Technostalgia

Ties van de Werff
July 26th 2010


In Next Nature, not only old nature is being idealized. Because of the rapidness of new emerging technologies, we have a tendency to dwell on earlier prototypes. To recall memories, or to give that ‘real’ experience. We call this bittersweet longing for past technologies technostalgia. Technostalgia shapes our memories, our past and thus our present.

For the generation who grew up with the first game consoles in the 80s, like me, technostalgia is easy to come by when cleaning up the attic. The Atari, the C64, the Amgia500 and the Gameboy bring back memories of forgotten days spent playing Lode Runner and Maniac Mansion, or programming in a language I now hardly remember. But technostalgia can be more than just recalling memories.

When being technostalgic, the objects themselves change as well. Past technologies are often seen as sympathetic, more pure and more authentic compared to new technologies – especially when they have those big buttons and fancy volt-meters. Take music for example. Relic guitars, certain analog amps and vintage electronic instruments are rare and wanted objects nowadays. The theremin, one of the first electronic instruments from the 20s, has gone through a huge revival. In dance music, the Moog and the Roland303 – the synthesizer of which is said to have kicked off the early hiphop and dance music because of its acid bass sound – are the hottest electronic instruments DJs look for. The huge knobs, the fancy oscillators and the old skool look give musicians the experience that they are actually operating a machine. And the sounds of these instruments are said to be more ‘warm’ and ‘real’ than their contemporary successors.

ReBirth software faithfully not only emulates dance music's three backbone devices (The Roland TB-303 Bass synth and the Roland TR-808 & 909 drum machines) but also comes with an interface that mimic’s the original layout of these legendary instruments.

Technostalgia – a term coined by sound studies scientist Trevor Pinch in his great book ‘Analog Days’, about the rise of the Moog – is no longer an occupational disease of geeks and techheads alone. There are countless fansites for retro-games, -computers, and other technologies. In our current technological culture, where technologies become increasingly complex, technostalgia is not only about recalling the time spent with certain devices. Technostalgia recreates our past and gives meaning to the present. For some it’s a statement that they were there in the beginning, that they are ‘authentic users’. For others it’s a wish for a more clarified and simple world.

For the generation of digital natives, born in the age of the internet, technologies will more than ever shape their memories and their sense of history. So better stash your iPhones, PS3’s and Wii’s at the attic. In a decade or so you maybe need them!

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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