By Angelica Guarino,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fun, educational docuseries links past and future tech.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
This is a thought-provoking history lesson with tech demos and digestible, bite-sized segments. Viewers can expect to learn not only about the devices of the past but also begin to understand the relationship between pop culture and technological innovation. Viewers may come away with both answers to questions and a hunger for more information.
The show celebrates change, challenges, and investigation. It will pique the interest of kids who may want to learn more about technology, culture, and engineering.
Positive Role Models
Marques Brownlee is a professional, knowledgeable host who's genuinely dedicated to this subject matter. He's sometimes an effortlessly cool narrator and interviewer and sometimes a curious kid who can't wait to rip open a new toy. While not explicitly a teacher or role model, Brownlee comes across as a supportive older brother, encouraging viewers to learn more without actually telling them to do so.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Within several episodes, there is one mildly suggestive joke (about a switch on the JVC camcorder, Brownlee says, "I guess in the '80s people were OK with putting the word 'STD' on things").
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Products & Purchases
The show is devoted to old tech and, even though it's educational, is fascinated with the history of consumer goods (camcorders, Mac computers, Sega Genesis console, and so on).
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Retro Tech is an educational YouTube documentary series hosted by Marques Brownlee, a popular YouTube creator who has a huge following for his tech unboxing videos and reviews. It focuses on past technological innovations that have influenced the devices we use today. Every episode highlights a new technology topic, such as teleportation, flying cars, smart homes, or robots. Other than the unavoidable consumerism associated with the tech subject matter, there's no notably inappropriate content. Brownlee is an inquisitive, enthusiastic host whose passion for learning is sure to inspire young viewers. Retro Tech makes every effort to balance its teachable moments with easy-to-watch demonstration segments that expose viewers either to innovations they may remember or may have never seen before. The show creates discussion opportunities for kids and older family members, who may have personal experiences with outdated phenomenons like AIM, floppy disks, or answering machines.
Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
RETRO TECH episodes open with a premise that will be familiar to any viewers of YouTuber Marques Brownlee's other videos -- unboxings. Brownlee is handed an item related to the episode's topic and has to figure out what it is and how it works. A segment for historical context usually follows, with Brownlee interviewing cultural experts who can explain where these devices came from, what their use was, and how they've influenced the technology we have today. Viewers often learn how science fiction has inspired both the innovations people have demanded and the types of devices that scientists and engineers have designed. Next, Brownlee is joined by a guest (typically a comedian or fellow YouTube creator) to test out devices within the episode's theme/topic and assign them to one of two categories: "dope" (for devices that Brownlee thinks are entertaining or educational) or "nope" (for devices that either don't work as advertised or were so outdated that they aren't useful at all). Finally, a "what's next" segment gives viewers a preview of developing technologies within the episode's topic area, often including footage of things like mind-controlled communication devices or interviews with celebrity experts like Bill Gates or Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Is It Any Good?
It's a pleasure to see someone doing their best work, and that's exactly what Brownlee offers in this YouTube show -- he's incredibly knowledgeable, a great teacher, and an approachable host. While his regular channel content may help viewers decide which new phone to buy or whether those expensive Bluetooth headphones are worth it, Retro Tech is at once a thought-provoking history lesson, an intergenerational conversation starter, and a celebration of where the tech world has been, where it is now, and what else is possible. In a world where rapid tech developments can be overwhelming and even scary, Brownlee exudes a genuine love and appreciation for the many innovations in recent years that have completely transformed the ways we travel, work, play, and communicate.
Another Retro Tech highlight is the interview sections with cultural experts. Though some of the guest choices may seem strange at first (what exactly does comedian/podcast host Chris Gethard know about robotics?), the show provides a cohesive understanding of both how the featured devices work and what they meant for American culture when they were initially released. This overview will appeal to a broad audience, regardless of a viewer's age or relationship with the technology. Retro Tech is equally fit for adults looking for an unchallenging, nostalgic binge-watch and parents looking to answer kids' questions about how phones work or why we don't have flying cars yet.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Talk about the potential dangers of technology that's untested or very newly developed. In one episode, Brownlee talks about companies releasing hoverboards and then having to recall them due to safety issues. In your opinion, did these companies handle that situation correctly? What testing or regulation should be done before new technology is released to the public?
- Premiere date: December 2, 2019
- Cast: Marques Brownlee
- Network: YouTube Premium
- Genre: Educational
- Topics: STEM, Robots, Science and Nature
- TV rating: NR
- Last updated: July 2, 2022
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