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What is retro anyway?

1989 Macintosh Plus computer

My Macintosh Plus, which I photographed in 1989, using an old Polaroid camera I found in the offices of The San Matean, a student newspaper at the College of San Mateo.

What could be more retro than writing on a manual typewriter? Well, one could use a fountain pen — or a quill. Still, one could write on an electric typewriter or an outmoded computer. I just read recently that the author of Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, does his writing on a DOS-based machine:

“I actually like it, it does what I want a word-processing programme to do and it doesn’t do anything else [e.g. automatic spellcheck]. I don’t want any help, you know?

“I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital. I don’t want a capital. If I’d wanted a capital, I’d have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key. Stop fixing it.” — BBC News: Game of Thrones author George RR Martin: ‘Why I still use DOS’

Such stories abound.

My local typewriter repairman, John Sansone of Los Altos Business Machines, related that one of his customers prefers an “old” electric typewriter — a model that has a separate monitor — to anything else. Apparently, she buys spare machines for parts, as the motor tends to burn out. He sees her three or four times a year.

In 1997, while a college student, I pulled out my old Mac SE (not the machine pictured above) to write my senior thesis, in order to stay focused on the task. I churned out 90 pages on that machine, which had been in mothballs for five years.

In essence, retro is anything old, anything that is a throw-back to a bygone age. We are continually drawn back to a simpler time, when we felt we could keep up.

© 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Richard P May 16, 2014, 9:10 pm

    I used a Mac SE from about 1988 to 2001. It served me well and it still fires up, chattering and beeping away, whenever I drag it out of the closet.

    • T. Munk May 17, 2014, 5:34 am

      Ahh, my old SE-30 died full of honey (bees built a nest in the shed it was stored in). Had to fill it with gunpowder and blow it up. Might have videotape of that somewhere.. Ha, “videotape”. 😀

    • Mark Adams May 18, 2014, 11:28 pm

      The hard drive on my SE is busted, so all I see is that ever philosophical question mark.

  • Spiderwebz May 17, 2014, 8:13 pm

    Retro is fun! And sustainability. Reusing what was made to last long and still enjoying it while others just trow it away.

    I like your statement too: “We are continually drawn back to a simpler time, when we felt we could keep up.” It’s true!

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