Tag Archives: technology

Future Retro

My pre-teen niece recently celebrated another birthday. Prior to the festivities, I asked her what she was hoping to get.

“A typewriter!” came the enthusiastic response.

Taken aback, I paused. “Like… a computer?”

“No…a typewriter,” she repeated as if I had become deaf, and dumb.

“Oh. A typewriter. But why?” I queried.

She didn’t skip a beat. “Because they are cool.”

Well, duh.

Still, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the image of an young, modern girl sitting down to formulate a document via and old-fashioned typewriter, but what did I know. The fact that she even knew what a typewriter was floored me. But it became a strangely proud moment as I considered “hey, my niece knows what a typewriter is! Take that iPad society!”

It also got me thinking about the notion of “future retro,” which I might have just made up or might actually be a thing. Either way, when I say “future retro” I mean: what items of the recent past may someday become the “cool” things of the future? Like, will vintage-minded folks someday seek out “rare” 2014 skinny jeans? It’s a funny thought when applied to culture generally and in the present, but being “vintage” nowadays is serious business. Blame the cosplay geeks, hipsters, steampunk aficionadas if you like (I know I do), but lots of paraphernalia from whatever “good ol’ days” of your choosing has come back in style – from Victorian household goods such as typewriters to 1950s cookware. It begs the question, “What ‘future retro’ goods might my niece’s descendants someday seek out and call ‘cool’?” Here are a few ideas.

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Watches/clocks

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Watches are staples in any jewelry display, but are they truly a necessity anymore? Same goes for clocks – wall clocks, alarm clocks, grandfather clocks! When was the last time you bought one? For many people now, cell phones are their watches and clocks. Why spend the extra money onannoying artifacts that need batteries and are set wrong more often than not when you have a cell phone that can give you the most accurate time possible? Watches have become status symbols more than anything. And clocks, analog clocks…we’ll, they are cool to look at, but everyone knows that kids can’t tell time these days. It’s not hard to imagine a future vintage shop filled to the brim with these old-fashioned time-telling devices.

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Landline phones

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In a junk drawer somewhere, I have an old, beige, and very plastic landline phone. I’m pretty sure it came from the likes of Radio Shack and cost no more than fifteen dollars. It’s hard for me to consider that something like that ugly phone might be considered “cool” again, but it could happen! Of course, there are plenty of better-looking landline phones out there now and from the past, so the notion of being “cool” is relative. Regardless, there’s no doubt that landline phones will become a thing of the past. Which means they’ll become the kitsch of the future. Shoot, I bet those classic see-through phones from the 1980s will fetch millions! Or…maybe there will just be millions of them available. Either way, they’re bound to come back in fashion, even if there are used only as decoration.

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Point-and-shoot cameras

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Despite repeated attempts to attain one as a birthday or Christmas gift in high school, I never received my own camera. Well, I know I’ll be able to rectify that in forty years because the vintage shops will be full of those little point-and-shoot babies! In the not so distant past, point-and-shoot cameras were dime-a-dozen, and they came in as many styles as there are stars in the sky! Right now, many photo enthusiasts are favoring older style cameras, early 20th century models completed with glass slides, black sheets, and flash bulbs the size of small animals. So it’s only a matter of time before the point-and-shoot  film guzzlers enters the realm of vintage rediscovery. And never mind the film, because our future selves will no doubt be well-versed in the ways of retrofitting and repurposing.

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What instances of recent past or current tech do you think will become the retro goodies of the future?


Like what you’ve just read? Cary posts to Geek Force Network every Friday; and you can also find more words that she put together in paragraphs at Recollections of Play, United We Game, and 8bit Kitchen.

Preserving Information: It’s Not Magic, It’s People (And it takes a lot of work!)

A view of the archives of Alpine County, CA.
A view of the archives of Alpine County, CA.

Do you remember what it was like doing research and writing papers in the Stone Age? When the most accessible fonts of knowledge we had occurred the forms of gigantic sets of encyclopedias, miles worth of microfilm, and card catalogs so large that they could easily fill up one of today’s server farms? If you don’t, then we might not be able to be friends.

Okay, I’m just joking there.  (Or, am I?) But there is a strange yet noticeable divide growing between the traditional and the digital when it comes to accessing information. I see it all the time in my work. When people ask if we have a certain bit of historical data in our archives/library, the first question is not longer “is it available?” but “is it digitized?” (Or, likewise, “can I view it online?”) This question doesn’t just come from young students who grew up with iPads in hand, but seasoned scholars, those with well-preserved pasts in the information Stone Age and futures in the all-encompassing digital world. And it’s not something I’m immune to myself. I’ve done plenty of Internet searches for tidbits of information that I can’t see to find. There are still lots of (hidden) vital nodes of our culture that can’t be located online (yet).

Continue reading Preserving Information: It’s Not Magic, It’s People (And it takes a lot of work!)

The Story of a Forty Dollar Tablet

I currently own a Nexus 7 tablet, and it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve made in a long time. The thing is fast and powerful, perfect for writing, web surfing, and moderate gaming. Being quite happy with it, I had in mind obtaining something a little cheaper for work, something I could use essentially as a digital notebook. Over the course of several months, I kept an eye on sales and Amazon just to see if something interesting popped up. I aimed to keep my potential acquisition in the one hundred dollar range with hopes of finding something for a little less than that. The mere thought of getting a tablet for as little as forty dollars never crossed my mind.

Only then, it crossed my path.

While skimming through the sale circulars from the Sunday paper a few weeks ago, a little item caught my attention: a forty dollar tablet. Yep, four-zero bucks, as in two $20 bills, four 10-spots, etc., etc. There’s just no way…I mean, forty dollars…? My mind railed. What would you even  get for that? According to the ad, you actually got something that, from all outward appearances, seemed decent enough. Say hello to the Nobis.

Continue reading The Story of a Forty Dollar Tablet

They just don’t make ’em like they used to

"Droid Eris meets pavement." Image by Flickr user Robert Nelson.
“Droid Eris meets pavement” by Flickr user Robert Nelson

Six years ago, I bought a microwave. Even though it lived for part of that time in storage, after a bit of clean up, it worked, and still works perfectly. I just made breakfast in it this morning.

Nine years ago, I bought a wired, push-button phone (the kind your grandmother might still own with big, lighted buttons). Though it had been repeatedly dropped and otherwise abused throughout its life, it worked perfectly up until the day we cut the landline.

Twelve years ago we bought a Gamecube. I used it the other day to play Metroid Prime.

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Four months ago we picked up an Xbox One. Turns out it had a faulty disc drive. Now the wireless controller doesn’t work.

Six months ago I bought a faucet water filter with fancy indicator lights. Yesterday, the lights stopped working.

Nine months ago I bought a new phone. Last week I dropped it just right and the screen broke.

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Maybe I’m experiencing a cyclical period of bad luck, but I’m kind of in awe at just how many pieces of electronic equipment that pepper my life have recently, in one way or another, died.

Continue reading They just don’t make ’em like they used to

5 History Making Women in STEM

When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to take care of my sister and I once a week during the summers. He was a college anatomy, biology and zoology professor, so his ideas of play dates involved trips to the Natural History Museum, the La Brea Tar Pits, the California Science Center or the Botanical Gardens. And I LOVED it. I was already a curious kid, but it was these trips and my family’s encouragement to learn and explore that solidified my path as a lifelong learner. My mom recently told me that she never scolded me about all the time I spent indoors on the computer or playing video games or reading because she knew that technology was the future, and could be a viable career choice for me. I grew up wanting to be an astronaut or a scientist—for the longest time I bounced between archaeologist and paleontologist. Of course, as I grew older, my path changed (I still consider being a writer as someone who wants to discover new things), but my love for science and technology has never faded.

As a woman, I have to look back and admire the pioneering women who made history in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Without them, I would have never been able to even consider entering into a scientific field. So in honor of March being Expanding Girls’ Horizons in Science & Engineering Month, here are 5 women in STEM who made history and paved the way for little girls and boys alike.
Continue reading 5 History Making Women in STEM

At the Buzzer (03/06/14)

Episode 122: Tech It Out — The guys do some more work on their upcoming movie, including important casting decisions and an inevitable spinoff, then tackle some tech headlines. Also, Chris goes off on Oscar nitpickers, Dave gives Shaun some bad news on stock advice, and Shaun battles a near-fatal case of Restless Leg Syndrome.

Headlines

Credits

Music:

  • “Main Theme (Rhythm Thief)” by Tomoya Ohtani
  • “Main Theme (Valkyria Chronicles)” by Hitoshi Sakimoto
  • “With Mila’s Divine Protection” by Noriyuki Iwadare
  • “Arkham City Main Theme” by Nick Arundel
  • “Night at the Octodrag” by Thee Jaguar Sharks

Production Assistance: Tony Robinson, Executive Producer

Announcer: Molly Robinson

More At the Buzzer

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