These pictures of retro tech show you how far we’ve come

(Pocket-lint) – There’s nothing like an advert for a spurious technological product in black and white to make you realise just how much progress we’ve made as a tech society. Whether it’s bizarre contraptions for making phone calls or lighting products that barely look safe, it’s fair to say that we’ve all got a heck of a lot more access to reliable tech now.

Still, there’s a lot of fun and interest to be found in surveying images of old tech and reminding ourselves of how things used to be. That’s where Concept Talk’s Instagram feed comes in – it’s full of amazing photos from days gone by. We’ve combed through it to find some amazing photographs for your browsing pleasure. 

Pimp my ride

Bikes, compared to cars at least, haven’t changed nearly so much – after all, the core technology can only come on so far. That said, it’s been a while since we saw a lighting option for a bicycle quite like this one, which straps a frankly astonishing number of bulbs to your bike. If people were concerned about being seen when it was dark, this certainly would have solved the problem. 

Operator, please

This is a photo so farfetched as to look amusing, but this idea of how people might look if fashion changed drastically, while telecommunications technology stayed bafflingly static, makes for an amusing collage of concepts. 

Space commander

Similarly, this isn’t an actual design or prototype of a spacesuit, as we’d hope would be obvious, but even as an exploration of what suits could one day look like, it’s amusing how far off-base it is. 

Communal listening

We’d like to say that easy headphone splitting has become way easier since this image, but it amusingly hasn’t really, at least not if you still want eight kids to listen to the same source of audio. Still, whatever solution exist are probably a damn sight smaller, at least.

Spin the decks

This might be the most ostentatious record player we’ve ever seen – a set of decks embedded in what can only be described as a giant marble egg, it’s just about one of the ugliest bits of interior decor on record, we think. 

Social isolation

People’s imagined versions of the future always make for fascinating comparisons after the fact, and this painting from Italy is a perfect example. Its vision of isolated individuals zipping around in personal vehicles that seal them off from the rest of society is, on the one hand, far-fetched, but also bears at least a passing resemblance to some aspects of how we live now. 

Green skies

People also liked to imagine what our cities would look like decades into the future, and these predictions seem, for whatever reason, to often skew towards the optimistic.

Hence you get ideas like this one, which posited that the skyscrapers shooting up in cities around the globe would all be topped by gardens to lessen their environmental and visual impact. Sadly, this hasn’t really proven true. 

Future aesthetics

Cars reflect our times more than we sometimes realise – their designs and looks are generally tied to the sort of tech that we as a society are purchasing and hankering for. Now wonder, then, that this Ford model looks so funky – it’s from the 70s and we just can’t get enough of that colourful stripe. 

Neon demon

Going all the way back to 1930, this neon salesman’s case is a great example of how futuristic some real retro technology can be – the way these tubes are powered is so low-fi that most of us would struggle to comprehend it. What’s obvious, though, is that it has a gorgeous look and feel to it, sure to be a collector’s item nowadays.  

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Rolling out

This might just be the coolest vehicle of any type that we’ve seen in quite some time, but the fact that it was built in the 1930s makes it almost jaw-dropping.

We can see the reasons why this didn’t spread to become a normal sort of thing to own, but that’s still a crying shame. 

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Why not?

A burger-shaped phone would later be made iconic by the film Juno, but why not have a portable games console in the same shape?

This concept piece is hilarious to look at, and you don’t the sense that it’s two buttons and a D-pad would be much fun to play, but it’s certainly memorable. 

Chunky chic

Is this a great bit of knowingly kitsch design with huge buttons that are unique and fun, or an ugly monstrosity with buttons that should never be replicated anywhere, ever?

At the end of the day, we might just have to leave that to you.

Videospheres

Spherical televisions are a law unto themselves. We know they don’t make sense ergonomically or for viewing angles, yet we can’t help ourselves when we say that they just look ace.

Would we watch a movie on one now? Of course not. Would we have one as an interesting bit of art? Quite possibly. 

Nap pods

This concept for a nap pod now looks mighty prescient. It might not be right in design terms, with the bulbous looks no longer in vogue at all, but ever since Google famously added napping stations to its huge campus in Silicon Valley, nap pods have become, if not popular, at least accepted. 

Quite a den

This artist’s idea of what an ideal den would look like, meanwhile, has us drooling in envy. If you mentally upgrade its pinball table to a games console, this really isn’t that far off what people aspire to nowadays, as much as its aesthetics are wild. Who wouldn’t want a pool-room?!

Flowery

By contrast, this simple image of a phone from the 70s is a useful reminder that actual, physical tech from decades gone by can often be underwhelming or even openly a bit ugly.

We’re not saying that floral prints and patterns are always grim, but we’re also not sure we’d want this telephone in our house. 

Sleek

Setting aside Elon Musk’s folly in the form of the Cybertruck, we think it’s fair to say that car design has got a heck of a lot less interesting over the last few decades, as this gorgeous model demonstrates.


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While it might not have been a bestseller, we can’t see such a radical design getting made now. 

Gaming rig

Fast-forwarding rapidly into this century, we love this image, because of how well we know that it was, in its day, the height of sophistication. This is someone’s amazing rig to play flight simulators on, even if a modern PC gamer would snort at the idea. Compare those chunky monitors to modern ultra-wide options and you’ll see the definition of progress. 

Clash of cultures

We like this image for how dated different elements of it are – in particular, the contrast between the futuristic TV set (for the time) and the dolls sat on the shelves to its right – showcasing how quickly tech marched on in the 20th Century.

Food magic

The cover of this book is a great reminder of how microwaves changed the game when they first became widely available and affordable – speeding up some types of food preparation to the point where young people might genuinely need reminders that the technology isn’t just magic. 

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Interesting marketing

The audio mixer itself might be front and centre, but that doesn’t stop us from thinking that we can’t see any modern companies marketing their product with an image of someone enjoying a joint in the background – maybe that’s just us!

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Loud enough?

This photo from the Mitsubishi archive is a fun look at how big a speaker can get if you’re pushing the boundaries of the sensible – we’re not sure what it would sound like turned on, but we can imagine the pain of any sort of interference feeding into it. 

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Razzle-dazzle

What better way to market your hi-fi like Philips has done here, with a ruddy great lightning bolt. Marketing copy? No thanks – just give us a stormy sky and huge pink glints on the speakers to show that this thing is built for rock and roll. 

A computer mouse with a difference

 Modern gaming mice are all about being lightweight and super fast. But historically brands were looking at ways of making mice more practically useful. Like this one with a calculator built into it.

Why you wouldn’t just use the calculator app on your PC is beyond us. 

BoatCar

This is an intriguing concept of a car from the 1970s that is part boat, part car. Or as you can see from the concept imagery a boat that can pop out of its shell within the car to motor around the waters.

Overt the top sunglasses

Here’s an interesting design for Oakley sunglasses. So-called “Over the Top” sunglasses that are ergonomic and useful for situations like competing in the Summer Olympics. 

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Adrian Willings.

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