So I'm thinking of something along the lines of the idea of the "uncanny valley" in which technology reaches a point where it's very human/life-like but still "off" somehow, causing a revulsion or dislike of the object because of some sort of cognitive dissonance.

I think the word or idea I'm thinking of is in a similar vein, but I have yet to hear a word or phrase to summarize it and I'm wondering if such a word even exists (if not, maybe we should invent it!).

When I played Atari 2600 games as a kid, it took a bit of imagination to see a little pixel square as, alternatively, a knight in shining armor, or a lightcycle speeding around the game grid. Later games were more explicit in their details. I remember my first adrenaline-fueled, sweaty-palmed playthrough of Doom and how wowed I was by the graphics. The first time I played The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind I sat by the edge of a lake by the starting town and just watched the rain falling on the water, amazed by the view.

I tried replaying Morrowind (Xbox version) again just for nostalgia's sake and found myself getting woozy when going up the stairs of a tower. The graphics just haven't aged well. But how can that be? In just a few years, my mind has become so accustomed to modern graphics that some older games are hard to even make out. What was once so realistic is now a muddled mess that gives me motion sickness!

I'd love to learn more about this phenomenon, but I don't even know how to reference it without a long diatribe like the one preceding. Is there some turn of phrase that is used to describe this? I'd like to find if there's any research in this area but don't even know where to start in looking it up.

  • 1
    "technological obsolescence"?
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 13:29
  • something like "the resumption/intrusion of disbelief"?
    – AmI
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 4:51

3 Answers 3


You might consider Zeerust. It is a term meaning something from the past that was meant to look advanced or high-tech and now looks quaint or dated.

Out-dated when used as a verb might also fit (i.e. "The advent of improved graphics cards has out-dated older games.")

Nostalgia Filter usually means the opposite, but like so many words and phrases, is sometimes used incorrectly to mean this.

  • For clarification's sake, Zeerust is a neologism by Douglas Adams and John Llyod (I believe he is the creator of the TV quiz show QI).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 7:02

You essentially answered your own question. It is not the graphical technology that has changed if you think about it! The graphics from Morrowind are the same now as they were years back. So, how could that be!? The answer is Cognitive Dissonance. Your self-perception of the technological advancements is what is causing the "revelation" that you're having. When

I saw this question, my mind did the exact same thing and my curiosity led to my own perception of it. I cannot find anything in scholarly articles about such a word or phrase, but through my research of this over the past half hour. I've put together a phrase of what I've found might answer this question.

Technological Fallability OR Graphical/Technological Dissonance

Meaning our inability to keep two separate views and perceptions on two difference graphical and technological appearances from two different times. Our minds become accustomed to the one, and we instantly HAVE TO judge the other because we, at this point, do not look at things the same.

  • The computers of the 70's compared to now - Those aren't as amazing as the computers now
  • Technology in general of the 80's and 90's and even early 2000's compared to now

Our ingenuity and ability to conceptualize and perceive, with complete and utter honesty and unbiased cognitive comprehension[wow that hurt my brain], cannot do so to two different eras in history of technology, while keeping our same perceptual feelings the same!

While we might look back and view the technology as "cool" or "neat", it is not the same topic. EXCELLENT QUESTION.

  • 1
    Graphical/Technological Dissonance - I think that gets the basic premise of what I'm thinking. A cognitive dissonance as applied to graphics. And thanks much for doing the scholarly research. This seems like one of those topics that there just has to be research on, but I just can't figure out the right keywords. But maybe there isn't much or it's just an obscure area as of yet. I know people notice this effect, I just don't know that it's been "officially" codified in any way. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 16:20
  • 1
    Completely agree. Perhaps a new area of research for you!
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 16:25

As an Atari VCS kid myself ("2600" is a retronym), I always just thought of this as "obsolescence".

Note that one game, M.U.L.E., never went obsolete. Find yourself a clone, and see for yourself.

  • Yes, I indeed had the 6-switch "wood" VCS.Later models were branded "2600". Obsolescence is certainly part of it, but I guess I'm trying to get at the cognitive changes required for older graphics (less polygons) to become obsolete within our brains. Tech evolves, but rotary phones are "obsolete" because I can't play Angry Birds on it for instance, if you see what I'm saying. I guess I'm talking more about the cognitive process of "acculturation" to more polygons and better shaders that cause older graphics to seem terrible where they were once "photorealistic". Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 16:10
  • I believe the Atari Video Computer System had model number of CX-2600 at the time of its introduction. I don't think "2600" isn't really a retronym, since that term usually implies an extension of an existing term to distinguish it from a newer usage [e.g. "black and white television" or "acoustic guitar"]. One could perhaps say "Atari 2600" is a retronym since, prior to the advent of the Atari 5200, having "an Atari" didn't mean having one of the earlier Pong machines, nor an Atari 400 or 800 computer, but rather having Atari's CX-2600 (Video Computer System).
    – supercat
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 19:43
  • Incidentally, I don't know how much you know about the 2600, but it's quite a remarkable machine. Most machines of the era used circuitry to control graphics generation; the Atari used magic. I know of no other machine whose graphical capabilities could be pushed so far beyond the original design goals using nothing but pure software.
    – supercat
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 19:51
  • @supercat - If you're interested in the VCS (2600), I'd encourage reading up on the father of the VCS, the Atari 8-bit computers, and the Amiga: Jay Miner. A true unsung hero of the electronic revolution, he got an entire generation of kids into computers, the result of which is the world we live in today (for better or worse). He deserves to be better known.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 1:46
  • @T.E.D.: Funny the article didn't mention Jay's bicycle (Stella). Otherwise, this is getting OT but what's your knowledge of the 2600 internals (hardware/software)? The TIA schematics are fascinating, and it's interesting how some really great tricks (most notably early HMOVE) went undiscovered for decades.
    – supercat
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 2:00

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