collectible in the future – your Wii, your iPhone 5, your Tassimo coffeemaker, your All-in-One remote control? Who can say? It’s like a marginally less dull version of The Antiques Roadshow. Any old tat can be worth something, if someone’s willing to pay for it…

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