It’s no secret that I’m an appreciator of gadgets and electronics. I’ve gone through probably 12 phones in the last 10 years and a variety of cameras, media players, computers, and devices. Most have ended up on Ebay after use, but a few have stayed in my collection longer. I’ve also received some interesting devices from my grandfather’s collection that have both a sentimental value to me as well as an awesome antique, analogue aesthetic that I love.
Others are just weird and unique devices that have pretty much no resale value, but are wacky enough to me to hold on to, maybe in order to sell to a collector or museum later. Maybe that Microsoft Kin I held onto will be my early retirement plan. This is a photographic tour through my little technology museum.
Super 8 Camera
I have dreams of using this to become Steven Spielberg or at least make a cool monster movie. I certainly have done enough research to know the genre. Unfortunately this camera uses a proprietary battery that seems to have leaked over the years and won’t record now. The trigger action recording button is super cool though. I wish my smartphone had a trigger for taking pictures. Oddly, it uses a second battery for zooming and rewinding the film, which still works.
Polaroid Land Camera
This is without a doubt my favorite of the gadgets and the one I use most often recently. With the resurgence of antique and vintage media like records, the instant type cameras have also taken off. In the last couple of years, a new company has bought the old Polaroid film factory and started making film again, meaning I can get brand new working film for this. Since the battery to advance the film is actually in the film cartridge, it still works great. About half of the pictures don’t come out, but I’m not sure if that’s because it can’t handle low light, or if there’s something not working right. Even if it didn’t work at all, I think it’s a stunning looking device that somehow conveys a cheap utilitarian vibe with a retro fun that isn’t around in modern design. Sadly the flash doesn’t work at all, but that’s my next repair project.
iPod Classic, iPod Mini, iPod Shuffle
I try to use these too, especially for running and working, but I quickly realized there’s a reason phones replaced this. I can’t get new music on these at all without blowing away my grandfather’s music collection which is a strange combination of classical music, opera, and every song ever by the Eagles, which perfectly represents him. Since all of my music isn’t really my music anymore because it’s on streaming services, I have no way to get music on to these. Since I’d mostly use them for running and opera isn’t the best running companion, they haven’t got much use. The mini is probably my favorite as it was an awesome combination of the storage and interface of the regular iPod with more portability. The classic one is nice too with a ton of storage.
Yes, I bought into the Amazon hype when this phone came out. It actually still works fairly well even though many of the apps are stuck on old versions that don’t have modern features. The face tracking tech was ahead of it’s time as nothing really uses it except for the background. It works great as a portable video player for Amazon Video on planes. It’s hard to believe so many features now found in the Amazon app and ones that directly led to Alexa and the Echo devices came first in this phone.
Microsoft Kin 2
This phone probably sparks the most interest as a conversation starter. The Kin was one of Microsoft’s (many) attempts to break into the smartphone industry, oddly coming in 2010, 3 years after the iPhone, and targeted toward social millennials. I mean it even has a dedicated winking emoji face. It powers on, but nothing at all works as all of the servers were shut down only a few months after launch. I picked this up for $20 since it’s entirely useless, but plan on it being worth millions in the future. The flip up design allowing for a “full” keyboard is very satisfying though I don’t know why you’d ever use it with the keyboard closed. The camera is just terrible.
Kodak Retina Reflex
Back squarely in the retro-cool land, this camera also came from my grandfather’s collection. Apparently he went all in as an amateur photographer in the 50s and 60s, taking a ton of travel pictures for his work and family trips. I can’t imagine how hard it was to use these cameras. This one is the most modern, coming from the late 50s, and at least has a recognizable shutter button and settings. The massive attachable flash with a bulb that has to be replaced every single use is a nice touch. The lenses are interchangeable which is nice because this one is fairly corroded, but I like the patina of age it adds. I’m also going to try to figure out how to use this one soon, as I at least understand half of the buttons on it.
Kodak Pony 135
Going back even further in time is this earlier Kodak. The leather case that attaches is pretty cool as well. This has fewer options, but I can’t figure out half of them. The shutter button is literally a button, requiring a surprising amount of force to actually open the shutter. I think the other knobs are to wind and rewind the film. This might take longer to master.
Going way back to the early 50s, this camera astounds me. There is no shutter button, rather a little lever that I believe activates the shutter. There are no settings so to speak. This is as close to sticking a piece of film in a pinhole box and hoping for the best I can think of. I don’t know how you’d ever get a decent picture from it, yet somehow it popularized personal photography in the US. I will probably never get this working, and I don’t even know if you can find film for this anymore, but it’s an awesome decoration.
I’ve had plenty of laptops, but this one stood out to me. The precursor to the Apple MacBook, the iBook G4 was the first real laptop designed for professionals. It’s astounding that this is only a little over 10 years old. It actually runs a version of OS X that still looks familiar. I think I could actually get my work email running on it and have considered carrying it around between meetings just for kicks. I don’t want to deal with the back pain of lugging it though. It still works great though, unlike my Dell from college that was actually even newer than this.
I think my museum is a pretty cool mix of old and relatively new devices. I don’t think many real museums combine cameras from the 50s with Amazon’s foray into phones. Best of all, it’s a working museum and I actually use at least a few of the items. The ones I do have remind me of how far technology has come, but also the value in understanding how things work to get the best experience from them. I love the connection to the analog as well in the older devices. While seeing how every iPhone has changed, I think its even more interesting to see how far tech has come in such a short time. It’s hard to imagine the other devices that will be added to this collection in the next decades.