Friday, July 13, 2012

Cool Technology of the Week

Today's post is not about current cool technologies, but those that were cool.   I feel nostalgic for my IBM XT with a 5 megabyte hard drive, my Motorola brick phone, my 5 1/4 floppy collection, my Atari console and my Epson dot matrix printer.   There was a time when all of these technologies were uber-cool - only cutting edge technologists were willing to take the risk on early, unproven products.

The Boston Globe recently posted a cool technology retrospective using this classification

Ancient: seen in museums only, unusable, unfixable
Antique: unusable, unfixable
Vintage: usable, old, ironic, cool
Outdated: still available in stores, but barely used

It's amazing how fast cool technologies become outdated technologies.    I was in a meeting of technology leaders yesterday and only one person had a Blackberry, lamenting that his organization had not yet moved on to something more modern.

What's your favorite vintage, formerly cool technology?

17 comments:

Glen said...

In 1962 I was at a summer science school and got to have some hands-on time with an IBM 1620, playing blackjack. That was my first experience with a computer. It was really cool.

Lumpy said...

Short of the telegraph clicker (although I did use a teletype on my first bank job post college to send international wires!), I think I've owned every one of those devices. And I have fond memories of my dad's 78 records of Benny Goodman, 8 tracks of Lawrence Welk, and even a Virtrola with 5" platters. Hard to believe that my parents saw flight, the A-bomb, and the computer being invented.

Trey said...

my favorite Vintage equipment is the slide rule my dad used in college (early 50's) and I used as well getting a computer science degree (early 70s).

DrBazUK said...

The noise my 24pin Panasonic dot matrix printer made was legendary! It resulted in my father and I having to construct a near soundproof enclosure in 1/2" mdf. The problem was that I over-engineered the design and it was huge, taking up most of the available space in my then tiny bedroom.

Happy days indeed.

JackP said...

Film cameras! I have several that I just can't let go of yet. Most of all I still love my Nikkormat and all the great Nikkor lenses I have for it. My digital cameras put it to shame in many ways but the one thing it still does better is take the picture immediately when I push the shutter button!

Jordan Kalm said...

My favorite vintage technology would have to be the original nintendo:

http://www.amazon.com/Nintendo-NES-System-Video-Console-entertainment/dp/B00004SVYQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1342195498&sr=8-2&keywords=original+nintendo

Though Atari revolutionized gaming by bringing into the home, nintendo made the gaming industry a $17 Billion dollar industry in 2011. Plus, who doesn't love the idea behind two plumbers trying to save a princess?

James said...

My original Palm Pilot. So revolutionary for the time...using a stylus and pretty good hand writing recognition.

A calendar, contact info, and notes tools on a palm top device that synced with mail programs. It even had a clunky custom built titanium case.

Pretty cool...

Larry Garber said...

Definitely my 1972 DEC PDP-8/E with 12-bit word. Has beautiful "upper" and "lower" 4K (for a total of 8K)of magnetic core-plane memory. Ran 3 simultaneous users of Basic.

lymphomajourney said...

My first Mac, and the joy of discovering computer graphics in the 80s. Funny to contrast that with today's drool worthy computer, the Mac Book Pro with Retina display.

Ed Larkin said...

My Tandy TRS-80!

JimSVMI83 said...

When I first realized the best use of mainframe computers was playing games in the 70's. Who remembers "Star Trek" and "Hammurabi" on mainframes with no graphics.

Anonymous said...

My first IBM Mainframe, a 360/20, no disk drives, no tape drives, just the CPU, a card reader, a card punch and a printer. The COBOL compiler was a about 1500 cards into the middle of which you inserted your source program. Do you think I have gray hair?

Nathan B said...

I first learned to program on an Atari 800xl. It had a tape recorder that could be hooked up to it and I hid it under my desk. One of the example programs would turn it on after a certain response was entered. I recorded myself using a robot voice and fooled my father into thinking I had taught the computer to talk. The look on his face was priceless and I was hooked.

Anonymous said...

The comments here remind me of my old TI-99-4A from Texas Instruments on which I learned basic. But the overall thread brings to mind a compass. An ancient technology with modern utility, I learned to use one as a young child hiking with my parents. Now I have one on my iPhone, and the maps orient themselves. Still very cool and I use an "analog" one every chance I get.

Anonymous said...

Transcribing patient records and journal research articles on dedicated Vydec, Lanier, Exxon and Wang wordprocessors!

Russell Faust said...

So, so many. Programming AI in Fortran and Algol on IBM 360/65 in the 70's. Carrying the punch card card-stacks around campus in shoe boxes; submitting the stack and waiting for the inevitable reams of error code to print out. I've owned all of the items you mention, and still miss my first Palm Pilot, many of whose features have not been replicated on today's best smart phones. Thanks for the nostalgic look back :)

Anonymous said...

Commodore Colt, first real usable PC I ever played with. And a color display!