The final part of Stranger Things season four dropped in early July 2022, so everyone’s talking about multi-dimensional action and heartbreak that’s leading to season five. The series continues to be a fan favorite, with season four scoring an 88% with reviewers—close to the 91% approval rating for the series as a whole.
Although the writing and acting are phenomenal, the vast amount of adoring fans likely has something to do with the show’s nostalgia too.
There are endless callbacks to the 1980s in every episode, but the technology stands out more noticeably than anyone’s hairstyle or outfit. Take a deep dive into this guide to learn how these pieces of 80s tech from Stranger Things have evolved to today.
Then: Heathkit Ham Shack Radio
Now: DMR Ham Radio Technology
Then: RadioShack Realistic TRC-206, 214, and 219 Walkie-Talkie
Now: Find My Friends on iPhone
Then: Eveready Commander Flashlight
Now: LED Flashlights and Compact Lights
Then: Sony Walkman
Now: Music Apps or Hi-Fi Players
Then: Mitsubishi 22-Inch TV
Now: Stream Service Giants on Any Device
Then: Dungeons & Dragons
Now: Immersive D&D Experiences
Then: JVC GR-C1 Camcorder and Pentax MX Camera
Now: Cinematic Phone Cameras
Then: Fisher MC-4550 Stereo
Now: Wireless Portable Speakers
Learn How Tech Has Evolved
Back in season one, the Stranger Things kids used Mr. Clarke’s Heathkit ham radio in the audiovisual (AV) club room to contact Will in the Upside Down with Eleven’s help.
It’s a massive radio that’s incredibly powerful. Astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) use 1-5 watt ham radios to chat with people on earth.
Anyone can use digital mobile radio (DMR) to enjoy the modern version of two-way radios. They have very high and ultra-high frequencies between 30-1,000 Megahertz (MHz), depending on the model in your hand. Powerful frequencies are better for things like car radios, which need HAM radios that cover longer distances between destinations to ensure usage on highways and interstates.
Walkie-talkies are pieces of 80s tech that are present in every season of Stranger Things. Sometimes the giant Realistic TRC-series radios—introduced by RadioShack in 1985—help the kids communicate across their houses. Other times, the towering antennas help them communicate across town.
You could use a walkie-talkie for fun, but it’s easier to locate your friends with the Find My Friends feature on iPhones. The Stranger Things kids would have stuck together more easily by using what’s now called the Find My network app to pinpoint everyone’s exact geolocation.
Never go into the Upside Down without a flashlight—or a baseball bat decked out in nails. It would have been impossible for any of the Stranger Things kids to solve mysteries without their flashlights, which resemble models such as the Eveready Commander that was popular in the 1960s and 70s, but their gigantic metal lights are way out of date.
Anyone who doesn’t want to use their smartphone as a flashlight can pick up a feather-light, pocket-sized plastic model at any home improvement store. The latest models use LED bulbs that last for 50,000 hours of use compared to incandescent bulbs that need replacements every 1-2,000 hours.
The Sony Walkman, which first debuted in 1979, makes a few notable appearances in Stranger Things. It inspires Nancy to get justice for Barb in season one and saves Max from Vecna in season four. Although the vintage personal stereo looks cool, you’ll have a much more enjoyable music experience with modern tech.
There are nearly countless apps available for smartphones and tablets that connect people with music streaming services for free, Spotify being the main streaming service giant of the era. However, if you want the modern version of a Sony Walkman, you can listen to high-fi music on the nearly $4,000 latest Walkman model that comes with a gold-plated touchscreen.
Don’t forget to convert your favorite classic cassette tapes with software programs if you want the sound quality that repels Vecna back to the Upside Down.
Back in the 1980s, Mitsubishi’s 22-inch TVs were giant boxes with screens that could make your hair rise with static if you sat too close to them. They’re a bold vintage look for anyone with a classic interior decorating style, but their screen quality and limited channel capabilities are not even close to what’s available today.
By signing up for streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, you can catch up with Stranger Things characters and more on any smart device or TV. Televisions, which currently average 55 inches in North America, also come with nearly paper-thin 4K-resolution TV screens and the ability to watch thousands of channels. If you really want to go out, check out the 85-inch entry from Vizio.
Stranger Things wouldn’t be the same without the main characters understanding the Upside Down monsters through a Dungeons & Dragons lens. The fantasy role-playing game began as a 1974 board game and is more popular today because it’s so accessible. Friend groups play modern versions of the board game, but you can also play more immersive versions online.
Players can use sites like D&D Beyond to track campaigns, spells, and character sheets without the thick booklets seen in Stranger Things D&D campaigns. Roll20 also functions as a virtual tabletop simulator, so no one needs physical board game supplies, and players can explore virtual maps in real-time.
Viewers first fall in love with Jonathan Byers while he’s snapping photos around town during the first season. Seeing his camera’s exact brand and model is challenging because it only appears for a second at a time, but many fans speculate that he used a Pentax K1000, which was manufactured from 1976 to 1997.
The bulky 1984 JVC GR-C1 camcorder also makes an appearance in Season 2, which Bob Newby hands over to Jonathan when he takes Will and the kids trick-or-treating.
Jonathan’s classic camera used 35mm film to take photos and didn’t need batteries to operate. You can add it to your collection of Stranger Things memorabilia, but cameras have evolved into much better tools for anyone who wants to capture great pictures. And home camcorders, largely, have become a thing of the past altogether.
Smartphones are better camera and video recording options because they adjust for lighting and have editing apps for free. Users can also automatically upload their photos to cloud storage and never lose a single snapshot. Unlike printed images from film canisters, smartphone pictures are never at risk of water or fire damage.
When Joyce Byers hears “Should I Stay or Should I Go” through their family’s Fisher MC-4550 stereo, she knows Will is still alive. Eleven later uses it to broadcast Will’s voice. It’s a crucial part of the season’s storyline, but it isn’t as important to the world of music today.
The Fisher MC-4550 stereo played cassette tapes and records, but modern wireless portable speakers can play any music anywhere you’d like—even underwater.
Hook your phone or computer to small speakers in your kitchen or wireless amp speakers for a backyard concert. You’ll get much higher sound quality and endless music options on the go.
It’s fun to learn how pieces of 80s tech from Stranger Things have evolved to today. Advancements have made Stranger Things technology too outdated to be useful, but you can still find things like cameras and microfiche slides if you want to see them in person.