Last night I opened my birthday gift from my brother. It was as if he packaged a vivid memory in high-def into a box that started playing the moment I saw what was inside it. Here's the memory:
Circa 1982 when I was 5 years old my parents gave me my first watch (that I can now remember). It was a Casio digital watch. I clearly remember the features it had: stop watch (with laps), timer, an alarm setting for every day of the week, a date alarm (that I had set to my parents' anniversary), multiple alarm jingles. The alarms jingles were such a part of my sonic memory that years later when I first heard Vivaldi's Spring movement, I remember thinking that that was the Thursday alarm (and not that the Thursday alarm was Vivaldi's Spring movement!). I even remember the two note sequences going higher in pitch that accompanied every transition using the "mode" button. The last mode (Timer) had a single high note. If you pressed "mode" one more time it would loop back to clock mode and all the notes would be played in reverse order from high to low pitch. Here's me with my first watch. My mom emailed me this picture this summer when I forgot their anniversary asking me if I remember the date I had programmed into this watch (see above).
When the Casio Databank came out (circa 1984) I was over my first watch and lusting after the Casio Databank that had a built-in calculator and (in later models) the ability to store phone numbers. I asked my parents to get me one, but they said that my watch was perfectly fine and that I can get a Databank once the old watch stopped working. After what seemed like eternity, the old watch did in fact stop working and I got my first Databank! I was actually an honest child, and did not do anything to hasten the watch's demise. I subsequently had multiple iterations of the Databank until middle school. The last one was a slick ultra-thin one with touch keys.
Here is what my brother sent me. Thank you so much for a very unexpected trip to a beautiful childhood memory. I love you, man.
On a somewhat related note, there's an essay by Corey Doctorow in this month's issue of Maker's magazine about why we romanticize and like to collect old pieces of technology (hint: not because they were better made then than now).
I will post a link to it once it's available online. Update: Here is the link.
The standard explanation for the attractiveness of older technology is simply that They Made It Better In The Old Days. But this isn't necessarily or even usually true.