The Consumer Electronics Show is the tech industry's annual celebration of what's new. Walk the show floor in Las Vegas this week and you'll find rows of curved phones, curved televisions and curved virtual-reality goggles. Why curved? Because we can.
Caught up in the rush to create the future, tech companies often dip into the past for inspiration. This approach has led to breakthroughs, including the Nintendo NES, Microsoft Windows and just about everything Apple has created in recent history. But some of these new things can feel old and irrelevant even before they're available in stores.
This year's CES has served as the comeback event for several technologies and brands that probably should have stayed in the past. For example, did you know that Palm is coming back thanks to China's TCL? The company didn't say what products it will sell. (Hopefully a PDA!) In the meantime, here are six products at CES that refuse to die.
The Walkman: Sony spent a portion of its press conference on the Walkman NW-ZX2. The company, which basically created the portable music market with the Walkman in 1979, is making a push behind this dedicated device focused on high-quality audio. "Sony has been offering the broadest lineup of high-res audio products in the industry," Mike Fasulo, president and chief operating officer at Sony Electronics, said at the event. When just about everyone has music on their phones and are flocking to streaming services, a gadget that just plays music seems like a tough sell. (By the way, it's going to cost $1,200.) Even Apple isn't selling as many iPods as it used to. As our digital editor Josh Topolsky tweeted, "Hey Sony made an iPod. Congrats Sony."
The flash drive: One of the first products Samsung Electronics introduced at its CES press conference was the Portable SSD T1. It's a flash drive that's smaller than a business card with a lot of memory and really fast transfer speed. "Uploading and downloading takes time away from the user experience," said Tim Baxter, the president and COO at Samsung Electronics America. Video or photo professionals might really dig this, but c'mon, a consumer flash drive? It's all about Dropbox, Drive, Box and iCloud now.
The Segway: InMotion's R2 isn't as expensive as the Segway and doesn't use fancy gyroscopes, but you'll still look like a nerd riding one. It's a personal transport vehicle with handlebars like the Segway that moves based on how you lean. The Segway may not have revolutionized transportation the way we were promised, but the idea may never die. Don't forget your helmet.
Record players: Vinyl has been making a comeback in the last few years, with album sales climbing 52 percent in 2014, according to market researcher Nielsen Music. Hipsters who crave that nostalgic vibe but still want to pair their music players to wireless speakers over Bluetooth can head over to Ion Audio's booth in the east hall. The new Ion Audio Air LP Turntable also has a USB port — and RCA inputs for you olds out there.
Polaroid instant cameras: The company that helped catalyze consumer photography thanks to its instant-film cameras has been mostly nonexistent from the iPhone era. Polaroid's big effort at CES this year is a total throwback. The company will try to sell Snapchat-addicted millennials on the promises of physical pictures. The Socialmatic resembles an old Polaroid instant film camera — or ask a kid, and she'll tell you it looks like the Instagram logo — but it has a photo printer built-in. Polaroid is also selling wireless printers to quickly spit out pictures taken with a smartphone. As my colleague Belinda Lanks writes, the paper — like the old film — isn't cheap. Zink paper costs about $30 for a pack of 100.
Simon: This would have been rad in the 80s: A pair of Skechers with the light-up memory game Simon built-in. While CES attendees didn't seem to take it seriously as a tech product, no doubt they're the perfect shoes for stepping back in time.