The new and the good as new

Western Electric Model 302 telephone (1937-1955). The receiver, by the way, is a Collins 75A-4 (1955). It uses vacuum tubes — lots of them. Both the telephone and the receiver still work!

It blows my mind how much technological change I’ve seen in my lifetime. I love the old stuff as much as the new.

Today, while I was live-streaming the video from Apple’s annual developer conference at which Apple announced its new “mixed reality” device, I also was cleaning up, and hooking up, a vintage Bell System Western Electric Model 302 telephone that I bought on eBay.

I have lived during a fascinating period in the history of technology. When I was a boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old, we had a Model 302 telephone. I was in my mid-30s when I got my first computer. Ever since then, computers have been an important part of my life. As for Apple’s new mixed-reality device, I’m becoming convinced that it will start a revolution, and, in a few years, devices like this will replace our computers, our laptops, and our televisions. The goal, I’m sure, is to make them small enough to look like glasses, rather than masks that fit over the face. This seems strange until you think about the fact that, ever since television came along, we sit in front of glowing screens. If you think about it, sitting in front of glowing screens is more weird than wearing glasses.

If, like me, you think Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is a goose, it’s amusing that, after spending billions of dollars on his vision of mixed reality, his devices are primitive. Today, Zuckerberg got crushed, unless there’s a market for cheaper and more primitive devices.

With Apple it’s a whole different story. The “Vision Pro,” starting at $3,499, is frightfully expensive. But Apple is just getting started, and it’s clear that there was no cheap way to start if you want to do it right. Now we can see why even our Apple phones have all those processor cores, graphics cores, and neural engines. The engineering base was already in place for the new visionOS operating system that the new devices will use. All the Apple gear, as always, will work together. My guess is that, in a few years, millions of people will use these things. Apple’s intention today, of course, was to kick start development. Things will move very fast from this point on. Let’s hope they get cheaper as they get better.

I don’t recall that Apple’s presentation today mentioned AI at all. But that’s where this is going — realistic avatars in imaginary spaces that we can talk with, much like Star Trek’s Holodeck. It’s spooky. But it’s also very exciting.

As for the Western Electric Model 302 telephone, a great many of them were made. They remain common, and they’re inexpensive on eBay. They’re almost indestructible, and it would be rare to find one that doesn’t still work. Strangely enough, some telephone systems still support pulse dialing, including the device that I wrote about here.

⬆︎ Watch two teenagers try to dial a rotary phone.

⬆︎ Apple’s new Vision Pro

⬆︎ It’s amusing to think about how right-wingers must have hated Tim Cook’s display today of Apple’s wokeness. The Disney CEO also appeared, to say that Disney is already producing stories for the Vision Pro.

⬆︎ Speaking of old and elegant, yesterday I took this photo of Lily. She’s 15 years old now. Her coat isn’t as sleek and black as it used to be. But she’s still going strong.

2 thoughts on “The new and the good as new”

  1. Hi David

    I started with Pac Tel & Tel late 1969. We provided service to many a household with the hard as rock black telephones. Not to long afterwards models began to appear. to mount on the wall on sit near your bed side. For garage and mom and pop businesses we sold extensions to the back office or where mom kept the books in the house upstairs. Then a bell ringer device to let the other side of the house or business know the “phones for you” then a hold button then a 2 line buttons until 1980 something begun to sell PBX the modern telephone system. I’m curious about Lily photo what speaker system is that to the right of her?

  2. Hi Henry: The speakers are Infinity SM152’s. They have 15-inch subwoofers. I drive them with a 30-year-old Rotel RA-970BX amplifier. I bought the speakers at a junk shop that was going out of business for $100 for the pair. Only after I got home and did some Googling did I realize what a deal I’d got. The speakers are very powerful, but I don’t use them very often because they scare Lily so badly. These days when I watch movies I wear noise-canceling headphones, which Lily greatly prefers.

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