What's Up With Retro Tech?

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The Times takes a stab at explaining why retro electronics are hip these days. Can't say any of the theories on offer do it for me, but it's a nice trend piece about a bunch of cool-looking gadgets.

So what's the appeal of the latest electronics wrapped in a retro design, like full-size jukeboxes that are really $4,000 iPod docks and manual typewriters reconfigured to work as U.S.B. keyboards? Has anyone ever said, "It's a nice Ferrari, but it would be cooler if it looked like a covered wagon?"

There are theories: the throwback designs make challenging technology seem familiar. For the technically proficient, an old phone handset that connects to a cellphone seems comically ironic. Retro designs can also give a sense of permanence to disposable devices. Some of it is art.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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