Another Reason To Love Retro Technology
By James Grahame
Everything comes at a cost. The flood of increasingly clever and inexpensive electronic gadgets from East Asia over the past decade has created a new breed of young technology addicts who thrive on the release of each revolutionary new gizmo. There's no doubt that technology can be exciting and empowering. Unfortunately, it turns out that we've been receiving far more than just shiny iPods and game consoles in return for our hard-earned dollars/pounds/euros.
A new NASA study pegged the trans-Pacific flow of pollution aerosol at almost 40 billion pounds between 2002 and 2005, with 10 billion pounds of airborne pollution making its way from East Asia to North America each year. That's about the same as 15% of the total emissions originating locally in the USA and Canada. In other words, our shiny new toys are quite literally fouling the air we breathe. The big picture is actually worse than the study suggests, because their data excludes the damage inflicted upon our inland waterways and oceans, nor does it measure the local impact of thousands of factories in the far east.
Paradoxically, the simplest solution is also the hardest.
We need to ween ourselves from our addiction to technology. This is
an excruciatingly difficult step to take, especially when confronted with a daily
barrage of media coverage that encourages us to do exactly the
opposite, as media pundits push us to continue spending to "protect the economy." Reduced consumption puts a chill in
the hearts of corporate executives and politicians around the world
because they fear mass unemployment and economic collapse if
we stop spending at the current breakneck pace. However, the plain truth is that many of us are
living beyond our means and are enslaved by our addiction to stuff. Weening ourselves from our addiction will result in untold economic,
social and environmental benefits.
This is where a healthy interest in retro technology can pay dividends. As I remarked in the foreword of Essential Retro:
"Many brilliant old machines are hidden away in attics and garages throughout the world - forgotten move cameras lie on dusty shelves beside obsolete computers and clever mechanical toys, all crying out to be rediscovered and brought back to life.
We take the breathtaking pace of technological change almost for granted. Just don't forget that most new equipment supplants something from an older generation - a new Xbox 360 might replace a classic Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and so on. Eventually, older machines find their way to garage sales and flea markets, where they often sell for a handful of spare change."
Here's my plea: Leave your Visa card in your wallet and take the time to explore the myriad garage sales and swap meets that accompany the arrival of spring every every year. Take along a little cash and keep an eye out for a vintage reel-to-reel deck or a medium format camera - anything that captures your imagination and triggers an emotional response. You'll save a fortune and Mother Earth will breathe a little sigh of relief.