Vintage technology I can’t live without

Since I am still coming off of the despair at an almost certain loss of all my hard drive data (and have vowed to move a couple of steps backs in the technological world), I thought I might write about the vintage advances that I am most grateful for.

First of which is…

the Air Conditioner

The single most important invention in my heat and humidity avoiding life.  In 1902, Willis Carrier developed the modern electrical air conditioner for use in a printing plant, but it wasn’t until 1928 that Freon replaced the ultra-flammable and toxic predecessors and widespread use of the air conditioner hit residential homes and automobiles.  All hail temperature control!



the Film Projector

Film, my truest love and passion, became possible with the invention of the movie projector.  The story plays out like the USSR-USA space race:  in 1891, Thomas Edison unveiled the Kinetoscope, a peep-hole viewer that projected 35mm film.  A mere four years later, Brothers Grey and Otway Latham revealed the Panopticon, a device able to project moving images onto a screen viewable by a crowd.  Later that same year, French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere invented the renowned cinematographe.  The first theater, the Electric Theatre, opened in Los Angeles in 1902 and the rest is history, darling.

Antique Film Projector

Victor Model I Silent Film Projector by the Victor Animatograph Co. (Views From North Cecil)



the Sewing Machine

The first Industrial Revolution saw many great inventions that eased the workload and increased the production of manufactured goods.   Englishman Thomas Saints patented the design for the sewing machine in 1790 and by 1814, long hours and tedious hand-stitching was put to an end with Austrian Josef Madersperger’s development of the first working sewing machine.  Singer then set forth to modernize the device and later perfected it for modern day use.



Gas Lamps

The burning lamp in a deserted square on a foggy night…is there a more romantic scene?  The first gas light to illuminate a residence appeared in a Redruth, Cornwall home: that of its inventor and Watt employee, William Murdoch.  The Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company later established itself as the first gas company and the spread of gas lighting went viral.  The Murdoch House still stands in Redruth and antique gas lamps still lighting many squares around the world are a nostalgic reminder of centuries past.

Antique Gas Street Lamp

Willow Walk, Cambridge, England (S.W. Design)



the Typewriter

It’s thought that the typewriter has been invented 52 times; an astounding number for the development of a single machine.  But much like the automobile and the telephone, inventors clamored to combine and improve on the technology throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until the design was finally standardized in 1910…with none other than Thomas Edison leading the electric pack.  The typewriter is going to become my new best friend.



the Copying Machine

Seems the same inventors keep starring in these historical showcases; in 1779, James Watt invented the first prolific copy machine, which resembled a printing press.  With the invention of electricity and electrophotograpy, Xerox took the idea and ran with it; producing the first xerographic copier in 1949.  If I’ve lost faith in digital copies stored on hard drives, I suppose I better make the copy machine my second best friend.  And wind, water, and fire shall become my new mortal enemies.

Antique Copying Machine

1913 Victoria Copying Machine (Office Museum)



the Phonograph/Gramophone

Another Thomas Edison invention, the Phonograph, is one of my all time favorites.  Before vinyl, sound was recorded on cylinders and reproduced through ornately designed horns.  Though the phonograph was first revealed in 1877, the oldest known cylinder, that of Handel’s choral music, was recorded ten years later in 1888 at The Crystal Palace in London.  An antique cylinder-based phonograph will one day be the center of my prized antique musical collection!



the Calculator

Where would I be without a trusty calculator in my pocket?  From figuring out tip percentages to yardage requirements, the handy calculator is one of my most used pieces of technology.  Not invented until the 1970s in Japan, the first electronic pocket calculators were the brainchildren of Sanyo, Canon, and Sharp who are recognizable powerhouses in the electronics market to this day. Remember when our math teachers told us we couldn’t use calculators for exams because “we won’t always have a calculator by our side”?  Guess they didn’t predict our obsession with smartphones…

Vintage Calculators

Emil Dudek’s vintage calculator collection (



the Digital Camera

Being a lover of all things vintage, especially older technologies, you would think that the word ‘camera’ wouldn’t be preceded by ‘digital’ on this blog.  But I have to admit – the digital aspect is just so darn useful.  The ability to see how a photograph will turn out before the moment is lost was created by Steve Sasson of Kodak in 1975.  Not exactly a portable size (though there are pictures of good ole Steve carrying around the hulking piece of machinery outside the Kodak building), the first digital camera was quite the ensemble piece.  Now, they can be the size of a wristwatch and create far superior renderings.

First Digital Camera

First Digital Camera by Kodak and Steve Sasson (PetaPixel)



the Wristwatch

Which leads me to another necessary invention in my life – the wristwatch!  During World War I, soldiers found pocket watches inconvenient during battle, so they attached leather straps and fastened them to their wrists.  Sound familiar?  The stylish 1920s then saw the popularization of an adapted design and widespread usage of what is now called the wristwatch.  Although marked for functional obsoletion, wristwatches are still timeless accessories and prized pieces.  Rolex and Timex are two names I, for one, hold close to my heart.

Antique Wristwatch

Elgin Wristwatch. 1911. (



*synopses adapted from wikipedia

Any vintage technology you’re especially thankful for?



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