“We hope to reconnect our lives with an element of authenticity that seems to be missing today.”
That’s the mantra of Only/Once, a niche online shop that specializes in product design from the mid-20th century.
It’s part of a broader trend that finds us looking back as often as we look forward when it comes to technology.
Sure, we’ll buy the new iPhone, but we still secretly crave the more playful, less obtrusive and decidedly more tactile pleasures of decades past. (Stuff tended to last longer, too.)
So herein, our guide to seven stores, sites and resources for buying and/or enjoying vintage tech, from Braun radios to boomboxes to, yes, a few bytes of old-school Apple.
Offering “timeless pieces from the 20th century,” O/O specializes in sourcing and refurbishing Braun radios, Hurka lamps and other industrial items and electrical goods from last-century, like-minded designers (mainly German, but a few Japanese manufacturers as well).
One-part online museum, one-part best gadget thrift store in the world. Future Forms was started by SF resident Mark Edelsberg, Future Forms devotes itself to literal Space Age tech, as well as the works and 10 design principles of Dieter Rams (design should be innovative, unobtrusive, etc.).
Conserve the Sound
An online compendium of noises collected from old and dying technology. An ongoing project from a German design/film company Chundersken since 2013, CTS also features accompanying video interviews with experts about the obsolete tech and provides a nice visual companion to all the tech. Expect to spend several "sound" minutes entranced by the analog buzzes, whirls and clicks of ancient View Masters, boomboxes, Sony Walkmans, typewriters and 1920’s pigeon racing clocks.
And a few broader areas to enjoy vintage gear:
While sites such as Christie’s will occasionally throw vintage gear into one of their auctions, they tend to stick watches and clocks. Still, it’s worth an occasional look, but you’ll probably want to concentrate moron specialty sites like Auction Team Breker (an auctioneer devoted to “technical antiques.”) Design-forward auction sites can also be a good resource: more than 130 works (tableside radios, projectors, alarm clocks, etc.) by famed industrial designer Dieter Rams (and some of his cohorts) were up for auction at the auction house Wright earlier this summer. And a functioning Apple-1 is coming up for bids in September at RR Auction— it could fetch as much as $300,000.
Reddit has a fairly active Subreddit devoted to vintage Apple products. If you have a pre-smartphone digital camera taking up space somewhere, you might want to follow point-and-shoot devotees digicam.love on Instagram. While not for sale, just type in “vintage tech ads” into Google and you’ll be devoured by some truly retro, hilarious-in-hindsight ad copy (“What the heck is Electronic Mail?”).
Living Computers: Museum + Labs, a hands-on vintage tech vault in Seattle, is currently offering “Totally 80s Rewind” through the end of December, a tech display that recreates the life of an 80s teenager — think Apple IIs, Galaga arcade cabinets and Walkmans galore. As well, thousands of audio and visual artifacts — vintage film cameras, TV sets, recording equipment, etc. — are on permanent display at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image.
Retro-Minded Designers and Companies
Love Hulten is a Swedish maker of retro-styled video game consoles — most recently, he created OriginX, a “handcrafted wooden tribute and a delicate homage to the Pong cabinet” that mounts to a wall. Speaking of video games, it’s pretty much impossible not to find a classic (or not-so-classic) gaming console that’s been updated and miniaturized. Throwboy offers classic tech in throw pillow form — currently, that’s a history of Apple products now being funded on Kickstarter. Seems possibly dangerous, but somebody’s repurposing old Soviet-era Nixie tubes into modern-day wristwatches. And, finally, if you missed playing Snake, Nokia re-released the iconic 3310 phone late last year, with a bit more power and polish underneath the keypad.