Some of Today’s Coolest Digital Devices Take a Page From the Past

It was Albert Einstein who said “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

He was talking about relativity, of course, but just hold the thought for a moment. In case you haven’t looked up from your iPhone lately, an unusual countertrend has crept into our gadget-obsessed world. It’s one that acknowledges the fact that even as we embrace the latest technology, there’s something inside many of us that misses the look and feel of the old stuff.

The result, a few examples of which appear here, is an emergent segment that marries digital capability with a lost, industrial-age interface.

Yes, analog is suddenly au courant.

To assume these products are simply part of some “retro” fad would be missing the point. Their appeal lays not just in the aesthetics of venerable materials like wood and leather or the satisfying feeling of pushing a button instead of a tapping a touchscreen, but (in many cases) in their ability to return the user to a more tactile, focused, purposeful interaction with a device.

“Each new gadget marketed to us promises a more ideal future, but not necessarily to connect us to the past or even to ourselves in the present,” says Jack Zylkin, creator of the USB Typewriter. This backlash, he adds, “tries to reclaim technology as a way consumers can shape their own landscape, instead of being shaped by it—to find a slower, more personal way of doing things, which can often be slower and less convenient than just going with the flow, but can pay dividends to the soul.”

No doubt it can. So push the button and let’s get started.