By Alex Cockeram
When we think of technology our imagination usually takes us to images of the future. But for some, technology links us to the past – whether for nostalgia or for personal reasons
Following our recent feature on vintage technology, we asked you to share some of your collections with us – and people from around the world responded..
Rob Seaward, North Yorkshire, UK: 1949 Murphy A146 radio
I have a collection of older technology which I have collected throughout my life – including old cameras, calculators, hi-fis and radios. I had been interested in music from an early age, but it was really when my father purchased a Bang and Olufsen music centre that my interest in not only music, but style and function really took off.
To me, a lower middle-class grammar school kid living in Bradford, I suddenly had access to a world of real style and glamour.
My favourite piece must be the Murphy A146 console radio designed by Gordon Russell in 1949.
Its nickname is the “Batwing” because of the shape of the back panel. The sound is rich, slightly warm and typical of valve equipment. In its day, the radio cost the equivalent of an average monthly wage, it was built to last and the original valves are still working today.
However, as it pre-dates FM it is a little limited. I’ve had it restored and as part of the process we had a Bluetooth adapter installed which means I can now play my favourite digital music through this wonder from the 1940s – which really amazes people.
Konrad Hayashi, Atlanta, USA: 1981 AM/FM Panasonic radio
I still listen to my reliable, dual-voltage, AM/FM Panasonic radio that I bought in 1981 when my US Navy ship was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. I often played music in my small stateroom at night in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, and elsewhere far from any land signals. It reminds me of places I’ve been and of how it provided a connection, usually through the tapes that would play, with friends that I had been with.
I also realise that while our digital connectivity offers incredible options older analogue devices can still operate, on battery if necessary, in the face of threats by computer viruses or drought-imposed scheduled brownouts such as they have in Peru.
I wouldn’t consider an upgrade any more than I would get rid of a dependable friend because they aren’t wearing the latest fashions.
More Technology of Business
Adam Thomson, Australia: 1950s GE electric firelighter
I still have a GE electric firelighter from the mid-1950s. It cost me £2 from a second-hand shop in Acton, west London in 1973. It’s a bit like a 3kW hairdryer and when I still lived in England it lit coal fires in minutes. Forgot it once and the cast-iron fire grate began to melt!
It makes lighting a wood fire very easy – we have unlimited firewood on our rural piece of land from long-dead fallen trees. If you use a wood fire, you’ll know that there are times when they just don’t want to light or burn easily. This firelighter doesn’t take no for an answer and gets rid of the inconvenience of lighting the fire.
I don’t set out to collect old things, but I also don’t change things for the sake of it, especially when they work perfectly well or in the case of this firelighter, there’s not a new equivalent anyway. It’s a rather out-of-the-ordinary gadget.
Like most people my parents didn’t have a lot of money in the 1950s and 1960s and I’ve always found bits of kit interesting to dismantle and repair, probably starting with my first bicycle. Quite often it’s not only cheaper but takes less time to do some repair or maintenance oneself, rather than make the journey to some repair shop and then return a week later.
David Dore, Shropshire, UK: Automatic, or ‘self-winding’, watches
I saw my first Rolex at age 11 worn by a man waiting at the same bus stop while on my way to school, and my ambition was set – I wanted that level of engineering.
Today I take pride in ensuring my watch is set accurately to ensure the natural and minute changes which may have occurred overnight are corrected.
I take great pleasure arising at 4:45am, coming downstairs and turning the FM radio on. I pick up my watch and try to anticipate if my overnight positioning and temperature control attempts have been sufficient to manipulate the frequency by the smallest margin of time, so as the countdown pips start on the radio, the second hand sweeps majestically to 12 o’clock on the final elongated pip.
Then I know my automatic mechanical companion is synchronised and that my day can begin in the knowledge that wherever I am and whatever I am doing, the BBC and my watch will stay true.
Steven Go, Brooklyn, USA: 2004 iPod
This iPod was my birthday gift in 2004 from my siblings and two of my close cousins (it was kind of an expensive gift). It’s my default music player while I drive, bike and work, though I stopped updating the tracks after about five years of using it.
It’s more than an mp3 player. To me it represents art, engineering breakthrough and a really nice birthday gift I still love and enjoy. I cannot bring myself to get rid of it so it sat inside my desk.
Since the lockdown, I had a lucky find of a used Bose docking station at the thrift store and gave this iPod another life on my home office desk. It’s so pretty to look at and it still works. I can hear the hard drive spin when changing tracks! I love it and hope to get many more years of use.