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.