During a recent visit to the Canal Street Antique Mall in Lawerence, Massachusetts (A really great place--the mall, not necessarily the city!), I was taken back by the number of early century phones, cameras, and adding machines that were on display. It occurred to me that we tend to take these inventions of old for granted, much like we so easily dismiss the last version of our smartphones, laptops, and tablets. But really, these old antiques were incredible creations!
When I display an old 'machine' at my shop or sale, whether it's a vintage typewriter, antique camera, or old time record player or telephone, I think about the public reaction when these devices were first introducted fifty, sixty, or one hundred years ago. I think we forget that the public back in the day was simply in awe of these gadgets, and the emerging evolution of recorded sound, wire and telephone communication, and mechanical mathematics seemed as incredible back then as the new iphone 6 is today.
And that is why these devices are now so attractive to collectors. Sure, they look great as pieces of vintage history and stylish decor (I love my old Victrola and 1927 Kodak camera), and they are certainly fun to play with (it's always amusing to see people try to work an old Comptrometer). But more importantly, they represent the 'state of art' technology at a specific point in time--and with the speed of advancement, one can truly appreciate what these products meant to folks way back then. If you like having a unique conversation piece for your home of office, nothing beats a device that doesn't exist anymore (or, if it does, looks and operates nothing like its current day counterpart).
Think about it--we've got a whole generation of people who have never turned on a black and white television, dialed a rotary phone, or used an adding machine. I can't tell you how many times a young customer at a sale has looked incredulously at my turntable as it played an old album. And, when the record is done and the needle stops, most kids will simply stare and wait for something to happen--then ask either "where's the reset button" or "is it broken?".
So, the next time you walk through your favorite antique shop, take the time to embrace these 'old gizmos' and remember that they once were cutting edge, state of art technology. While the timeframe between 'new' and 'obsolute' seems to now be measured in months, it's heartwarming to know that these old vintage machines remain classics even at release version 1.0.