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Essential Retro: The Vintage Technology Guide Paperback – December 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Grahame is CEO of Reflex ASI, a consumer electronics company. His obsession with classic gizmos led him to start, a successful web site dedicated to vintage gadgetry. He is also on the editorial staff of small format, a European magazine focused on small format moviemaking. James lives in Western Canada with his wife and young son.

He encourages you to visit for a glimpse of even more classic gadgetry and vintage technology.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

We live in an age of wonder. Each new year welcomes thousands of innovative devices that are smaller, faster and more beautiful than anything before. It is easy to get caught up in an endless quest for the ultimate new gadget, but don’t forget that many brilliant old machines are hidden away in attics and garages throughout the world – forgotten movie cameras lie on dusty shelves beside obsolete computers and classic mechanical toys, all crying out to be rediscovered and brought back to life.

That’s what this book is about – rediscovery. It’s not a catalogue for collectors or a price guide for eBay sellers. The goal is to introduce you to as many vintage (or classically styled) gadgets as I can sanely cram into a couple of hundred pages. Treat this as an opportunity to revive the styles and technology of bygone eras, and to discover an earlier age of elegant mechanics and hand-drawn design.

It’s hard to tell which of today’s gizmos will become the design icons of our era, but it’s easy to pick out beautiful and definitive devices from the past. And – best of all – yesterday’s technology often sells for an infinitesimal fraction of what it cost new. So, rather than spending $1000 on a brand new camcorder, risk $50 on a mint-condition Super 8 camera. Or invest in a vacuum tube amplifier instead of the latest digital surround-sound wonder box with its baffling remote control. Your digital watch has stopped running? Go mechanical and you’ll never worry about dead batteries again.

We take the breathtaking pace of technological change almost for granted. Just don’t forget that most new equipment supplants something from an older generation – a new Xbox 360 videogame console might replace a classic Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and so on. Eventually, older machines find their way to garage sales and flea markets, where they often sell for a handful of spare change.

I’ve tried to list sources for the gear I mention, but many old items – like the beautiful wooden Gfeller Trub telephone and Audio Technica’s brilliant Sound Burger portable record player – are almost impossible to find at sane prices. The Internet is partially to blame, since interesting old devices often gain cult status on forums and Blogs. And, once a gadget becomes widely known, it frequently becomes the focus of aggressive bidding on auction sites like eBay. The solution is to get your hands on machines that make you wonder why no one has discovered them yet. Rest assured that the masses will follow.

One book can’t possibly cover every must-have piece of technology from the past few decades. You’ll quickly discover that each chapter of Essential Retro provides only the mere tip of an iceberg. Rather than mindlessly cataloguing everything, I picked and chose things that caught my eye and imagination. Hopefully, some of these wonderful machines will capture your heart like they did mine, and you’ll find yourself collecting and using magnificent contraptions from years past.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Sputnik Books (December 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0973683813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0973683813
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,777,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 15, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The text of this book lives up to high quality of the blog from which it originated but... the picture quality is poor. They're all grainy black and white. I expected, at least, crisp images, no matter how small, but instead these are all low resolution. It definitely detracts from the impact. Quite dissapointing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Henning Edelboe Mortensen on November 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book offers a unique look at some old technology that was once

on the cutting edge. It's organized into ten broad chapters that

introduce things like vintage hi-fi audio, microcomputers (mostly

machines from the late seventies and early eighties), eight bit video

game systems and even a section full of 8mm movie cameras. Strangely,

there is no mention of pinball.

There are a few hundred Black & White photographs splashed throughout

the text and the quality of the images is respectable (this copy is

marked as "2nd Sputnik books edition" on the title page and I suspect

the reviewer who complained about grainy pictures had an early

printing). A fun look at desirable gadgets from not so long ago that

now sell for almost nothing.
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Format: Paperback
I've been reading the author's website for a few months and bought this book as soon as I heard about it. I like that instead of it being a history book he gives hints about where to get the stuff he mentions. I wish there were more large pictures and they were all in color, but there's so much here that it's hard to complain too much.
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