Back From The Dead: Vintage Technology

So now we’ve all seen those JITTERBUG commercials, the cell phone with the oversized numbers and 24-hour support. Clearly marketed to your parents and/or grandparents, their ads are near camp infomercials for the elderly and/or technologically challenged. Every generation laughs at the generation before. Media gives us an even greater stage to make fun of that which we will all inevitably become.

But can a JITTERBUG IPAD be far behind? With a DEPENDS APP.

For the younger reader, the JITTERBUG was a dance popular in the 1930’s. For this lame tradename to resonate with it’s intended audience, one would need to be between 80 to 100 years of age. So if you’re waiting for old friends to call, don’t plan on buying any additional minutes.

I mention this example because it’s easy to laugh at the old—and old technology. Trust me, I am both. So the following is meant merely to reflect the humor of reverse ageism.

But I digress. There are no stupid questions, right? Yet many times I have been asked to demonstrate, for some a fresh-faced collector, the art of using a Rotary Telephone. Yes, you heard that correctly. Rotary.

Let’s be blunt: “You stick your finger in the hole.” Explanation explained.

ME: This is a rotary phone. You rotate the dial.

CUSTOMER: Dilate?

ME: No! Dial… Dial!

CUSTOMER: So how does it work?

ME: You dial the number and it makes your call.

CUSTOMER: But how does it work?

ME: How does your cell phone work?

CUSTOMER: I don’t know.

ME: It’s the same technology, except it’s on a landline and you can’t text.

CUSTOMER: You’re kidding! Why would anyone want that?

ME: When it was invented it was the Verizon Upgrade from Two Tin Cans and a String. And I still can’t get out of that plan.

Of course, dead technology is not limited to the rotary phone. Portable typewriters also seem to confound many a new collector. The QWERTY keyboard and the texting explosion of recent years would makes vintage typewriter a kissing cousin to today’s cell technology. Kiss, but no tongue.

Perhaps the sheer size and weight of old typewriters spooks youthful fingers. Certainly the earlier the typewriter, the larger and more unwieldy they seem. Most resemble some sort of painful torture and/or medical device that transcribes blood clots into ink spots. Rorschach, not the musical group.

Apparently our strong-fingered ancestors were better suited to kick QWERTY butt, as PC/MAC-era soft touch users so often seem shocked at the force required to strike key to ribbon to paper. I myself am exhausted by the effort of the thought. But even Generation X, Y & Z need to buy an occasional vowel.

JITTERBUG, anyone?

Vintage telephones and typewriters are more than just shelf-sitters. These undead pieces of technology scream out a certain retro charm even when silent. There is something comforting about gently pressing a vintage telephone handset to the side of your face and not having to raise your voice to be heard. (Unless arguing with a pesky telemarketer.)

“Can you hear me? Wow! You actually can?

Stop calling me!”

And the typewriter? The touch, feel and machine-gun clatter are irreplaceable. (And so are most of the ribbons.)

No, gone are the days of distant pen pals dashing madcap correspondence on some rickety, spider-like behemoth. No more trips to the post office. No more anxious moments as the postman climbs your stairs. No more “real” hate mail. No more. Now a terse email does the trick.

And I fear something greater than mere technology has somehow passed.

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