Retro-Modern pt3: MP3 Goes Old-School

Each new technological advance seems to create wave of people who surround the displaced technology and keep it from sinking and fading away. We’ve seen telephone handsets, video arcade consoles, and others.

One of the constants throughout all the change has been the content. Whether designed for words, images or music, or all of the above, we quickly absorb each new technology so we can get back to the business of enjoying our books, movies and music.

Music is especially important to talk about with technology. Unlike reading or viewing movies, we surround ourselves with music throughout our day in most aspects of our lives. In the old days we used to put on our favorite album to accompany what we were doing at home, then with cassettes we could take our favorite songs on a mixtape with us in our cars and then in our walkmen. With the digital revolution we can now have our music when and where ever we want it. We now we have playlists for every mood any activity. Those vinyl records and cassettes aren’t getting much play even if you’ve saved your most precious ones.

That’s where the Retro-Modern movement comes in by rescuing the part of the old technology you miss: the iconic shapes connected you back to your fond memories. In this case these two examples really do a great job of combining real functionality with cool nostalgia. These two digital music players, one designed to bring back your favorite mixtape by building a full-functioning mp3 player into a plastic cassette tape.

The other, and even more ingenious, is designer Martin Skelly’s Playlist Player. It is beautifully designed to not only look like a classic turntable, but play like one too. Upload five of your favorite playists to the player, then choose a “record” from the player’s matching holder and put it on. Each record corresponds with one of the playlists and has a “cover” that you can customize for that playlist. It even has an effect that mimics the record needle tracking toward the center of the record.

On the surface it seems like a lot of work and thought to keep memories or an old way of doing things alive. On the other hand sometimes the old ways can inform the new ways and make them better. In this vein I can see how as we move forward adopting each new technology or method we will always seek to make it relevant to our own experience. Like anything new to us, whether ephemeral or semi-permanent, we try to find use, pleasure or meaning in it.  I really like how some of these new Retro-Modern designs deliver all three.

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