Blast from the Past: Greatest Retro-Tech
There is something about vintage technology that makes our hearts beat faster. The nostalgia factor, added to the collectible value and the excitement of a hunt for the perfect item, plus the evolution of design and technology that can actually be traced to the modern examples – all this, and the fact that technology artifacts are less durable than, say, architecture – and often as perishable as your crumbling comic books.
This article is the start of a new series – please let us know of your “pride and joy” collectible items, to be worthy of highlighting in the next post.
- a gorgeous Russian radio from 1954: “Zvezda” (The Star)
We’ll start with radios. They were the ultimate “internet+TV+iPod+iPhone” at the time: in short, these electric devices were often the only thing that people had for entertainment & news.
Radio Living in a Radio World
Instead of the “web”, there was the Radio-Web!
(image credit: Modern Mechanix)
The radio personalities spoke into the coolest mikes on the planet:
Some were more portable than others
You gotta love that: First Portable Kitchen Audio System:
Now, do you appreciate your iPod more? In the 50s you had to carry the CART with you, wherever you go.
For the best vintage transistor radios collection on the web – click here. Some examples of the space-age 50s models:
Actual lace is part of the design… They don’t make electronics like that any more.
“Hippy” radio from the early 70s, with all the “flower power” colors:
“Orb” radio from General Electric:
(other weird radio shapes from the 70s are here)
(images credit: transistor radios)
On this page you have instructions on how to make your own retro-radio iPod
Evolution of TV sets
Have a look at your widescreen television – now compare the size of your screen with this:
1928 G.E. Octagon -
1939 Andrea 1F5 -
1948 first effort at miniaturization:
Old Soviet TVs do not look very exciting:
(get your blurry picture of Khruschev pounding the UN table with his boot)
Compare the above boxy designs with Japanese 1960 model: SONY
(image credit: Ammaro)
Philco Predicta TV 1960:
(image credit: plan59.com)
Neat Russian sewing machine:
Radio / LP combination:
Best of all: Soviet early-60s Electronic Microscope
(featuring an electron gun)
First Car Phones
Here is some vintage material to remind us how big and unwieldy old car phones were:
But even in their rudimentary design and technology they apparently made a good many business men happy:
Calling home after a happy day at the office, looking forward to a happy dinner with the family… Wonderful.
(image credit: Plan59)
First Soviet Mobile Phone
What’s behind the ugliness of the design? Probably even uglier electronics:
(image credit: TM, Russia)
That’s definitely better than this “Russian Radio Helmet” from the 50s:
Phone designers went crazy on this one:
LP Players, Arcade Games, etc.
First Automatic Record-Changer LP Player:
(image credit: Plan59)
Want to play your 45rpm records in your car? Here is a device just for you:
Closer to our times, some of the first arcade video game kiosks looked pretty neat:
… others did not look so hot:
We will perhaps make a special article about the development of video games.
But let’s go back a few decades now, searching for “gadget coolness” in the mists of time:
Vintage WW2 Tech
We want to point you to the LA6NCA’s Radio page. It’s an impressive collection of German WWII radio equipment in operating condition.
A direction finder and monitor receiver for HF:
“Happy times” with a radio:
This is not a robot (wartime R2D2), it’s just a direction finder:
(images credit LA6NCA)
There is also a page of Unknown Devices, some looking quite mysterious all right:
(some kind of an “agent-transmitter”)
War-time radios were bulky, so they required some reliable transportation:
Word War Two Searchlights & Sound Locators
Very impressive looking “swords of light” – and their use – are documented at this page
The searchlight control station operator:
The bizarre sound locators (not many can be found in the museums today) – listening for the sound of engines through the special horns. The bigger the “horn”, the better range of detection. (more info here)
And now for something really special:
Astrolabe – The Ultimate Victorian Pocket Device from 1568
Kinda like “catch-all” iPhone of the Middle ages. It is “an astronomical compendium, signed by Humfrey Cole, made in 1568 for the Elizabethan printer and publisher Richard Jugge. … The compendium includes a quadrant, room for drawing instruments, a compass, a universal equinoctial sundial, a table of latitudes of towns and an incomplete calendar.” -
Here is another variation:
As you can see “portability” can be a relative term, “usability” is rather more important – and the most ancient device (hardly having any perishable parts in it) is still remarkably useful. Take it with you for your travels and it might even serve you better than a GPS.