More on “Vintage” Technology

Lately we’ve been conducting an appreciation of the “obsolete” technologies of earlier eras. I’ve often noted the unfortunate fact that the “guts” of modern electronic technology are so microscopic that their physical function is no longer visible. The air-driven pipe organ mentioned in an earlier entry will provide contrast to modern electronic instruments in which micro-electronics have replaced large-scale physically functional components that tell obvious stories about how an instrument operates. My desire with that project is to call attention to the elegant simplicity of such instruments as they existed for hundreds of years previous to the modern era.

The telephone system is another technological artifact whose operating components have become invisible. Previous to our electronic era, this was not the case. The basic switching component of the phone system, before our contemporary push-button dialing appeared on the scene, was a special relay, which you can see pictured above. This device will appear in a future exhibit at Mindport. Don’t hold your breath on this, however, because I still have two or three months to go before the pipe organ will be complete and ready for our growing gallery of musical instruments.

My thanks to our Exhibit Manager, Bill Lee, for chasing down this telephone relay, and a second unit of a different style that will also find its way into the new exhibit as we presently envision it.

-Kevin Jones