What Price The Past?

I’m eternally fascinated by the nostalgia fuelled lure of the vintage and dunfunkt. This applies especially to vintage electronics which command a sometimes incredulous level of monetary worth due to their scarcity. Take Sony’s long defunct Betamax video tape recorders. A working model at auction can fetch anything up to £300. And that’s in a world where the analogue TV tuner would no longer work, fresh blank tape a scarcity and the sacrilege of actually using the item to play old tapes may invite a breakdown that couldn’t always be repaired. What price a connection to the past?

If Sony were to suddenly restart the Betamax production line and issue limited edition premium priced video tape recorders  I doubt they’d be a runaway success even as a premium priced niche product. It’ the lure of a world lost I presume.

A similar experience happened with the Dubreq stylophone, the stylus driven electronic organ beloved of Rolf Harris in the 60’s. For years old working models fetched premium prices and then somebody decided to remanufacture them. They’re no longer a premium priced product.They’re readily available Just a retro novelty. Supply and demand I suppose.

Image by metromoxie under this creative commons licence


Failing Sony Star?

Remember when Sony were winning? They’ve just announced a financial loss for the fourth successive year. Are their best days (and their best products) well and truly behind them?

Image by chrisinplymouth under this creative commons licence

That Certain Obsolete Niche

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There’s been a much reported view of late via Dr. Mark Dean, who had a hand in the design of the original IBM PC, that we’re moving into a post PC world where the desktop computer will join typewriters, incandescent lightbulbs and a handful of other consumer items that have passed the peak of their usefulness.

Some say that the desktop computer is suitable for creators of content but today many are either just consumers of content and mobile ones at that or are inputters of data. There are many who still use typewriters and listen to vinyl (which has even enjoyed a resurgence of late) and just this week a music group released their material on VHS tape (OK that’s just nostalgia for a past they never experienced similar to the rise in small music labels that release music on compact cassette only).

These items have moved from the mainstream to the niche.Few are ever truly dead. Maybe the desktop computer will move to a similar position. The home server for those that prefer not to trust the cloud? The dusty home of digital memories?

Surely it’s just evolving. Formats and form factors change and old habits die hard.

Vacuum tube image by jeua under this creative commons licence

Vinyl record image by SPazzø under this creative commons licence

Compact cassette image by Herr Popp under this creative commons licence

Typewriters image by donovanbeeson under this creative commons licence

Lightbulb image by Anton Fomkin under this creative commons licence

VHS tape image by Paul Mayne under this creative commons licence

‘Obsolete’ computer image by aliwest44 under this creative commons licence


Many years ago I saw the words “Brain Cant is God” painted on a wall and it gave me a wry smile assuming that they meant THE Brain Cant, voice to a clutch of quaint stop motion animated children’s programmes that were the mainstay of Brit kids who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. Nostalgia is very big at the moment though I suppose it always has been. Certainly in media circles it seems the fashionable thing to do is revisit the past, stirring up an adult generations longing for the innocent years when they weren’t burdened with worry, stress, debt and family responsibilities. Combine this with the present uncertainties in the world situation and dredging up the past and its association with more innocent times is bound to be appealing to many.

It’s really no surpise that the aforementioned Mr Cant has been voted the best loved voice from the UK’s many years of children’s television output beating the equally revered Oliver Postgate of Ivor the engine, Bagpus, Noggin the Nog and Clangers renown.

The top five were as follows:

5 Kermit the frog -The Muppets

4 Bernard Cribbins -The Wombles

3 David Jason -Dangermouse

2 Oliver Postgate -Ivor the engine,Noggin the Nog,Bagpus, The Clangers etc

1 Brain Cant- Play School, Trumpton, Camberwick Green, Chigley, Play Away

So congratulations to Brian as I get all warm an tearful about a long ago time when these programmes were firm favourites in my early years whilst checking myself to make sure I’m not wallowing too much in a collective culture of nostalgia with a longing backward glance that may suggest for many that the only thing to look forward to is the past.

The opening minute of Camberwick Green

(recently parodied on retro cop oddity Life on Mars)

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