Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA TODAY Published 7:22 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2019 | Updated 7:23 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2019
Turns out some of the most popular new tech launching this year, isn’t so new at all. Jennifer Jolly for USA TODAY
A whole lot has changed in the gadget world since Philips launched the first consumer VCR for $900 at CES in 1970.
So why then, I wondered as I trekked through the seemingly endless halls packed with every gadget imaginable at this year’s CES, were there so many boom boxes straight out of the ’80s everywhere? Turns out some of the most popular new tech launching this year isn’t so new at all.
LENOVO SMART ALARM CLOCK
Sure, the smart screen trend shows no signs of slowing down, but rather than continually going for bigger, more feature-packed displays, Lenovo looked to the past for inspiration. The Lenovo Smart Clock is a total rethink of the classic alarm clock— you know, the little box that used to sit on your bedside table before the smartphone revolution made them entirely unnecessary?
The palm-sized four-inch display sits in a decidedly retro, fabric-covered triangle of a box, but it’s what’s inside that really counts. The Smart Clock is equipped with Google Assistant, letting you set or modify alarms and reminders with your voice, and the charming clock faces look like they’ll fit in just about everywhere. At a budget-friendly price of just $80, it just might be enough to make alarm clocks cool again when it arrives in spring — and it’s one gadget I saw at the show that I will buy the moment it comes out.
THE CASSETTE MAKES A COMEBACK
Smartphones didn’t just kill off alarm clocks, they also turned into the default portable music powerhouses for an entire generation. But if you’re craving the feel of an old-school cassette tape, look no further than Mixxtape, a portable music library packed into a case that looks just like a cassette.
Inside its nostalgic exterior is a powerful music player that supports all the major music formats, up to 8GB of internal memory, and microSD card support for expanded storage. Its battery powers it for up to five hours of continuous music playback which it delivers via its built-in headphone jack, Bluetooth, or from the deck of a good old-fashioned boombox. It’s not available yet, but you can pre-order it starting this month.
X-Mini’s Supa 2 is another retro-flavored music gadget getting some attention at this year’s Las Vegas showcase and you only have to see it to understand why. It’s a boxy Bluetooth speaker complete with a handle for portability and a speaker grille that was clearly inspired by decades-old sounds systems.
Of course, the insides are anything but dated. The Supa 2 is equipped with a total of six drivers for booming sound and plenty of bass, and the included remote gives you control over the entire sound experience, including sound profile presets and even phone calls if paired with a smartphone. It’s expected to hit shelves later in 2019 for around $200.
UNTIL THE HOVERBOARD ACTUALLY EXISTS…
Electric vehicles are all the rage these days. E-scooters are everywhere, and now skateboards, which have been waiting for a resurgence since reaching a peak in the mid-’70s, are getting in on the action, too. The Spectra Silver is a fully electric skateboard by Walnutt, and it might introduce skateboarding to a whole new generation that never bothered to try it.
The Spectra Silver might look similar to the flat-top boards of yesteryear, but this definitely isn’t your father’s (or mother’s) skateboard. It’s packed with sensors and a beefy battery that pushes its wheels for extended skating sessions, and it’s controlled with what Walnutt calls a “3D posture control” system that helps keep you upright while letting you control things like braking just by shifting your body. You’ll pay a high price for all that nostalgia packed with new tech though, as the Silver costs $1,399. Walnutt is also launching a sharing feature via a companion app for the Spectra X as well, in the hopes it can create its own sharing “e-skater ecosystem.”
When it comes to old-school gadgets, nothing is more nostalgic than the classic Polaroid instant camera. Over the years, other companies have tried their hand at instant-print cameras, and at CES 2019 Kodak unveiled its latest take on the concept, called Smile.
The Kodak Smile Classic camera has a collapsible viewfinder that pops up so you can find your photo subject and a 10-second timer in case you want to get into the frame yourself. Once you snap a photo, you can save it to a microSD card or print right on the spot on Kodak’s 3.5-inch by 4.25-inch instant photo paper. The Smile camera is a lot more compact than the Polaroid dinosaurs of decades past, but it delivers the same instant-photo satisfaction. It’s expected to cost around $150 when it officially launches later this summer.