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October 20, 2009

Retro fascination

Rotary-DialerGLOBAL – Dip a hand into Ovi Store’s pocket and you’d be surprised what old treasures you might find. Rotary Dialer is an app that turns your touchscreen device into a traditional (old school) rotary dialer telephone, allowing you to dial numbers like you did in the good old days (assuming you were born before 1985, that is). It’s a cool little app, costs nothing and will surely keep you amused whilst you’re trying to get hold of someone. Or something. But what is our fascination with old school tech?

Elsewhere in the store (and funnily enough, from the same publisher) comes the Almanac Touch. This is designed to look like a traditional (but slightly more modern) analogue calendar. Once more, it’s a cool little app, that again harks back to the years gone by (again, if you’re post 1985, much of this may mean nothing to you).

Talking up the prowess of the soon to be released Nokia N900 in the form of the PUSH competition, we even saw retro toys like the Speak N Spell and office perks such as the rolodex dragged into the 21st century. Perhaps it’s a simple case of connecting new with old, making the unfamiliar, familiar. I suspect it’s something more though. There’s no doubt that a fascination with the old exists. And it isn’t just in tech.

They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that recession and times of hardship bring about something in us which craves comfort and safety (in it’s simplest form – I’m no psychiatrist!) and so we reach for the old and the familiar. It’s why we’re seeing a big resurgence in old school brands now. In the UK old chocolate bars long consigned to the store shelves of history have been revived (at the people’s calling) along with traditional custard, meat and two veg and assorted other elements of our recent past.

Search for Retro Fascination on Google and you’re met with a story written only last month where the writer, Nick Churchouse of asked the very same question (in a slightly more eloquent manner). His readers, it seems, were more mixed on the subject. Some liked a bit of the old, mixed with a bit of the new whereas Nick himself was a pure modernist.

It’s quite possible that I’ll never understand this fascination (and I suffer from it myself, in some ways). But there’s no doubting that falling from the pockets of modernity are treasures from the past which help us connect, remember and most importantly smile. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.