Can’t afford a summer vacation? Why not take a cruise back in time, to when technology was more thrilling and much, much more complex.
Mike D’Alessio, who grew up playing with crystal radios and electronics kits he bought at his local RadioShack in Illinois, has taken it upon himself to scan 67 years’ worth of RadioShack catalogs and post them online. You can view them at RadioShackCatalogs.com, where D’Alessio has also posted videos, computer catalogs, and ads dating back to 1925. I was fascinated to see that although there have been only 11 official versions of the corporate logo, the catalog masthead seemed to change almost every year. The latest rendition, you may recall, truncates the name to The Shack. (Via Wired magazine, “The Lost Tribes of RadioShack.”)
I myself was never a tinkerer, but I did log plenty of hours in paleo-computerized newsrooms. For a while, during journalism school, I set type on a Compugraphic similar to this headline machine:
We set type “blind,” meaning we saw only perforations on a roll of tape. Within about a week I was able to read those perforations as letters.
The photo is from a page on the Cal State Fullerton website that documents the typesetting and paste-up process back in those labor-intensive days, circa 1970. That was before my time, but the technology didn’t evolve much in the intervening years. (Via Nancy Nall and Hank Stuever.)
It wasn’t only the newsroom arts that resembled rocket science back in the day. Swimming was also an esoteric skill with an elaborate vocabulary: the Catherine Wheel, the trudgeon stroke, the propeller, the washing tub. Of course, you had to begin your lessons on land, as Frank Eugen Dalton and Louis C. Dalton explain in their 1912 manual, Swimming Scientifically Taught.
Despite appearances, the lady is not about to give birth.
Many thanks to my Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club compatriot Pete and to Gutenberg.org for sharing this fascinating document.
What if you really could travel back in time? Alex Varanese knows what he’d do: “grab all the modern technology I could find, take it to the late 70's, superficially redesign it all to blend in, start a consumer electronics company to unleash it upon the world, then sit back as I rake in billions, trillions, or even millions of dollars.” Not content to dream, he has re-imagined four common products from 2010—an MP3 player, a laptop, a mobile phone, and a handheld video game system—and “created a series of fictitious but stylistically accurate print ads to market them, as well as a handful of abstract posters (you know, just for funsies).” The result is Alt/1977: We Are Not Time Travelers, a collection of uncannily authentic designs and copy. The names are spot-on, too. Check out the Pocket Hi-Fi:
Fun fact: Did you know that the original name of the BlackBerry mobile device was PocketLink? And that was in 1997.