Retro Styling: Form Following Foggy Recollections of Old Stuff

BASICS-a-articleLarge.jpgThe New York Times has an article by Roy Furchgott called "High-Tech Electronics Dressed Up to Look Old"

It's basically a holiday gift article, but it begs the question, "Why do manufacturers make new stuff look like old stuff?"

When I mention new products modeled to look like older products I'm not including reintroductions of actual vintage components, which is something that McIntosh and Marantz have done through their histories. I mean items like the Crosley portable USB turntable. Are we that short on new design ideas that we have to raid the back pages of old Sears catalogs to find design inspiration?

Personally I hate faux retro. The Surround-Sound X-tube is a case in point. I received one of these at last year's CES. It's basically a surround-sound decoding engine with its own software driver to play surround-sound tracks through your computer. To jazz up the circuit board it's put into a plastic chamber that resembles a vacuum tube. This shape is inconvenient to say the least, sticking up over an inch on the side of your portable where the USB inputs are. It's very easy to knock the X-Tube out of its USB slot because it sticks up. That's a bad design.

Don't get me started on the Crosley USB turntable. The whole idea strikes me as cheap, stupid, and in the end ugly. The removable top cover is especially useless. Crosley has a whole line of other, equally ugly designs that harken back to a time when wow and flutter were king. I wouldn't let a single one into my home.

When compared with contemporary designs such as the iPad , or anything from Meridian , can anyone seriously consider retro design anything but the habitat of the stylistically bankrupt?

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