I Love Retro Tech: GCO retro campaign post
This introductory post kicked off our day-long online campaign that I co-ordinated for Get Caerphilly Online around Retro Tech:
Get Caerphilly Online is celebrating a milestone figure of having supported over 4000 people to develop their Digital Skills since the original project launched in 2010.
The initiative is supported by Communities 2.0, a Welsh Government programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Caerphilly County Borough Council, and Get IT Together, a national project supported by BT and Communities 2.0.
As part of our celebrations we wanted to acknowledge the technologies of the past and invite you to share your stories, memories and photos of the devices that you loved and miss! We will be releasing a series of posts over the course of today taking a fond look at different kinds of ‘retro tech’; from teletext to the world of gaming, home entertainment and mobile communications. This will be followed by our first ‘retro tech’ on Saturday 26th at 11am until 4pm at the Winding House Museum in New Tredegar. We will have old tech to play with so everyone is welcome to come along with your retrotech and enjoy a day of play and chat over our love of tech.
These are just some of the developments and devices that have led to this exciting point in time, a world where the internet is a rich and powerful resource, and digital technology is so common-place it is taken for granted by many. We understand though that this world is enormously challenging to a lot of the people that we support, and there’s often a feeling that digital devices, computers in particular, are complex, alien and irrelevant to them. But in celebrating the devices of the past, we hope to show how we’ve really always been surrounded by technology that we’re actually rather fond of, and that today’s technology can be better understood when we see it in context with older tech that is familiar to us all.
Whoever you are, whatever generation you are from, you will have experienced a technology that was new and exciting to you, made for you and your generation. Whether it was mechanical, clockwork or electronic / digital wizardry, we have all enjoyed mastering a tool that a previous generation wasn’t fortunate enough to own. We are, of course, are well aware that there around 40,000 people still not online in our borough and this is one way we have developed to encourage others to join in and find what works for them.
As a child of the 80s I consider myself very lucky. I have a foot in both the pre- and post-internet age, and it means I can relate well to both worlds. My favourite toys came bleeping and speaking and encased in bright shiny plastic. Things like the Speak and Spell, Major Morgan (now an app!) and Game Boy. I remember well our first home computer arriving when I was 5 in 1983 – not the typical Commodore or Amstrad, but a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A.
In my own lifetime I have witnessed the increasing digitisation of all our lives. I was a user of the pioneering analogue versions of technologies that are now digital. And they have left impressions on my memory – the click and whir as you dialled old rotary telephones, fast forwarding through songs on cassette tapes, trying to change camera films as quickly as possible lest you ruin it with light, and the workplace before email. News was accessed via the daily paper (which left you with dirty black fingertips) and the BBC.
And finally, arrangements to meet people were concrete and not all “I’ll text when I’m leaving!”
Chances are, if you ask people about their first tv / walkman / game system / ‘phone or what-have-you, they will pause, smile and tell you a story about a special Christmas or birthday when they received a something-or-other, or saving up hard for their first handheld. Often they’ll go on to tell you about “a time when they saved up for that new game or the time they were lucky to wake up to their first computer.”
These older technologies can hold a special place in our minds. Not because of the technology itself necessarily, but because we form a sentimental bond with the product. These products become associated with real, living, human experiences, and play a role in key moments and phases in our lives; a phone call from a special person or perhaps with some good news, the hours spent with friends playing computer games or being able to record something you loved from TV or the radio and keep it forever.
Sometimes, early experiences with technologies can be formative too. For example, it made PERFECT SENSE when Dafydd Trystan, my old university politics tutor and ex-Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru told me he how much he loved playing General Election on his Spectrum ZX 48!
The quirks and idiosyncrasies of the technologies remain embedded on our minds, and as they become phased out we notice their absence (if only subconsciously) and can become nostalgic for them. Probably the most notable example of this in the digital world is the death of the 56k modem dial-up sound when we all switched to always-on broadband. The absence of that particular sensory experience is still something I still miss in going online! The sensory nature of these experiences is what helps forge strong bonds in our minds. Our brains save the sound, feel, look and smell of the products first and foremost, and certain triggers bring these experiences back in the form of memory. And it’s these memories that we are interested in sharing and hearing from YOU! Which are the items that you just couldn’t bring yourself to throw away? The items that make you go “Aaaaah…” when they are brought to mind…?
We love tech of all flavours here at Get Caerphilly Online and as part of this campaign we really, really want to hear about all the things you loved and miss. Be it the smallest device like a walkman to your first mobile phone just let us know and share your love, memories or even frustrations.
As a starter, I’ll leave you with two things; firstly a photo of a child’s Christmas in Wales – specifically my Christmas, 1991, when I got Super Mario Bros 3 and a brand new joystick that had an Auto-Fire option for my beloved Nintendo. I have such happy, happy memories of that Christmas!
We’d love you to share your photos and memories with us too. Which are the products that made your heart skip a beat? When you close your eyes, what can you remember about the way it felt, smelled, sounded and looked like? Send your memories to us on twitter @getconline, find us on facebook, leave a comment below or email matthew.Lloyd@walescooperative.org
The second thing I’ll leave you with is a clip from an unlikely source that sums up the power of nostalgia within the world of technology rather nicely. Enjoy! http://youtu.be/suRDUFpsHus
The Mechanics and Meaning of that Ol’ Dial-up Sound: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/06/the-mechanics-and-meaning-of-that-ol-dial-up-modem-sound/257816/
Blast from the Past: Vintage Technologies That We No Longer Use:
13 Tech Sounds you don’t Hear Anymore: