As if your day wasn't full enough...
May 15, 2017 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Retro Tech is a thing now. Digital is cheap, digital is easy, digital is everywhere. Perhaps that’s why some people are turning their backs on it.

Would you consider using analogue technology to get your work done, or just for fun? What analogue gadgets do you still have lurking in the attic or the garage? Who knows, one of them might yet provide you – or someone else – with many hours of pleasure.



Desk Top IPOD

Hologram Vinyl

The Tififon!

Wire Recorder

Laser Disc

CED Video Disk
posted by shockingbluamp (79 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tell you what, I sure as shit wished we still used typewriters in the modern workplace, as email as the worst thing to ever happen to actual, legitimate productivity. Now any dumbass can extrude some brainfart idea at any time of day or night, send it to you, and expect it to be done by the time they make the follow-up visit to your desk. Then in their next stupid wasted breath they're all "oh we have to have a planning day" or "time management". Man, fuck email, and fuck anybody who ever sent one for any reason.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:52 PM on May 15, 2017 [28 favorites]


I still have an Atari Portfolio. Does it count? Or is it too high tech?
posted by Splunge at 6:58 PM on May 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


Techmoan is legit.

And yeah, an Atari Portfolio totally counts in my book.

(Prompt to look for working Powerbook Duos and 12" on ebay)
posted by wotsac at 7:13 PM on May 15, 2017


Stop making me miss my overclocked Palms/Handsprings already. Yes, I own a Asus ZenPad, but nothing ever really beat a Palm style rig for sheer portable computability. And how pimp was I with a special cable, jacking my Visor into a Samsung flip phone on Sprint for 14.4K speed (roughly) mobile internet?
posted by Samizdata at 7:19 PM on May 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


That wire recorder took me back. Not because I ever owned or even saw one. But a lot of the books that I read as a kid were written in the 1950-60s. Spy novels and sci-fi novels always had wire recorders. I had a pretty good mental picture of what they were. Nice to see that I wasn't very far off.
posted by Splunge at 7:20 PM on May 15, 2017 [4 favorites]




George R.R. Martin Writes on a DOS-Based Word Processor From the 1980s

The scary part of this for fans is that the next Song of Ice and Fire book draft is probably kept safe on a floppy disk.
posted by adept256 at 7:27 PM on May 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


I just put a fine electric typewriter in a thrift store.
posted by Oyéah at 7:34 PM on May 15, 2017


Well, not analogue, but pretty retro by today's standards—I still have my HP Jordana 820, the netbook that predates all netbooks. Loved the Jordana at the time, just as I loved the netbook that I used for years. (Instant on, ultra portable, plugged into full-size monitor and keyboard at home—I never understood the hate.)
posted by she's not there at 7:36 PM on May 15, 2017


Wordstar 4 works fine with ancient hard drives.
posted by lhauser at 7:38 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


To this day, I don't think any device has matched the joy delivered by my Sony Walkman.
posted by davebush at 7:44 PM on May 15, 2017 [10 favorites]


Now?
posted by klangklangston at 7:49 PM on May 15, 2017


You can also split the difference with something like a freewrite. Modern day battery life with a distraction free aesthetic.

And then there was the TRS-80 Model 100, beloved among journalists.
posted by zabuni at 7:50 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Forget about synths, just play your Optigan.

For me, the ultimate in hipster analogue was the dude trundling a Nagra on a small cart through Midway Airport, reels spinning merrily.
posted by scruss at 7:53 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have been looking at a lot of retro tech lately, but generally the stuff I like the most isn't so much the stuff I used or wished I had back in the day, but stuff I never heard about before. Like the Tefifon: they made an 8-track except they didn't have magnetic media so it's a giant tape with physical grooves carved into it. It is crazy and amazing. I also just found out about HP 85 computers now I wish I had one even though they're expensive, the coolest bits involve failure-prone parts, and it would mostly just end up taking up space.

Although on the other hand I did recently pick up a TI-92 on ebay because I never had one and I figured this would be a good time to get one cheap.
posted by ckape at 7:54 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


George R.R. Martin Writes on a DOS-Based Word Processor From the 1980s

you're not going to believe how many neckbeard freaks still use Emacs
posted by indubitable at 8:26 PM on May 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


haha those fools I use vi which came out like a decade later, much more modern and sophisticated
posted by idiopath at 8:35 PM on May 15, 2017 [16 favorites]


I have a Ohm's law slide rule that was my grandfather's that I keep in my desk that gets pulled out when I need to do a quick ohms law or power calc. Excel works, but the slide rule is more fun, same with my HP 48GX that has served me since high school and is still my daily driver.
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:41 PM on May 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Are we allowed to propose a crowd source project? Suggest we fund typewriters for all MiFians, along with pre-addressed envelops. Instead of this online thing, we generate a traditional zine style mifi, everyone mails in their posts, it's collated by the mods who send out a mimeographed stack of threads each month. It'd be so retro!
posted by sammyo at 8:53 PM on May 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


Oh and I don't have a neck beard.
posted by sammyo at 8:54 PM on May 15, 2017


I have two working electric typewriters. There may be about 40 lbs of mechanical typewriter lurking in a corner somewhere, but I can't remember seeing it during my last couple of moves, so maybe it escaped.
posted by brennen at 8:58 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I take off my swatch and leave it at the bedside. It glows in the dark so I can read it. Analog clockfaces are undeniably easier to read than digital.
posted by adept256 at 9:01 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


(Prompt to look for working Powerbook Duos and 12" on ebay)
posted by wotsac


I have a PowerBook Duo 230 that runs System 6 like a top. Indestructible. It came on the road with me in 1992-3. I boot it up once a year.

I also have a 12" MBP that was my favorite machine ever ever ever. But it is somewhat disassembled, an abandoned restoration project. I forget what's broken anymore.

Name your best offers!
posted by spitbull at 9:05 PM on May 15, 2017


Electric typewriters are too modern for my taste. Straight mechanical please! Besides typewriters aren't really analog...

I watched Liquid Sky at a friend's this weekend and I think everybody was really disappointed it wasn't on a laserdisc. Yeah DVDs are basically the same, but lack that novelty in the relative obscurity and the built in dessert intermission.

This also touches on my idea for a business of "artisanal computing and electronics". I'd solder all the boards by hand.
posted by kendrak at 9:07 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


"I take off my swatch and leave it at the bedside. It glows in the dark so I can read it. Analog clockfaces are undeniably easier to read than digital."

Oh man, I love my analog watch, especially since it's solar-powered so there's no more fucking around with batteries or winding.

I also do quite like listening to jazz on vinyl, but not enough to bother owning a turntable or storing records. Going to other people's houses and listening to their vinyl is fine!

We've picked up a couple of those "classic game systems entirely stored in a joystick that plugs into your TV" dealies. My kids like them a lot, they're different from what they're used to (touchscreens!) and the games tend to be relatively simple and quick. I can always entertain them for an afternoon by busting out the "old atari games" joystick and watching them die repeatedly on Adventure.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:19 PM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


This also touches on my idea for a business of "artisanal computing and electronics". I'd solder all the boards by hand.

About 500 guitar effect pedal companies have beaten you to this.

(Although, to be fair, I think it's (often) less about "artisanal" and more about "simple circuits + moderate sales = not worth investing in automation/outsourcing to an SMD-based manufacturer in China.")
posted by soundguy99 at 10:27 PM on May 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


💽 !

I've actually been using my minidisc portables again after having simply had it with itunes and such. It's been reliable enough to just set to record a 2-hour playlist overnight and wake up to a fresh disc in the morning.
posted by arrjay at 10:31 PM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


To this day, I don't think any device has matched the joy delivered by my Sony Walkman.

I've told my kids (multiple times, I'm sure) about how when I was their age, if I wanted to listen to a song again, I had to pop the cassette out of my cheap, knock-off Walkman(not ®) with no rewind, flip it over, fast forward for an indeterminate amount of time, hope I'd gone far enough, but not too far, pop it out and flip it over again.

They just look at my blankly of course. I can't even tell them to get off my lawn.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:00 PM on May 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yes, I own a Asus ZenPad, but nothing ever really beat a Palm style rig for sheer portable computability

We still have a couple palms at work because they run some sensing equipment we have. They are indestructable, have outlived many laptops in their time. The really amazing part is how many people remember how to write on them.
posted by fshgrl at 11:04 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


This also touches on my idea for a business of "artisanal computing and electronics". I'd solder all the boards by hand.

About 500 guitar effect pedal companies have beaten you to this.

(Although, to be fair, I think it's (often) less about "artisanal" and more about "simple circuits + moderate sales = not worth investing in automation/outsourcing to an >SMD-based manufacturer in China.")
posted by soundguy99 at 10:27 PM on May 15
On indiegogo right now are several campaigns for "retro" hand held devices. The Gemini is a clone of the Psion from decades ago ( made by the same guy). What interests me about these machines is that the numbers of sales are in the thousands. This is probably the entire market for the "Psion". Retro may be chic, but it doesn't sell.
posted by metasluggo at 11:33 PM on May 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


What counts as a retro handheld device? Is a monitor keypad with 7-segment LEDs enough or does it need panel switches and LEDs?
posted by ckape at 11:47 PM on May 15, 2017


I have a thermostat which doesn't connect to the internet.

(I also have a cuecat, and I think a couple of zip drives. The zips are broken, but that was their condition approximately six minutes after plugging them in for the first time. Nothing handheld, though now I wonder where my NotWalkman is.)
posted by maxwelton at 2:40 AM on May 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


It's funny, on the one hand I'm constantly amazed that I have this little touchscreen device I carry with my everywhere to talk with people on the other side of the planet while I'm commuting to work. I only got it a year ago and I'm still completely blown away by it. It's science fiction.

On the other hand, I'm the perfect target market for retro tech. I feel totally disconnected from the physical world around me (which is not nearly as fun as cyberpunk novels led me to believe it would be). In my free time, I make a conscious effort to play board games and get books, just so I can have some time away from these infernal machines and appreciate my physical surroundings. I always end up failing and checking my phone anyway.

I also work far, far better with major constraints, and I sometimes resent that I can make hundreds of tiny edits to written drafts, or that I can record music and I have the power to tweak every little aspect of it endlessly. And computers just aren't fun anymore. We got our first computer when I was 10, and my favorite thing about it was taking it apart and putting it back together again. I used to buy computer parts at the Computer Show and Sale (Stop!). The computer was an appliance I could pull apart and tinker with, and now all I've got is stuff with little stickers that say I'll void the warranty if I open the case.

It's not like I think we're worse off now. I certainly have this site to thank for helping me make big changes in my life. But for me, personally, I need to find some way to accomplish more things without being glued to my dang phone all day.

The irony of using today's technology to rant against today's technology is not lost on me, although tbh it is partly the result of having taken heavy painkillers for migraines. But shout out to /r/luddite, described as "a place to plot the destruction of the internet, on the internet."
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:42 AM on May 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have two slide rules and developed a fascination with nomograms. What i really like in analog technology is its transparency. There are many things where digital is indispensible, but the layers upon layers upon layers of abstraction / indirection makes it very opaque. I guess - at least for me - this comprehensibility is the motivation behind using them.
posted by kmt at 3:32 AM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, I feel like the earliest tech was the most essential tech. And I mean like... telegrams. Extending up to the Telex machine. Whenever I hear people solemnly explaining that the 140-character tweet is a new art form, I'm like TRY PAYING FOR EVERY CHARACTER, MOTHERFUCKER.

On the other hand, I recognise that it's the big, mass-market tech developments and adaptations that give rise to technology that truly is life-changing for smaller groups, particularly assistive devices like screen readers or devices that will read supermarket labels to the visually impaired.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 AM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


All that stuff is toys. Real retro cuts the electricity and motors out of daily activities. Printed books. Pen and paper. Bicycles and shoes.

But it's always going to be a game now. This net is inescapable.
posted by pracowity at 3:42 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


It was Techmoan that told me about Jerobeam Fenderson, a musician whose tracks make psychedelic patterns when played on an oscilloscope. I'm pretty obsessed with him now.
posted by miyabo at 4:51 AM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm currently listening to music on a 36-ish year old McIntosh receiver. Directly below it on the rack is a 45-ish year old Heathkit receiver. Directly below that is are 57-ish year old The Fisher and Scott integrated amplifiers. In a crate in the closet are some 40 year old AKG headphones. On a hook is a 30 year old pair of headphones plugged directly into the computer because I don't want to power up that he-man audio gear just to watch a YouTube video. All this stuff still works fantastically well (aside from the tubed amps needing some TLC) and much of it cost me between free and $20 because I was fortunate enough to be interested in vintage audio at a time when people were struggling to give this stuff away.

Old electronic hardware is not maintenance-free. Capacitors leak, other components wear out and lose spec. Bias drifts -- even in solid state amps -- and has to be checked and corrected before it damages speakers. There are thousands of 1970s-era amplifiers using power transistors that simply don't otherwise exist any more, so if a transistor burns out the whole amp is effectively scrap, only good for donating its unburnt transistors to a sibling. Old tubed equipment is easier to repair but the global reserve of vacuum tubes will only ever shrink. Some tubes that have become fashionable among the audio cognoscenti have been hunted to extinction and their within-spec replacements have begun commanding silly prices. Inept circuit designers and neglectful owners willfully overdrive and blow out tubes that are capable of much longer lifespans if used properly.

Since much of the good-quality vintage audio equipment have also become targets for collectors and speculators -- and you have to budget regular service in the total cost of ownership if you're not a DIY type -- there's a lot of risk and little cost advantage to dabbling in it now. When I'm asked what sort of stereo equipment to get, I usually recommend Schiit or one of their peers who make sturdy, minimal modern-day gear that suit budgets from "broke student" to "ruthless capitalist". They're low-maintenance and warranted, audiophile-approved, and are going to be good for a couple decades before the issues I point out in the previous paragraph become relevant. At which time, I dunno, the world may have changed enough for it to not matter any more.

> This also touches on my idea for a business of "artisanal computing and electronics". I'd solder all the boards by hand.

There are companies still making home audio equipment with full point-to-point wiring, and no matter how exotic the parts are the biggest manufacturing expense is the labor.
posted by ardgedee at 5:03 AM on May 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Type gauges and proportion wheels 4-evar!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:10 AM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Hey Dr Twist, do you have a photo of it up anywhere?
posted by pompomtom at 5:16 AM on May 16, 2017


I am building a pyramid using only hand-hewn limestone bricks hoisted into place by my thousands of Hebrew slaves. Take THAT, you hipster newcomers!
posted by briank at 5:30 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Electric typewriters are too modern for my taste. Straight mechanical please!

I'm old enough (and young enough, I suppose) to remember how happy I was to get to use an electric typewriter.
posted by pompomtom at 5:45 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


You can't take it to a campfire like you can an acoustic typewriter, though
posted by thelonius at 6:00 AM on May 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


I was into retro-tech in the 70s. Before it was cool.

Seriously - no money and a desperate itch for science and electronics, so the only stuff I could get my hands on was discarded 50s wirelesses and TVs. Which are absolutely full of lethal voltages that a 10 year old should really not be anywhere near (stories...) but are also completely understandable down to component level, and I loved them. Still do, and I shall proclaim from the hilltops until my last gasp that you can open the door to the mysteries of the universe through a 1920s crystal radio and an inquisitive mind. Or perhaps something more aesthetic?

What I like about really old tech is that it often has such a story to tell, marking some great societal change or the introduction of an idea that was going to prove important. Newer stuff does too, of course but we're just at the stage where the first consumer electronics is a century old - and, as long as they keep those AM transmitters still going, it can still work just fine.
posted by Devonian at 6:02 AM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


At least as recently as the early aughts, pilots were taught to use the "whiz wheel" for flight planning calculations. Not sure if they're still in common use - with the popularity of tablet-based electronic maps and electronic flight bags, I've personally stopped using my E6B (and I broke it a few years ago, I should probably buy a replacement).

It looks incredibly complicated, but there's a real elegance to its operation. The whole device is made of two parts - a flat rectangular base and a circular piece that slides over that. On one side of the disc is a circular slide rule that calculates time and fuel burn. On the corresponding side of the base is a set of scales that you can use to measure distances on your (paper!) sectional and terminal maps.

The other side of the calculator is the really interesting part, in my opinion. It's used to predict heading and ground speed. A pilot would get a weather forecast that would include winds aloft information. The rotating disc is transparent plastic so that you can draw on it with a pencil - line up the wind heading on the disc and draw a line on the disc corresponding to the wind speed. You then rotate the disc and slide it up and down the base to line up your "true course" and indicated airspeed on the scale, and read off what your ground speed and corrected heading will be. It's a non-trivial trigonometry exercise reduced down to playing with a wheel.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:46 AM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I seem to be pretty much immune to the allure of nostalgia. Rather, I apply a personal metric that sometimes yields a result that, on the surface, might appear to be a longing for things past. It is a search for the simplest, cheapest thing that gets the job done, preferably quickly and effortlessly. And sometimes that is something antiquated, just like me...
posted by jim in austin at 6:51 AM on May 16, 2017


I'll be happy so long as I can type numbers and letters on the screen.
posted by Segundus at 6:55 AM on May 16, 2017


A friend of mine and I regularly curate, among our friends, a vintage visual media festival. So that means slides, super 8mm, regular 8mm, 16mm, VHS/Beta, laser discs and other oddball formats. We sometimes have to fudge or cudgel the process with modern day tech when the older stuff doesn't cooperate, which sadly is increasingly a problem. The simpler stuff is workable - film & slide projectors & film cameras which we have both gotten good at repairing the simpler issues. But the more complex 80's and 90's electronics are sadly prone to disobedience and obsolescence. For instance, I don't think my laser disc is functioning anymore, which makes my once a year viewing of my Danger: Diabolik laser (the out of print DVD has another less fun English dub) a thing of the past.

The other day I embarrassed my long suffering wife by explaining at length what a CED was to a couple of young men at a thrift store who were baffled by the stack of them.

"No they are not a laser disc exactly and yes they were a truly terrible format. And no I have never seen a working machine at a second hand store which usually indicates something. "

I knew I found love when my then girlfriend now wife showed me her computer - an ancient Tandy laptop that weighed more than my beige box. No neckbeard here but I am a big old media nerd and I am not ashamed!
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:12 AM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


This is super annoying. Those of us in the recording arts never turned our backs on analog. It never left.
posted by agregoli at 7:25 AM on May 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


pompomtom
Here you go
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:34 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I've honestly given serious thought to buying a Newton Message Pad so I can have a device with built-in handwriting recognition. The later models of Newton had really good handwriting recognition, none of the "Eat Up Martha" stuff. And, hell, the technology lives on in macOS as Ink (or Inkwell, something like that.)

Why it hasn't been ported to iOS, I have no fucking clue. I just want to sit down and write something and have it turn into plaintext to edit later.
posted by SansPoint at 7:40 AM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I work at a law firm and use a typewriter more often than a person in 2017 really should.
posted by Lucinda at 7:47 AM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'll buy a couple of new records occasionally and spend a weekend swapping cartridges and fiddling with my turntable, currently outfitted to replicate the finest stereo sound of 1963. It's fun and has that great hands-on feel that I sometimes miss from digital stuff. Then I'll get busy, remember why we all switched to CD's in the first place, go back to digitized music played from the server or streamed from Apple Music, and don't touch it again for a month or two.

I think a lot of this is about the way we use technology, not about the technology itself. Physical stuff seems somehow more controllable or creates useful limitations. Playing records forces us to listen to albums again, forgetting that you can stream albums. After that, we get nostalgic about mix-tapes. We think that by going back to paper we'll limit work distractions, forgetting that people used to, shudder, phone each other at the office. Our current crop of virtualized technology is really quite easy to control, but it does take some effort. For example, you shut off email notifications and check it at set times during the day. For phone texts and notifications, iOS (and presumably Android) allow fairly fine-grained control of what notifications get through. Even with a Chromebook, you can shut off WiFi and Google Docs continues to work fine (but nothing else does) meaning that for under $200 you can have a very workable little writing machine. The trick with all of this is to shape the technology to your use, not to be shaped by it.
posted by sfred at 8:19 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


There are multiple flavors of digital, though, of course, some of the older ones a hell of a lot more appealing to us codgers. In light of this, I think of MeFi as "retro tech". It's a big part of why I'm still here ~16 years after joining.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:27 AM on May 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Two years ago, we bought my teenage daughter a record player and liberated some of my in-laws' old vinyl records she thought she'd like (show tunes and some classical). She played a couple of them one or two times and now the record player sits unused and unloved in a corner of her room.

This past Christmas we bought her one of those new Polaroid cameras that came out as a retro-fad with the skinny little film. She's never even taken that out of the box it came in.

If she asks for a manual typewriter next, I'm out.
posted by briank at 8:29 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Does my Pioneer SX-650 receiver and Technics SL-2000 turntable count as retro?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:51 AM on May 16, 2017


I was an early adopter for a long time. I was first among the people I knew to get a cell phone, first with a whole entire one gig hard drive, first with an MP3 player. And a lot of those people I knew were pretty gigantic nerds, so that's no small distinction.

But I took a sharp turn in the other direction at some point. It's not that I don't care about technology anymore or anything. It's that practically everything new is full of anti-features like DRM and locked down, opaque, walled garden software so you have to fight with your devices if you want to get them to do anything that falls outside of whatever prescriptive consumer model the manufacturer wants to impose on you. And when you do manage to work around all the little booby traps and get something tweaked to where it'll do what you want it to, you have to start all over again with a new one once the battery in the sealed plastic compartment stops holding a charge.

I would pay a premium right now to get modern technology that was durable and user maintainable, but all too often, there really isn't anything like that.

So every now and again, when some thing I'm using fails, I drag out some old vintage equipment to replace it. A few months ago, I dug my old Nokia Shorty out of the junk drawer, got a new charger and battery, and have been using that ever since. It took a few minutes to remember how to text, but it came back to me. And it doesn't work with portable chargers, so I just keep a spare charged battery in my wallet, because it is appropriately easy to change the battery.

I went through my RSS feed and culled all the 'technology' feeds that were just shopping blogs, and I was honestly shocked at how many of them there were. They're just reviews of new phones and ridiculous connected devices, with every now and again some boring business news or gossip about tech companies. Bleah.

(If anyone knows how to repair a SuperScope receiver, hit me up. I'd resurrected that as my primary sound system some years back, but it started having problems, and someone gave me their old unused sound system, so I've been lazy about figuring out how to fix it.)
posted by ernielundquist at 9:03 AM on May 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


There;s quite the cottage industry in fixing retrotech, Lots of Youtube channels with people both repairing and rebuilding stuff, and explaining how to do it. Electronic problems tend to start with ageing capacitors, any parts of a circuit that gets hot, corrosion from batteries (and leaking caps) and get more varied from there. Just search for something like repairing amplifier (or even the exact model you have), and see which ones suit - some channels are dreadfully dry, dull and slow, and some are really entertaining but superficial, and all points inbetween.

It's usually quite doable if you get comfortable with which end of a soldering iron to hold, and if you don't fancy it yourself then there are those who make a living (or at least a return) on doing it for others.
posted by Devonian at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Just this weekend I was (possibly slightly inebriated and) floating the absurdist proposal that hard-copy print porn could possibly make a come back amongst folks who were into other anachronistic tech like vinyl etc.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2017


I have a PowerBook Duo 230 that runs System 6 like a top.

I think the minimum was System 7.1, which rules you out for being proper retro, sorry. Hell, MultiFinder is modern frippery to my mind.
posted by bonaldi at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2017


Good news for newbies: your soldering iron probably has a built-in functionality that provides tactile feedback when you grab the wrong end after it's been plugged in for a while.
posted by radicalawyer at 10:54 AM on May 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I forget that people consider records (aka vinyls) to be retrotech, but it's always been there. I guess the resurgence of cassettes is in the same vein? To me for some reason playing vinyl or VHS tapes is not quite the same as using a typewriter or instant film camera. I guess it seems less of a novelty because that might be the only way to consume some media.

And for my "artisanal computing and electronics" idea. Yeah... I know people have been selling and making hand built guitar pedals, amps, receivers, and the like for a while. The novelty (and let's be real, this would all be done as an expensive novelty) would be in classic clones of old computers like a PDP-8, or new handmade computers, where we'd make really inefficient chips inefficiently. You'd get a story about each chip fab, like who grew the wafers. All circuits would be hand drawn because, WHY NOT? It'd be like slow computing only more pretentious.
posted by kendrak at 10:56 AM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've honestly given serious thought to buying a Newton Message Pad

I sold my Newton on eBay a few years ago. I had the original box and all the included software and inserts, but I was determined to get more than the $30-40 that most were selling for. Luckily, I had a secret weapon: nearly every additional piece of software, hardware, and tons of accessories, including a leather case.

I wrote a very funny description, which kept referencing the leather case, and various way it would impress your friends and colleagues. I also explained that the reason I had all this stuff was 1) an expense account and 2) because I lived near The Newton Store in Westwood Village. The Newton Store. It sold for, I think, $350. To a woman in the Bay Area. I remember being very happy that a woman bought it.

Type gauges and proportion wheels 4-evar!

I still use my type gauge because it's the most flexible ruler I still have! I also still have a Letraset clip art book that comes in handy for crafty things.

hard-copy print porn could possibly make a come back amongst folks who were into other anachronistic tech like vinyl etc.

It's certainly a lot easier to hide and then later, expose of and disavow if necessary.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Room 641-A: It's not (just) the price that's keeping me from it. It's also whether I'd be able to get the data off of it in a usable format. I just want to be able to write on a screen with a stylus and have it turn into accurate plain text. I'd even settle for Rich Text. I like writing by hand, but I hate, hate, _hate_ retyping stuff I wrote by hand.
posted by SansPoint at 12:01 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Those of us in the recording arts never turned our backs on analog. It never left.

It tried to leave in the early 90's. Backs were turned and it was going. It just took so long to buy and replace all the analog gear with expensive new digital that soon people realized that old analog gear sounded pretty great and was dirt cheap, even free. Then it went up in price as digital became cheap.

I was an early adopter for a long time. I was first among the people I knew to get a cell phone, first with a whole entire one gig hard drive, first with an MP3 player. And a lot of those people I knew were pretty gigantic nerds, so that's no small distinction.

But I took a sharp turn in the other direction at some point. It's not that I don't care about technology anymore or anything.


I used to read Computer Shopper for entertainment. Now I grudgingly recently updated my computers to an OS that only 3 years old just to not fall too far behind. I feel like the payoff for new tech is becoming smaller.

My wife is worse than me, but we both have taken to using whatever we like, new, old, in between. Our house is a collection of the last 60 years of technology.
posted by bongo_x at 12:05 PM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Bongo x, speak for yourself, not industries. I never left analog and never will, amd many of my friends won't either.

There are many, many recording artists who feel this way and have never abandoned analog.
posted by agregoli at 1:09 PM on May 16, 2017


There are many, many recording artists who feel this way and have never abandoned analog.

A few years back, a couple friends of mine determined they were going to cut an analog record. Like 100%, end to end analog.

I forget the specifics, but they mixed everything on some sort of giant tape system that I later had to help haul away, and found a company willing to press the vinyl from their tapes with no digital intermediary step. The whole project must have come to several thousand dollars out of pocket, at least. I admired their dedication to concept, but I can't imagine a whole lot of people have the resources to operate this way.
posted by brennen at 1:19 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Bongo x, speak for yourself, not industries. I never left analog and never will, amd many of my friends won't either.

The industry is what I'm talking about, not individuals.

I don't know how many stories I heard about people getting classic analog equipment that now sells for the price of a used car because someone was literally throwing it away.

But I'm pretty sure you didn't really read what I wrote.
posted by bongo_x at 2:10 PM on May 16, 2017


I still have my old Titanium PowerBook, preserved solely in case I need to access my old Cubase VST 5.1 projects from 1997-2002 or so. (Theoretically, it would be possible to emulate all that on a modern machine, but in practice, I suspect the DRM all that old music software was larded with would prevent this.)

The PowerBook still works, though the screen is rather dim. When it dies, that entire world will be closed off forever.
posted by acb at 2:53 PM on May 16, 2017


It's not (just) the price that's keeping me from it. It's also whether I'd be able to get the data off of it in a usable format.

SansPoint, it had a telephone jack so maybe you could connect it to a 2400 baud dial-up modem and send it somewhere via Fetch. At the time, $350 was an outrageous price based in part, I think, on the listing itself, but I don't how much they go for now. Now I miss Newt.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:39 PM on May 16, 2017


speak for yourself, not industries

Bongo_x is far from wrong.

From '91 to about '96 I made most or all of my living as a recording studio engineer, and while we multi-tracked to analog tape, the final stereo mix was to DAT, and DAT's were what we sent to the CD plants. And the multiple-Grammy-winning engineers at Telarc Records were working on developing audiophile quality digital recording as early as the late 80's. Two of the three Cleveland studios that were working with national recording artists in the early 90's had either digital multitrack machines and/or an early version of ProTools. Lots of "the industry" went digital as quick as they could.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:27 PM on May 16, 2017


I'm annoyed that analog audio equipment is so expensive, because it's not like digital stuff is super cheap either. I keep hearing stories about people throwing away reel-to-reel machines and so on, and it's so aggravating because the digital alternative is to buy an expensive computer and put really expensive software on there. It's like the worst of both worlds: the boutique pricing of analog, and the price gouging of modern equipment. There doesn't seem to be much of a cheap option anymore.

And of course, now that DX7s are super trendy, even digital keyboards are shooting up in price.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:05 PM on May 16, 2017


Reaper is a free DAW that is just fantastic. (Technically you're supposed to pay for it if you're using it to make money, but all that happens if you don't have a key is you have to close a pop up screen every time you open it.)
posted by soundguy99 at 5:30 PM on May 16, 2017


Wait, no, I'm trying to be grumpy here.

No that's great, thanks for the recommendation! I've heard of Reaper, but I always assumed it cost an arm and a leg like everything else does. This sort of does undercut the argument of my last comment, which if I'm being honest really comes down to wishing I'd snagged some cool reel-to-reel machines from my school when I had the chance. Which, sadly, probably does come down to some kind of analog fetish. Ahhh well.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:51 PM on May 16, 2017


I've got a stereo console that I bought as a piece of furniture for $20 and was pleasantly surprised to find out its radio and record player actually worked. I was even more pleasantly surprised to be able to locate a DIN adapter so that I could connect my devices to it. One of my goals for the summer is to properly restore it because it is a useful piece of furniture to have. I miss having tech being a part of the house as opposed to something "other". Old TVs and stereos were as much furniture as they were tech and I think. It seems like the trend for current tech is to disappear - your TV becomes a screen only, your stereo is now a Chromecast attached to speakers (which may themselves be hidden behind the wall).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:55 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Audor is interesting, although I've only played with it, never done anything serious, but I do throw some money at them.

Tracktion, or Waveform as it's now known, looks like it's gone up to $99, but they'll let you have Tracktion 5 for free, which is pretty cool and very usable.

And of course, now that DX7s are super trendy, even digital keyboards are shooting up in price.

It's like everything is trendy at once, it's weird. But there's also a lot of market gouging (I know there's a correct name for it) by ebay sellers making it all artificial. Artificial scarcity. Something like that.

Music gear is ridiculous for this, but even other thing like wire recorder reels, which I used to buy the box for nothing, are now obviously being bought up in lots and pieced out for way more money.
posted by bongo_x at 7:46 PM on May 16, 2017


Wow the Tefi cross between a 78 and eight track is amazing! Had never heard of that (not surprising as it's an archaic european niche technology). Want one. Personally not in the right place as I'm trying to downsize laptop but if I was set up in a cozy cottage it would be just them most amazing historic device that really works well.
posted by sammyo at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2017


For me a huge part of the appeal of meatspace tech is learning why things are the way they are - the origins of a particular skeuomorph (e.g. the Reason interface never made sense to me until I played around with an analog patchbay and some rackmount gear), term, or practice.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2017


> Old TVs and stereos were as much furniture as they were tech and I think.

I think it's more that old stereos were meant to only be heard and not seen, so they were built into furniture rather than designed for display. My old tube amps are bare chassis plus front plate because they were meant to be built into walls or cabinets and hidden behind doors. Cabinets for them were usually available, but considered optional. It wasn't until the 1970s, I think, that the audio equipment began to be designed to be visually appreciated in the home. And the McIntosh has rack handles integrated into the front plate because it was produced during an era when studio racks were fashionable for serious home audio enthusiasts.
posted by ardgedee at 4:37 PM on May 20, 2017


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