Monetizing Nostalgia: Retro Tech by Marques Brownlee (YouTube Originals)
One of the first tech reviewers I subscribed to on YouTube, Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) is one of the few content creators on the platform who is effortlessly cool. While not completely catty like Jeremy Clarkson who roasts every car in most ways possible on Top Gear, MKBHD gives you a detailed take on new tech on the market. He outlines the features of a smartphone, the drive quality of his Tesla, or the cool design of the new Playstation sharing what resonates with his sensibilities and how well a product marries fit and form with function.
With YouTube coming up with increasingly better original series content, it made perfect sense for it to enlist MKBHD to showcase vintage tech on its Retro Tech series. Retro Tech by Marques Brownlee is hosted on MHBHD's own channel and filmed entirely in his studio and other minor locales which is presumably funded by YouTube.
Ambience and Vibe
While MKBHD's whole brand revolves around understated elegance rooted in technical proficiency, the Retro Tech series is more joyous, colorful, and just plain fun. MKBHD starts off the series with a title track that's completely his style which devolves into 80s techno - really cool.
The very first segment of this series involves pulling an Oprah, where he asks his guests to check under their seats for a gift. The guests are domain experts and from a different generation who can generate nostalgia on request, sharing their experience with the retro product or what they think of the users. The guest can be influencers, industry leaders, or just people who have enjoyed using the product under the spotlight
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It's fun to see their genuine unboxing face light up and time travel to a place where things were better, or relive an experience that was linked to the product they have in their hands. All the while you have 80s/90s techno music playing in the background which is pretty spot-on for the time.
Test-Driving the Tech
This is the part where Marques and his guests actually test drive the product as it was intended to be used. You can almost always see MKBHD fumbling with the retro gizmo Whether it is a polaroid camera, a walkman, or a Sega Genesis.
It was cool to see Marques destroyed by a guest on the Sega Genesis while playing Mortal Kombat. It is the specific idiosyncrasies of using the particular product that really brings back the memories flooding back in.
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Simulating the actual use of the product also involves trying to repair the product. One of the most detailed repairs done by MKBHD and his guest involved opening up the holy Sony Walkman and fiddling with it to get it working again.
I myself never dared to fiddle with PCBs in my Walkman when I didn't even know the basics of soldering. Maybe just to pull out some cassette tape or remove stray plastic - but that's it.
Dope or Nope
MKBHD already has a segment on his YouTube channel called Dope Tech where he makes it clear from the get-go that the tech under review is awesome. He goes on with the how and why of the awesome to give you a detailed review of the product.
Marques has adapted his Dope Tech segment into a Dope or Nope section in the Retro Tech series where he reviews different tech and accessories associated with the product at hand. Some of my favorites were video game accessories, such as the IR motion sensor-controlled console, the two-way (sorta) videophone from the 80s, and the Radio shack one switch for all devices for the 80s smart home.
Most Relatable Episodes
While two seasons of this series will have something for everyone, you are most likely to enjoy a couple of episodes more than the others. For me, personally, it was the Sega Genesis, Walkman, and Polaroid in descending order.
S1E3 Sega Genesis
This episode covers a significant chunk of my childhood, playing knock-off versions of the 16-Bit Sega Genesis. Most weekends during school were spent in unending 8-bit tournaments that went on until it was dark outside. (A trend that continued into different technologies with computer games subbing in for 8-bit ones)
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You see the comedian Hannibal Buress educate Marques in the nuances of the hallowed 16-6bit Sega with Sonic the Hedgehog game. Another guest schools MKBHD in different methods to murder your 16-bit opponent in Mortal Kombat.
My favorite 8-bit games were Mario, Contra, Kung-fu, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
While PvP games such as TMNT and Kungfu were fun only when playing against someone, I rarely came across a person who had completed Contra, Mario, or Robocop which were super-hard to complete.
The Walkman was the first step towards personalized compact music players. When it came to Walkmans, Sony was the OG and the last word portable music, for the time. MKBHD plays around with a standard Sony walkman to show us how to use it and what it made it such as big part of pop culture, then and now. Movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy have popularized the tech to such an extent that people on Reddit actually have purchased renewed Walkmans to feel like Chris Pratt's Starlord.
It is nice to see the Walkman getting its due for popularizing portable music. But the model that was displayed on the show was super bulky and there were sleeker ones available in the market. Granted, the one I had was from Singapore and it was pre- Amazon, but I'm sure Marques could have displayed a sleeker Sony Walkman model.
Should You Watch This? - Yes!
There are two seasons of this series which is a trip down the tech memory lane. The first season focuses on individual products and their accessories, whereas the second covers tech from particular themes such as hyperconnectivity and smart homes. Both seasons are available on YouTube for free and are definitely worth a watch, especially the first season.
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