Outdated Technologies

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“My iPod is not like this”

This video of kids reacting to a rotary phone has us simultaneously laughing at how cute they are and crying about how old we feel.  In the interest of preventing a quarter-, third- or mid- life crisis, here are some works of art that have technology even us old farts don’t understand.


The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) by René Magritte. 1929. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

OK, you’d probably recognize what this is even without the written clue. But in this, the day of e-cigs and vaporizers, when’s the last time you saw someone puffing on a pipe??  If it was some bearded hipster whacking away at a typewriter at your local third-wave coffee spot and looking ridiculous, you know it’s old school.


An Experiment On a Bird in the Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby. 1768. National Gallery, London.

So an air pump is a “vacuum.” Apparently in 1768 they hadn’t figured out how to apply the technology to sucking up crumbs. Instead, they used it to torture small animals! How cute.  In this painting, spooky scientist man demonstrates what happens when you deprive a bird of air in a creepy basement laboratory.  The results? You scare the crap out of the children.


Named by Gilbert & George. 2001. Tate Modern.

Before Tinder and Grindr let you see pix of eligible singles in your immediate vicinity, people used to take out personal ads in the newspaper. No, really. Can you imagine paying per word for a short little advert, trying to make yourself sound good without breaking the bank? And then hoping against hope someone responds to your blurb, checking your mailbox every day for a handwritten letter? Or seeing your brief but heartfelt plea for companionship in the trash heap?  Tragic. Gil and George thought so too, that’s why they made this monument to the sad, anonymous singles at the back of the rag. 


The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer. 1668. Musée de Louvre.

Maybe they still have globes in classrooms but I’m pretty sure satellites are the tools of choice for astronomers now.  Google maps replaced the Almanac and voice-activated GPS has put the Thomas Guide out of business (remember those?). Furthermore, I have no idea how to use a star chart like the one on this guy’s wall, and I’m pretty sure the only time they are useful are when hippies are trying to tell you about your horoscope. And even then, annoying outweighs useful. 


Lobster Telephone by Salvador Dali. 1936. Tate Britain.

Last but not least, the object that started our spiral of reminiscing and wrinkle cream.  If young whippersnappers aren’t going to recognize a rotary, let’s really confuse them with this ready-made lobster phone by infamous weirdo Salvador Dali.  Maybe they’ll all throw their iPhones into the sea.

By Angelica

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Angelica Jardini

Sr. Editor

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