Amazon Echo

From Atari to Amazon Echo, These Are the Most Nostalgic Holiday Tech Gifts

Remember some ghosts of holidays past with these nostalgic holiday tech gifts.

Deciding what thoughtful tech nerd gifts to buy someone during the holidays is a challenge for many, and we already have you covered this year if you’re shopping for someone in Pro AV. But targeting the best tech gifts shouldn’t be too hard — after all, they’ve been a staple for many years, even for folks who aren’t in the industry.

Sure, tech nerd gifts tend not to have the most staying power. They often become dated very quickly. What was a groundbreaking gift during one holiday season is often a laughable memory just a few years later.

In other words, tech nerd gifts are easy to mock. And that’s where we enter the equation.

Here’s an interesting thread that carries through the examples of tech gifts from the past 40 years: many of them are still popular today, although most of them have gotten some sort of tweak or upgrade to keep them current as interests and aptitudes have changed and developed.

Atari Video Computer System — late ’70s


Maybe the popularity of Simon—and the proliferation of Star Wars action figures—in 1977 and 1978 led to a slow burn when it came to the popularity of the Atari Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600), but everything changed in Christmas 1979, when more than a million of them sold that year. The Atari 2600 console sold more than 10 million copies by 1982.

Boombox — Mid ‘80s

Kid holding Boombox

Kids today think that portable music is a product of their generation. What they don’t realize, however, is that during the mid-1980s all you needed was a strong shoulder and about 25 A batteries to enjoy music on the go. Whether you were blasting DeBarge while enjoying a pickup basketball game or distracting fellow beach-goers with the latest Tears for Fears hit, a boombox delivered the portable music of the time.

Transformers — mid ’80s


Transformers dominated the holiday season in 1984. These “robots in disguise” gave kids hours of entertainment as the vehicles alternated between vehicles and robots defending the universe from their evil foes. Transformers remain popular almost 25 years later.

Sony Discman — mid ’80s


There is nothing that we can say about the Sony Discman that comedian Gary Gulman doesn’t explain better and much more hysterically than we ever could. Just know that the Sony Discman boasted “Bass Boost” and battery length in excess of one minute.

Word Processors — mid ’80s

Need to crank out a term paper on the Byzantine Empire but don’t want to get writer’s cramp? It was no problem back in the mid-80s. You’d just ask mom and dad for a fancy word processor. They looked kind of like giant calculators. Many versions offered the luxury of being able to see up to two lines of copy on the generously sized digital screen.

Nintendo — Late ‘80s

Super Mario

You say you want mind-blowing graphics? So did the kids of the mid- to late-1980s and Nintendo obliged. We all moved our Atari “computer” gaming systems to the attic and replaced them with Nintendo gaming consoles. The next several years would be spent on the couch conquering Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda.

Nintendo Game Boy — Late ’80s


“Wait a second. Are you telling me that I can now play Tetris on a portable device while waiting for a table at the Ground Round and never have to make conversation with my family again?” asked every child between the ages of 8 and 15 when the Ninendo Game Boy handheld game console came out in 1989.

Sega Genesis — Early 1990s

Sega Genesis

Uh oh, Nintendo. By the early 1990s many of your owners’ friends got a Sega Genesis for the holidays. It was hard to resist the lure of Sega’s library of games marketed on the coattails of the hot celebrities of the day. Consider James ‘Buster’ Douglas Knockout Boxing, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker or Tommy Lasorda Baseball. Nintendo suddenly had its work cut out for it.

Beepers/Pagers — Early ’90s

At some point in the 1990s beeper or pagers made the transition from living in the breast pockets of on-call doctors and repairmen to sitting on the hips of the coolest folks in town. Jeans manufacturers scurried to develop the ideal pockets and hooks not just to accommodate pagers – but to highlight them.

PalmPilot — Late 1990s

Think about everybody you know today who talks a little too much about their Apple Watch or thinks you’re as interested in their fitness app as they are. Back in the late 1990s all those people would have had PalmPilot personal digital assistants (PDAs). It’s how they stayed organized – and how they told you about they stayed organized.

Apple iMac — late ’90s

Apple iMac

At some point in the late 1990s everybody wanted to own an Apple iMac G3. Instead of being beige like every other computer most people had seen in their schools’ computer labs, they were brightly colored. Apparently, Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs had an idea of what would resonate with consumers.

Plasma TV — early 2000’s

Plasma tv on wall

It’s hard to relate now. But prior to the late 1990s when companies such as Philips began advertising something called a plasma TV – which was flat – TVs were among the heaviest things in everybody’s home. They were square and filled with heavy technology. The popular Sony CRT TVS which ranged up to about 36 inches weighed more than a pile of couches. It’s unlikely that many people found a $20,000 plasma TV under their Christmas trees in the late 1990s, but it was the start of something new.

Apple iPod — Early 2000s

iPod Classic 1st generation

If there’s one device that changed how we listen to music, it is the original Apple iPod (nevermind how it changed product design, or paved the way for the now-standard iPhone). Suddenly, music lovers had the capability to store thousands of songs in the palm of their hand and call up a range of tunes they just couldn’t access with a single CD, vinyl, or even radio station.

Playstation, Nintendo Wii, and Xbox — early, mid, and late 2000s

Videogame systems haven’t ever diminished in popularity, even during the stock market crisis of 2008. Early Playstation and Wii generations were particularly hard to come by during the holidays of the early 2000s. Flash forward a few years, though, and we see reboots of older machines come back into favor: it was nearly impossible to find the re-releases of NES & SNES machines after pre-orders shipped.

“Fancy” Cell Phones (Droid, Razr phones) — mid 2000s

They weren’t exactly “smart,” but these phones were all the rage back in the day. Maybe it was because, like the original iPhone, they were so different in appearance.

GoPro — early 2010s


Personal camcorders have waxed and waned in popularity. But with the rise of Youtube and vlogging, a new wave of cameras hit the scene. These were designed to keep capturing the action as simple as possible, while maintaining rugged-yet-clean design. This product’s importance lies in its symbiosis with video: Youtube has placed an increasing importance on video in most markets one can think of.

Amazon Echo & other IoT devices — late 2010s

Amazon Echo

If you had told someone they could order their favorite goods online by talking to a thin black disc just ten years ago, they would have looked at you like you’re some wannabe sci-fi writer. Now, it’s commonplace. These devices aren’t just popular among consumers, either: if people don’t know how to utilize an Echo Dot for more than just re-ordering groceries, they might miss out in the meeting room market, these days.

What current tech product do you think is going to be looked back on with nostalgia in a few years? Comment below!

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