Whenever I see old devices given new life, my heart skips a beat. I had to admire the work done by this year's winner of the IBM Smarter Planet Award. Joe Hounsham of Plymouth University in the UK modified his 1930s Remington portable typewriter (below Underwood in my order of favorites) to connect to a chat room. Enough of my talking. Just see the Dico in action and commend this work:
As for the utility of the machine, I'm unsure. For me, it's unimportant. It inspires. It stimulates the imagination. It reminds me of something Ray Bradbury would have dreamt of, a writer whose future was one of gears and wires and metal crickets. "Hidden films clocked though well-oiled sprockets, and the walls lived." Most importantly, in an era where these beautiful machines are chopped up to make jewelry, it is a reminder that we can breathe life in discarded machines...I cringe when I see a typewriter that has been mutilated for its glass keys. For more information on the interactive typewriter, click
My 1950s Kodak Retina iiic is easily the most beautiful camera I have owned. Let me preface this post by admitting that I am no photographer. I'm not even an amateur photographer--but I do enjoy capturing memories to accompany my journal, and I do enjoy the feeling of a mechanical device in my hands. If you are unfamiliar with the Kodak Retina line, it differs from most other Kodaks in that it was a high-end device designed to compete with the likes of Leica at a fraction of the price. The Retinas are also unusual in that their American branding belies their German manufacturing. Their quality, compactness, and easy of use has led them to remain highly collectable; fortunately, I picked mine up for a fair price, complete with 1970s film (the seller was not lying when he said it was in storage for 40 years).
The question I frequently I get is why I am fascinated by "old things." In the case of the camera, first off, just look at it. It's beautiful! Everyone who sees this camera admires its elegance and complexity and its durability (how many of us will have our digital SLRs fifty years from now?) I'm also in awe at what could be achieved without batteries and without microchips. For instance, you may be wondering how the proper exposure is determined with this camera. It uses a selenium meter (mine still works after all these years) that takes advantage of the photoelectric properties of selenium to provide a numeric reading; the user then simply transfers this number to the shutter speed ring, which then mechanically links the speed and aperture combinations that will produce a proper exposure--in essence, this was the forerunner of shutter priority modes today.
The camera is also quite ergonomic, from its folding design to a wind lever that is underneath the camera instead of the usual location on top--you'd be surprised at how convenient it is to wind film with your thumb. Above all, it's fun; as it's a rangefinder, focusing is achieved by lining up two images...and since it's not an SLR, it takes some skill to properly frame the subject: What one sees through the viewfinder is not what he will get.
Much as I admire my Kodak, one facet of my love of ThinkPads is my adoration of the engineering. Take for example the IBM 701c--with its butterfly keyboard that operates like a jigsaw puzzle, it is able to fit a full-sized keyboard in a small footprint. Moreover, the amount of research that went into designing the TrackPoint, well before the first ThinkPad was released, is a reminder of why Lenovo refuses to purge it from the black boxes we love. Last, have a look at the Lenovo Yoga, which has been much imitated, but never surpassed in its design...with latest generation of Lenovo Yoga tablets, with watch bracelet hinges and built-in projectors, Lenovo has once again raised the bar.
About Gregory Costa
Gregory Costa is a decent biologist, mediocre writer, terrible formatter, but true Lenovo enthusiast, who admires the use of their products in both the academic and industrial setting...when he's not busy delighting himself in science, nature, or his OkCupid profile.