I have a vintage computer model at work, a VAX terminal (no idea what that is, but maybe it’ll help you picture it), complete with a monitor by Digital and a green screen reminiscent of early Macs. I find it charming, but students crack up when they see it. “You’re really rockin’ it old school, huh?” they ask. Tuition dollars do not trickle down to our office, so I choose to think of it as precious, a relic from the days when things worked and computers were rarities. And this thing works. In the 8 years I’ve been here, I’ve gone through three Macs, but that workhorse has never failed, its green cursor blinking with regularity.
I used to think it was I alone who longed for the days of five and dimes and typewriters, but there seems to be, of late, a resurgence of discoveries from the olden days. A friend and I, lamenting the loss of the click-clack sound made by the typewriter keys, were happy to discover there is a software download for that very feature.
Digital cameras have joined the fray with their old-fashioned “clicks” that imitate the shutter sound. And the only ring tone I can stand: the generic telephone ring that harkens back to a rotary phone. It seems even tech savvy designers recognize the demand, or at least the desire, for some frills from days gone by. Silly flourishes, maybe, but comforting.
Children of the 80s who lamented the loss of the mixed tape (was there a better gift?) rejoiced in the ability to make an online version of the tape that appeared last year. Of course, when I just went to check it out, it had folded. Sigh. Today, in my Daily Candy email, I read about something that eased the pain: an online application to create Polaroids from your photos. Hello, 70s! I miss you, Polaroid with your blurry, filmy shots and element of surprise.
Maybe there’s always been this fascination with vintage, a longing for an earlier time. But in a book I’m reading, The Thing Itself, Richard Todd suggests that a related interest, “antiquing,” is a recent phenomenon—one that developed in the late 19th century. “Before that time one was more conscious of the condition of something than its age, and to go in search of an old piece of furniture would have been felt by most people to be quite bizarre.” I suppose people then had bigger things to worry about than finding just the right sideboard for the dining room.
Still, I can’t help longing for a simpler time, which, I suppose, would require losing the cell phone, digital camera, and sigh, even the VAX terminal.