Retro is a Latin word meaning "backwards" and "before". In computing, it generally refers to a kind of "time-capsule" computing that tries to re-enact a historical time period when a hardware platform was "still alive". Its central driving force is nostalgia.

The concept is problematic from the permacomputing point of view because:

  • It affirms the industrial definition of "platform death" and that there can be no genuinely new uses for a platform when it is "dead".
  • It separates the current time period from the "old times", thus creating an artificial mental boundary.
  • While historical re-enactment and time capsules have their definite places and hardware lifespan maximization is an essential element of permacomputing, labelling all uses of old hardware or time-proven techniques as "retro" may actually discourage people from using them for new purposes. We need sustainable continuity rather than a culture where hardware eventually becomes "time-locked" (i.e., obsolete).

The concept of Zombie media has a similar problem with affirming the industry-defined concept of media "death".

?Heirloom computing is another form of time-capsule computing but one that designs a static artifact that future generations may return to.

Examples of non-retro uses of old computers can be found in the demoscene and ?hacker cultures.