Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wired to the Old

The Wired pop-up store has popped up again this holiday season, this time in the former Tower Records space on 4th and Broadway, that unloved cavern left largely empty for the past several years. It's a notable juxtaposition--three floors of tech fetishism celebrating the future in a place that once sold records and tapes, a place undone by the iTune.

This juxtaposition was present everywhere at the Wired store. The faux-stalgic melding of old and new appeared again and again.

A portable cassette tape player is not as it appears. It's really an MP3 player featuring "a design that mirrors a retro cassette tape player—without the tape!"

You can also get a faux-notebook, "bound with traditional bookbindery techniques" and hollowed out to accommodate your iPhone. Its paper-free wooden casing will make you feel artisanally correct.

For those who miss analog telephones and their superior, intimate sound quality--or for those who just think missing the analog is hip--there's the POP Phone in a rainbow of color. You plug it into your cell phone or computer and yap away. With all the recent findings about cell phones and brain cancer, think we'll ever see these babies on the streets?

If you long for the olden days when you carried a boombox on your shoulder, sharing your music with every passerby, then the Personal Soundtrack Shirt is for you. With a speaker embedded in the fabric, you can blast your digital tunes everywhere you go.

Finally, my personal favorite, the Antique USB Typewriter. They connect to your computer, just like a keyboard, and they're made by a guy named Jack Zylkin, who describes them as "a groundbreaking advancement in the field of obsolescence."

I look at all of these products in part mockingly and also wonderingly, curious to understand what the trend is all about. Are people longing to incorporate the old into the new because the future is coming faster and faster, too fast to tolerate? Is the act of inserting an iPhone into a book a performance of dominance, the New dancing on the corpse of the Old? It likely has different meanings and purposes for different people.

Still, I can imagine in some future, when all the books have been destroyed, when I am forced without a choice to read on some glossy Pad, and every sign of our old lives has been cast away, that I will huddle to these artifacts for solace, pretending in the hollow of a faux-book that not everything is made of plastic and toxic radiation. Pretending that my fellow humans did not, with their wallets, choose to kill off the tangible completely.


  1. Nice piece Grumbler...I better start hoarding now--but I still doon't have an I phone or I pad???What to do??

  2. Thanks for the warning, I'll stay faux...I mean far away from this place.

  3. Certain things have made life easier, like mp3 players and computers and cell phones, but I don't think I can ever give up reading books. I don't know, there's something about it that's just close to my heart.

    Tech nostalgia is just a fad, and a way for people to feel less...I guess, "shallow"? Like you can be seen as being more sophisticated, in a way, if you keep up with old traditions.
    Though it's pretty easy to see a huge difference between someone possessing a typewriter-ish keyboard for a computer and someone who restores typewriters and actually has a passion for them.


NOTE: Comments are moderated by the blog owner. Your remarks and lively debates are welcome, whether supportive or critical of the views herein.

However, commentary that is intended to "flame" or attack, that is harassing, or contains violence, potential libel, and the like will not be published. Commenters who regularly harass or abuse, Anon or not, your comments come with an identifier and go directly to the Spam Box.

Please bear in mind, this is an individually run blog, not a democratic nation nor a wide-open public forum. Comment publication is entirely subject to the owner's discretion.

Thank you.