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Technology

Digital Generation, Analog Retro Chic 419

Posted by Hemos
from the the-joy-of-old-skool dept.
securitas writes "The New York Times' Juliet Chung writes about the latest technology trend: the growing popularity of analog technology with a generation that has grown up digital. 'Yesterday's technology designs are becoming popular among those in their teens and 20's eager to usher back a time they experienced only barely, if at all.' An MIT graduate student interviewed for the article, Ali Rahimi, was tired of the 'impersonal, unthinking' nature of modern technology, so he hacked an old telephone handset together with his mobile phone with the rationale, 'The handset has been going through about a hundred years of evolution in design and ... have the perfect shape.' According to Brown University technology historian Steven Lubar, 'When the available technology converges at a certain performance threshold ... consumers begin to base their choices on nontechnical considerations'. Chung also includes a sidebar that lists some of the new retro analog devices and interpretations, ranging from radio PC case mods to ancient clunker cell phones. Any other cool or interesting retro analog devices or hacks out there?" I've personally enjoyed owning tube amps on and off - the sound warmth, whether it be psychological or real, is definitely different then solid state amps.
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Digital Generation, Analog Retro Chic

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  • Anyone (Score:5, Funny)

    by JaffaKREE (766802) on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:49AM (#10296890)
    Anyone else reminded of the Futurama episodes where Bender rebelled against technology ? And de-upgraded himself to wood ? I know you are. I really want one of those RX-1000 robot workers.
  • it's true (Score:4, Funny)

    by Transient0 (175617) on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:50AM (#10296900) Homepage
    everyone i klnow wears an anolg watch.

    now if i only someone would release Doom 3 for my fluid-dynamics-based analog computer.
    • I know the parent was modded Funny, but when I did my chemical engineering degree analog controls based on compressed air were running 99% of plant. They were reliable, gave smooth operation and didn't burn out like electric motors if, for example, a valve became jammed.

      These days PLCs and stepper motors are taking over because they're cheaper and easier to hook up to computers. Oh well.

    • by mccalli (323026)
      everyone i klnow wears an [analog] watch.

      Well, it's true you don't know me but I haven't worn a watch in about five years. I feel a lot less stressed without one, and I'm still able to keep track of time. I need to know when to leave the house - my ordinary clocks will tell me that (as will my body clock), I need to know what time it is at work - my computer will tell me that. I need to know what time it is to catch my train - the station clocks will tell me that. And, if it any moment I need to know th

    • Re:it's true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vrai (521708) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:10AM (#10297079)
      People wear analogue watches because they look much nicer than tacky digitals. Wrist watches are essentially jewellery that is culturally acceptable for both men and women to wear. That fact that analogue displays are more readable at glance is merely a bonus.
      • People wear analogue watches because they look much nicer than tacky digitals.

        I wear an analog watch because time is an analog concept [ozdoba.net]. That and they're often thinner than digital watches...
  • ...ranging from radio PC case mods to ancient clunker cell phones.

    YES! Now I can own that same model cell phone Gordon Gecko used on his beach front property in the movie Wall Street! I've been waiting to use a cell phone just like that!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:50AM (#10296903)
    fact it, if you only know analog, your career as an EE is numbered. I fired my last analog EE last week - the guy was stark raving mad, mumbling about some type of sea-moss. Those analog only guys belong in an old folks home
    • by Komi (89040) on Monday September 20, 2004 @01:08PM (#10298822) Homepage
      Analog will always be around. Why? Because the world is analog.

      Digital is popular because much of the design process is automated. This is why you can have 200 million transistors on a chip. It's cheaper and easier to create digital circuits. Naturally, it would be nice to put as much into digital as possible. But there's a limit.

      • You have to create the digital infrastructure. You need to create the voltage levels from a power supply. Sometimes different digital blocks use different voltage levels. Also, you need to be able to control these levels to go into low power mode, or sleep mode. And finaly, digital circuits are delicate, so they need protected from power spikes.
      • The environment is analog. So to bring in data, you need to measure it. Sensor applications (temperature, weight, impact, etc.) use analog circuitry. Also, these signals need converted to digital, so A2D converts are important. And if the chip wants to output back to analog (play some sound on those speakers), you need a D2A converter.
      • Wireless transceivers need to get their signals up to and down from the carrier frequency. This is done with amplifiers, filters and mixers.
      That last bullet is actually in the RF realm, but these blocks use analog circuit theory.

      So, analog is definitely here to stay.

      Komi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:51AM (#10296908)
    People want something different, not something better. The handset of an old analog phone is by no means better or more ergonomic than a good cellphone, but it looks odd and you can't buy it, so it sets its owner apart.
    • TI agree that some people want different instead of better, but certainly not all.

      And the fact is that (some of) the old handsets are more ergonomic; they just fit the purpose perfectly.

      This is no way mitigates the fact that some folks want different or "cool".

      Most choices that people look at as mutually exclusive (exclusive or) turn out to be either/or (inclusive or). This is one of them.
    • by julesh (229690) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:12AM (#10297090)
      The handset of an old analog phone is by no means better or more ergonomic than a good cellphone, but it looks odd and you can't buy it, so it sets its owner apart.

      I disagree. Standard phone handsets have been designed to be comfortable to use. They fit around the side of your head, and can be pressed against your ear while the mouthpiece is reasonably close to your mouth. You can hold on to them by gripping between your shoulder and your head.

      Mobile phones are designed to fit in your pocket. They're too small, they're flat and they have buttons on them, all of which prevent them from being as good for the purpose of being a handset as a proper handset is. But of course, proper handsets aren't ideal for putting in your pocket...

    • Looking over the article quickly, it seems that it is mostly about putting small computers into old form factors, which has nothing to do with "analog".

      In any case, I through college with a traditional, heavy clunky desk phone. People found that very odd. Now I would love to have just the handset of that phone as my cellphone. You could fit some large batteries in there. And it would be loud enough to hear! I would not mind a larger phone if the sound quality and signal quality were better. Somehow

  • by KennyP (724304) on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:52AM (#10296913)
    And all of the ones I've built in the past 5 years have no cases - the tubes are exposed so you can see them. Real retro. Real power (400W/Ch). Real sound. Even makes 128kbps MP3s sound good!

    Kenny P.
    Visualize Whirled P.'s
  • And... (Score:2, Funny)

    by josh3736 (745265)
    I've personally enjoyed owning tube amps on and off - the sound warmth, whether it be psychological or real, is definitely different then solid state amps.
    ...let the flamewar.... COMMENCE!
    • ...let the flamewar.... COMMENCE!

      If you insist ;)

      the sound warmth, whether it be psychological or real, is definitely different then solid state amps.

      Yes. It's called distortion. It's usually considered undesirable, because it makes the music not sound like it was intended to sound like. If the producer wanted you to hear it like that, he'd have added it to the recording.
      • Re:And... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by clifyt (11768)
        " If the producer wanted you to hear it like that, he'd have added it to the recording."

        Not really.

        The modern producer has to realize the works he puts out have to be played on a number of systems.

        For instance, while most of us have our high end 'impress the clients' systems, most of our mix down speakers / monitors are incredibly cheap sounding. Why? Because we have to produce for the lowest common denominator.

        I've got a high end JBL system that sounds killer for that warm sound. I've got another sy
  • Tune up the bass (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Azghoul (25786) on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:54AM (#10296932) Homepage
    It's all psychological. Or settings. I've heard a few people say they didn't care for their CD systems' sound. Turns out, they aren't using their equalizers for anything.

    Turn up the bass, and poof, sounds warmer.
    • Re:Tune up the bass (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bob9113 (14996)
      It's all psychological. Or settings. I've heard a few people say they didn't care for their CD systems' sound. Turns out, they aren't using their equalizers for anything.

      Turn up the bass, and poof, sounds warmer.


      Valves (tubes) also mutate the sound. They actually do add something to the sound that is extremely hard to reproduce with non-analog systems. You could argue (correctly) that valve systems don't reproduce the original sound as accurately as digital, but they do sound different. For systems where
    • Re:Tune up the bass (Score:3, Informative)

      by Inda (580031)
      I was always told that if the sound doesn't sound right you have the wrong speakers and amp.

      You need to buy the right type of speakers and amps for your room. Adding an equalizer is wrong and a waste of money.
    • Re: Tune up the bass (Score:5, Informative)

      by c0sa (814995) on Monday September 20, 2004 @11:07AM (#10297616)
      It's all psychological. Or settings.

      No, actually it's not. As a simple google search (oh the horror) will reveal, there are well documented differences between the audio produced by digital and analogue amplifiers.

      Turn up the bass, and poof, sounds warmer.

      Bass doesn't equal warmth; an analogue amp may well produce less bass, but the nature of distortion (even vs odd) leads to the effect we descibe as warmth. Even-order distortion is as unique to analogue amps as odd-order distortion is to digital amps, and this is completely unrelated to bass.

      I'm not saying that turning up the bass doesn't make shitty little systems sound better, because it often does. However, most shitty little systems come with shitty little speakers that tend to deal with bass badly (or are just underpowered), thereby introducing a far worse distortion.

      Using an analogue amplifier can make a real difference to your listening experience, and you can still turn the bass up afterwards...
      • Re: Digital amps? (Score:3, Informative)

        by TeknoHog (164938)
        Even-order distortion is as unique to analogue amps as odd-order distortion is to digital amps, and this is completely unrelated to bass.

        Even-order distortion usually comes from tube amps. Odd-order comes from solid-state amps. Both of these are analogue. In practice there's no such thing as a digital amp.

        Very few amplifiers are actually completely digital. They are still in experimental stages, and none that I know of are produced commercially.

  • Analog Clocks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alatesystems (51331) <(chris) (at) (talkingtoad.com)> on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:54AM (#10296936) Homepage Journal
    Analog clocks are the best, because they go "tick tick" to let you know when each second of your life expires.

    Analog still rules the cell phone airwaves, because when you're out in the middle of the boonies(not on the interstate), you'll be glad your have a dual or tri band phone(US).

    I preferred my "analog" carbuerator to fuel injection as well. It felt better to be able to actually look at what mixed my air and gas and be able to mess with it, even though I am car-ignorant.

    Chris
  • Resurgence of old (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:54AM (#10296937) Homepage Journal
    Certainly there has been a resurgence of old lately, but you will find this trend among any time where there has been a mass revolution in the way things are. For instance, the whole arts and crafts (Gustav Stickly, Morris, Green and Green, etc....etc...etc...) movement which in some part was a reaction or rebelling against the industrial movement of the early 19th century and celebrated the individual craftsman, designer and artist.

    Right now we certainly have a rebellion against the "digital world" in many senses with a resurgence of what is warm and old including the use of tubes in stereo equipment and musical instruments to growing popularity of "old phone styles", to automobile designs borrowed from older elements and Hollywood has been borrowing every theme and idea from movies in the past for many of its current releases in an effort to come up with something successful.

  • Imagine that... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) * on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:54AM (#10296938)
    it's really hard to believe that old trends are coming back! It's never ever been fashionable to wear/use items that existed before you could remember them.

    No one wore bell bottoms before the late 1990s. No one wore sweat shirts cut strange so they would hang off one shoulder before 2004. No one wore Daisy Duke cutoffs before 2002!

    Sadly, in this day and age everything that comes back into style isn't original. It's made by companies that are out looking to make a buck. So yeah, it's going to start out that trendsetters will make their own stuff for free but companies will pick up on it and resell "retro stuff" for the same amount as it costs to have something "modern".

    Bah.
    • companies will pick up on it and resell "retro stuff" for the same amount as it costs to have something "modern".

      Actually, more.

    • Sadly, in this day and age everything that comes back into style isn't original. It's made by companies that are out looking to make a buck.

      The purpose of style *is* generally marketing of some sort. Even for individuals.

      So yeah, it's going to start out that trendsetters will make their own stuff for free but companies will pick up on it and resell "retro stuff"

      Or vice versa! Often, there is a feedback loop of ideas between companies and "original trendsetters".

      Bah.

      Ahem. A little less vanity is i
    • it's really hard to believe that old trends are coming back!

      Old trends coming back? All right. Drop me a note when you see your girlfriend wearing one of these [pemberley.com], kay?

  • tubes (Score:2, Interesting)

    Or valves, as British people prefer saying, are making a comeback. Some people tend to prefer the warm sound produced by tubes. Of course, tubes were always there in the audio production end, however, tubes are increasingly being used on the playback end. Some [norh.com] manufacturers [decware.com] are still selling tube gear, and they appear to be quite popular.

    Although not very cheap, I think that tubes look pretty cool.

  • by markov_chain (202465) on Monday September 20, 2004 @09:56AM (#10296950) Homepage
    Everyone knows that records sound better than CDs. Too bad they don't sell video content on records.
    • Three years ago, I would have laughed at you. That was until my friend (we'll call him analog-freak) sat me down in his listening chair and asked me to close my eyes.

      He started playing music - it was very clear, so I figured it was a CD. It sounded amazing, though. Then I heard him click the A/B switch. The whole room seemed to open up and I could have sworn it was a live show, synchronized with the CD. I knew right away that this was vinyl; there were a few clicks and pops, but the sound was undeniably be
      • by prisonercx (40652) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:17AM (#10297143)
        Reminds me of an old joke.

        Audiophile (n): A person who listens to the equipment rather than the music.
      • by metamatic (202216) on Monday September 20, 2004 @11:15AM (#10297710) Homepage Journal
        If you want to experience some amazing sound without the inconvenience of paying $100 for rare vinyl and only being able to play it a handful of times before it starts to wear down, there are some pretty simple things you can do. You also don't need to spend thousands of dollars on hardware to get something far better than you likely have at the moment.

        1. Audition some CD players. No, they don't all sound the same, in fact you'll be amazed how different a handful of $300-400 CD players can sound. Last time I did this a Denon multibit player blew everything else away. Ignore the specs, they're largely meaningless at this point.

        2. Get a pair of good headphones. Headphones have much better bang-for-the-buck than speakers, you don't have to be careful with room layout, there's no complicated setup or calibration, and so on. You can get a good pair of headphones for under $150 if you shop around. Sennheisers are generally good, go and sit and audition some; the most expensive are often not the best. For portable listening, I particularly like Sennheiser's PX200s, which fold up to pocket size and are good enough that I use them at home, and cheap enough that I'm prepared to risk sitting on them. The PX250 is the same headphone, but with noise cancellation, for plane flights.

        3. Get a headphone amplifier. Even a cheap $150 headphone amp will let you hear detail you never knew existed, and open up the sound so it sounds like the musicians are in the room with you. If you like portable, get a Xin mini amp, it's the size of a matchbox and runs on 3xAAAs and will make your iPod or other portable device sound several times better. Any headphone amp with crossfeed will be a big improvement over no headphone amp at all, so don't worry too much over which to get.

        4. If you listen to computer audio, either get an audiophile quality sound card, or get an external USB sound processor. I have an M-Audio Audiophile USB, which just craps all over the built in sound of any Mac, and Apple's sound hardware is pretty good compared to the average PC's generic hardware. Again, cost can be under $150.

        So there you go, four ways to massively improve your sound, three for under $150 each, no major skills involved.

        Of course, you can go much further. A pair of electrostatic headphones will blow away your $150 Sennheisers, but most people don't have a couple of grand to spend on headphones. I'm sure your goldenears friend would be unimpressed by my choices above. I just wanted to say that most people don't need lots of technical knowledge or massive amounts of cash to make a huge improvement in the quality of sound they listen to.
    • Everyone knows that records sound better than CDs. Too bad they don't sell video content on records.

      What about these [nmsi.ac.uk]?
    • There's no pops and scratches on CDs. When you listen to a record, there's always noise in the background. Especially at the beginning of the record, or the space between songs where there's no music.

      CDs skip, they ain't perfect, but let's not get nostalgic here. Records are obsolete for a reason. Anyone make a six-disc record player? Heck, you have to flip the thing to hear the other side. Sure, at one time that was interesting, having two "sides" to an album, but that day has passed. I can burn my

  • Go to compusa or any computer store and try to find a dial control ( you know like the one used in games like Tempest or Pong ). I've been looking for years for a $20+ dial control that would allow me to navigate through horizontal menu's and play games like Breakout! and they don't exist unless you look from an old retro-fitted junk from ebay or some 200 Dlls over-kill X-Arcade control set.
    Bring back the dial control.
    Now I just counted to three and made my peace.
  • My interpretation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "'When the available technology converges at a certain performance threshold ... consumers begin to base their choices on nontechnical considerations'"

    Electrical engineering is OVER, folks, unless you enjoy spending your whole life in front of a computer trying to get that 0.01% edge over your competitor, until you lose your job to outsourcing and STILL have to pay the cult dues, errr student loans.

  • I keep hearing this statement about tube-amps being better than digital amps because of their warmer sound etc etc. Why doesn't someone do a spectral sound analysis for tube amps that outlines the differences with digital amps and settles the argument once and for all? Is there such an analysis somewhere out there already? I would do it myself except that I don't have access to either tube amps or spectral analyzers...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That would settle it once and for all! And you're the FIRST person to think of it!

      Hurry, go apply for a patent!
    • Audio is subjective. Hearing is a feeling. No spectrum analyzer's results provide better data than my own hearing. Tube amps (and their limitless analog tone variations) can only be digitally mimicked at certain intervals. With that in mind, a tube amp has never be (and probably won't ever be) matched by a solid state POS.
    • Large part of the 'Warm' feeling is actually a ring effect. You won't see that on a spectrum analysis execpt maybe for a longer decay.

      Jeroen
    • by jackrd (787395) on Monday September 20, 2004 @11:58AM (#10298155)
      Is there such an analysis somewhere? Yes. In fact, there's about as many as you'd expect there to be. Here's a quick sampler:

      Tubes vs. Transistors: Is There an Audible Difference? (From the Audio Engineering Society) [dwfearn.com]
      Tubes vs. Solid State [impactsites2000.com]

      That's just the tip of the iceberg, my friend. I mean, that's just generally the difference. Once you start considering different design paradigms, there's all kinds of other stuff to get into. The analog vs. digital debate, as far as I'm concerned, is moot; analog and digital can (and do) peacefully coexist. Some people like the way certain things sound, and maybe that thing is a radio from 1938 with tubes, maybe it's your solid-state computer speakers playing digital source.
      There is a lot of engineering that goes into making audio equipment and audiophiles aren't all rubbing bizarre cream over everything that enters their houses. Pick up an issue of Stereophile (although for actual reading, I'd suggest Listener) sometime. As much as you'll find it astounding what some do with their stereos, you'll also find it filled with graphs on everything from spectral decay to impedence to power to frequency response... There is a science to audio engineering; just because the results of that science may or may not appeal to you, doesn't mean they're not there.
  • Hasn't anyone come up with a way of using a PC to drive a cutter which makes LPs from vinyl blanks? Besides being a cool hack, club DJs would love you for it.
    • Re:Vinyl (Score:2, Informative)

      by gwizah (236406)
      You could always use this: Vestax vrx-2000 [vestax.com]

      There was the Kingston Dubplate cutter that was manufactured by the same guys who made Final Scratch [finalscratch.com] which was another cutting aparatus which utilzed a PC, but I think they no longer sell it. Final Scratch is really an amazing product, but you can't beat the "feel" of real vinyl beaneath the needle.
  • by Dagny Taggert (785517) <hankrearden@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:00AM (#10296989) Homepage
    ...the commoditization of so many high tech items (cell phones, PCs, etc.). We all want something a little different from the beige box or the grey flip-phone. Manufacturers (check out Nokia's new stuff, for example) try to hit us with "out there" styles, but retro is cool because, at least for a while, tech companies won't touch it. After all, we're not going to see a Pentium4 boxed up in an IBM PCjr box any time soon.
  • Gibson Retro? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dapulli (725620) <dapulli@NOSPAm.gmail.com> on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:01AM (#10296994) Homepage
    I remember a section of the story from William Gibson's "Idoru" where one of the main characters has a retro styled computer made by "Harley Davidson". Ever since reading that book I have been waiting for a company to start designing electronics that doesn't look like another piece of hardware. Considering how much I use my MP3 player and digital camera, you would think more companies would have a range of styles. Basically I want "retro styling" to be a step towards be getting my mp3 player to look like my watch.
  • by brxndxn (461473) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:06AM (#10297041)
    It seems to me that in the digital bandwagon, many companies ignore the potential utility in analog. A lot of our technology is mere digital representations of an analog data.

    I know I really miss the analog dials for quickly finding radio stations. With analog, it was just spin the dial quick to get to your station fast; with digital, click and hold, click and hold some more, tap, tap, tap. Though, I do tend to like digital tuning, analog tuning sometimes allows you to get that pesky hard-to-tune station where digital tuning would just skip it.

    Also, I have heard that analog amplifiers have better sound quality than digital. They should, if you just look at the basic properties of sound. Maybe if companies spent some new research money on making a better analog amplifier, analog would turn out to be better overall.
    • What you are describing is bad user interface design.... You can make a good spin dial on a digital device to, but a few push buttons are cheaper.

      The big plus for digital is that once you have the initial conversion done you can do almost anything with a lot cheaper circuitry without adding extra noise. (A digital signal can be transported without adding extra noise, an analog signal by definition can't)

      Jeroen
  • by leperkuhn (634833) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:07AM (#10297046) Homepage Journal
    That's why I've resurrected my old ENIAC to play Doom 3.
  • If those organizations like RIAA/MPAA/whatever keep pushing restrictions like rights managment systems on digital media, and corrupt goverments listen to them and pass shitty laws like DMCA/Super DMCA and such.
  • by gwizah (236406) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:12AM (#10297091) Homepage
    I was wondering this the other day when I read some random posting on the internet about a guy who cleaned out a 1930's era RCA radio and crammed a miniITX board inside. What happened to the radio? He threw it in the trash.

    This worries me because that radio was created during a time when Analog sets were state-of-the-art and cost upwards of hundreds of dollars. The PC components he placed inside that wooden case probably cost the same, but will be obsolete in a few years due to the speed at which we are updating technology these days. The radio however, was probably in use for well over 20+ years until a tube burned out and the previous owner could no longer get a replacement.

    20+ years Vs. 2-3 years. I prefer keeping vintage electronics whole and in one piece. There are tons of resources [antiqueradios.com] out there for people who would love to get their hands on old sets and get them working again. The PC in an RCA case will probably be forgotten and discarded not soon after it's internals are considered yesterdays news. Much like it was decades ago, only that much sooner.
    • by HeyLaughingBoy (182206) on Monday September 20, 2004 @12:01PM (#10298176)
      The PC components he placed inside that wooden case probably cost the same, but will be obsolete in a few years due to the speed at which we are updating technology these days. The radio however, was probably in use for well over 20+ years until a tube burned out and the previous owner could no longer get a replacement.

      Don't confuse the two. Just because the PC won't run today's software, doesn't mean it ceased to function. For all the tasks it was doing before, it is still just fine and can continue to do them for 20+ years. The difference is that the external standards the radio was designed to deal with (frequencies, modulation method) didn't change while the ones for the PC (software, perhaps network connection) did.

      There are computers decades old still chugging along just fine doing what they were originally designed for.
  • Telephones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:13AM (#10297098) Journal
    After my grandmother died, the only thing I wanted to inherit was her old standard-issue GPO rotary-dial telephone. My grandparent's house was built at the tail end of the 1960s, and the phone was installed new in that house. My grandmother died at the tail end of last year. Since I want to keep it original (it's a reminder of my grandparents every time I use it) I haven't even changed the little paper disc in the dial that has their phone number and the usual 'Emergency: Fire, Police, Ambulance: 999' bit at the top.

    The phone is one of these [ukonline.co.uk] and anyone who grew up in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s will remember them (and there's still quite a few around that have never been changed out for modern phones).

    They are pretty much indestructable, having an electromechanical ringer and solidly-made mechanical parts (including the clockwork dial mechanism with generates the LD pulses). So as I didn't even have to change the wire that goes from the telephone to my modern RJ-45 jack - originally I had planned to just crimp on an RJ-45 plug to the cable - I managed to obtain an old GPO junction box from the same era. You just need to screw down the little connectors on the end of the telephone cable into one end, then crimp on some of those little fork-connectors to the free end of a piece of Cat5 with an RJ-45 at the other end, which you then screw down into the original junction box - then plug into the socket.

    I'd also like an Ericofon, but I don't think without soldering resistors to the ringers of the phones to increase the impedance, the ringer current just won't make two phones with a real bell ring at the same time...and I don't want to modify the phones.

  • by mwood (25379) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:16AM (#10297136)
    The good old desk phone handset was designed to fit the human hand and head. The contemporary cell phone is designed to be as small as they can make it, to win cool-points. But engineering will eventually triumph over decoration when people settle down and *use* these artifacts. I think that more people are beginning to realize that machines should first of all be fit for their function.

    Some of the new stuff is much better than the old. I would never willingly go back to the old LC FM tuners now that I've used PLL types. But I want a radio that's big enough for my hands to operate, no matter what is inside. The use of pinheads masquerading as switch buttons is the opposite of engineering.
  • Rotary Phones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Graemee (524726) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:18AM (#10297158)
    I love my old rotary phone. It funny to see someone try to figure out how to dial it. They keep pushing the "buttons" in the dial. Silly kids.

    I do have to hit the mouth piece every so often to loosen up the carbon in the mic.

    It's even more retro in that it's a Commodore phone that came with my VIC modem.
  • Mechanical wrist watches have never gone out of style. Some of the geekiest geeks I know are watch geeks. Mass production has also reached a level where even a tightwad like me can own one. A few months ago I bought this Rolex knock-off [intimewatches.com] with a Japanese movement for US$100. Keeps pretty good time (loses about 1 minute per week), and feels sooo much smoother when changing time zones than a quartz watch. With the clear back, you can look at all the cool little parts too.
  • I can't (Score:2, Funny)

    by PinchDuck (199974)
    wait until 8-track mp3 players come into voouoouugggcliclclickclickclick

    Anybody got a pencil? I've got to fish the tape out of the machine again.
  • My friend's shameless display of his oversized cellphone was finally put to rest when I trotted out my Ajeeb [angelfire.com] chess-playing automaton... ...though the very, very short master-level chessplayer was admittedly difficult to source.
  • Ali Rahimi, was tired of the 'impersonal, unthinking' nature of modern technology, so he hacked an old telephone handset together...

    Because telephone handsets are renowned for being both personal and thinking.
  • "When you're talking to your grandma on an old-style handset, you're very aware of its presence," Mr. Rahimi said. "The handset has been going through about a hundred years of evolution in design and, pretty much for what they do, they have the perfect shape."

    Then why do they come in so many shapes? Why did someone have to invent those stupid foam pads that help you cradle the phone against your ear? The shape of a telephone handset is as much about appearance as it is about functionality and the need

  • Just how old is the writer of that line?
    I can't decide if that was just an unfortunate choice of phrase or not.
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr. Cancelled (572486) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:39AM (#10297347)
    Aopen released a hybrid tube audio-based motherboard [neoseeker.com] back in... 2002? Perhaps it was 2001 even... My analog brain seems to have problems with old, non-important dates.

    Also, it's worth pointing out that for most musicians, particularly guitarists, tube technology has never gone away. It may have gotten a little more scarce in the consumer world, but musicians have long known that tubes offer an element that while perceptive, often enhances any sound, digital, or analog-based.

    It's also worth pointing out that many companies are now emulating tube sounds. For example, I sold my old Marshall stack a long time ago, and moved to an Line6 AX2 tube-modelling amp [tonefrenzy.com]. It's very impressive, and allows me to achieve many natural sounding tones, without requiring multiple amps, or annual tube replacements.

    T-Racks [t-racks.com] is a notable piece of software which can do wonders to your music tracks. Many of its functions are designed to emulate tube-based equipment.

    So while it's nice to see that more people are re-discovering the magic of analog equipment, it's not like it's ever gone away.
  • by Pidder (736678)
    Dorky student at MIT hacks together old phone and mobile phone

    "Imagine this: I'll walk into a bar and ask for a girl's number, then break out my phone," he said. "How could you say no to that?"

    uhm, yeah.

  • > so he hacked an old telephone handset together with his mobile phone

    No he didn't. Nowhere in the article does he say that the did this. All is says is that he bought one off eBay. Nothing else. It doesn't say that he got it working or modified the phone in any way. I'd be more impressed if he'd actually done the mod and got it working as the original poster implied.

    For now, this is a non-story about a fairly badly done computer case mod (why have a beige CD drive in a wooden case? He could at least h
  • by szyzyg (7313) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:49AM (#10297443)
    Sure, I wrote a load of open source mp3 stuff and made a carrer for myself in the digital music world.

    But I still use good old fashioned records all the time, partly it's because it's the best way to DJ, but even outside of the clubs I'm a vinyl fan.



    I've just been at my mother in law's this weekend digging through furniture, toys and other nik naks to stocky my new house. I found this ancient 'show n' tell' toy - basically a player for little 7" records and an associated slide show - usually kids stories or mini documentaries. I'm feeling a strange fascination towards this 1950's predecessor to 'Encarta' - at least the hardware doesn't blue screen (although I guess it needs a bulb replaced from time to time).


    Anyway, the best find is a 1951 Sunbeam toaster, all automatic, drop the toast in and it lowers itself, toasts, and pops up slowly (and silently). Sure, most toasters these days aren't digital (except for that java driven weather forecast toaster) but this 'fully automated' device feels more high tech than many modern variations.


    I've got a bunch of 50 year old vinyl (33 rpm 'microgroove') records that I can't wait to listen to when I get back, I wonder how many of my CD's will still be working 50 years after buying them.

  • by theolein (316044) on Monday September 20, 2004 @10:55AM (#10297491) Journal
    According to Brown University technology historian Steven Lubar, 'When the available technology converges at a certain performance threshold ... consumers begin to base their choices on nontechnical considerations

    This is one of the reasons Apple's products sell so well: The company puts an enormous amount of thought into the design. It's one of the reasons I have a Mac, the fact that the design, although not retro, is very smooth, the materials are top quality and Apple evens puts thought into the placment of screws. That and OSX, which exhibits the same processes, but in an OS.
  • Would this be cool? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday September 20, 2004 @11:40AM (#10297973)
    The hack I think would be cool would be to take a "brick" cell phone from say ten years ago, put in modern guts, interface to the original keypad, and then load it up with batteries in the remaining space. Get a cell phone with a month's worth of battery life.

    Or a fuel cell and methonal tank that would run it for a year!

  • by ndogg (158021) <the.rhornNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday September 20, 2004 @12:49PM (#10298675) Homepage Journal
    I think we're getting to a point where technology is so complex that, as Arthur C. Clarke once noted, technology is indistinguishable from magic. Some people like magic, but many most certainly do not. It's not necessarily comforting to not know what is going on behind the scenes in technology.

    This "rebellion against digital" is really an attempt to find technology that those people understand. Older technology provides a decent base from which they can understand the more complex technologies. This is the evolution of learning.

"I have more information in one place than anybody in the world." -- Jerry Pournelle, an absurd notion, apparently about the BIX BBS

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