Friday, April 19, 2024

24 retro photos of old technology and simpler times

Technology has changed a lot over time, from how we get from place to place to how we interact with each other to how we see the world around us.

The way we use technology is constantly evolving too. What we don’t often do is take a look back through time to see where it all started or to admire the effort that once went into our daily lives.


That’s what we’re doing now though, by collecting a gallery of some of the most interesting, amusing and brilliant images of retro technology and simpler times you’ve ever likely seen.

Nikola Tesla and his Magnifying Transmitter

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A classically retro photo shows Nikola Tesla casually sitting near his Magnifying Transmitter as it sends 7-metre-long arcs of electricity across the room.

These were produced for effect and helped to create quite a spectacle. This was part of Tesla’s experiments into wireless power and an impressive part of his works.

Leonard Nimoy and son

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Adam Nimoy

This brilliant photo from the 1960s was taken during the filming of the original series of Star Trek and shows Leonard Nimoy along with his son Adam.

The actor spoke about the photo at a later date saying: “The makeup folks put ears on my son Adam to surprise me. A precious moment while shooting the original series.”

Jack Reilly

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Jack Reilly

This awesome old photograph from 1929 shows daring photographer Jack Reilly hanging casually offer the 74th floor of the Bank of Manhattan (still under construction) taking a photo of the surrounding landscape.

This sort of image shows how daring and death-defying photographers are not a new thing.

Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the Super Soaker

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Lonnie Johnson

This is Lonnie Johnson, an American inventor with over 120 patents under his belt, the most notable of which is the Super Soaker.

Johnson came up with the idea for the world’s most famous water pistol while working with the US Air Force in the 1980s. He’s carried on doing a lot since then including receiving lifetime achievement awards, setting up his won eSports arena, establishing The Lonnie Johnson Educational Complex (a science centre) and appearing on Reddit to do AMAs.

The first women in space

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On the left is Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman who ever went into space well over 50 years ago.

On the right is Mae Carol Jemison, the first black woman to go into space with NASA aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. Years apart, but both space travelling legends of their time.

An air-conditioned lawnmower

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Reporter at large/Reddit

Mowing the lawn is such a chore, especially in the baking summer sun. In the 1950s, one company came up with a pretty futuristic solution.

A self-contained, ride-on lawnmower with air conditioning. It looks more like a spacecraft than a lawnmower, but was actually a genuine product.

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Columbia Pictures/Kathy Anderson

This brilliant image helps paint a picture of the story behind the Columbia Pictures logo. The images came into being in the early 1990s when Michael Deas was commissioned to create a painting for the film company. Photographer Kathy Anderson was asked to take reference photos for a painting while her co-worker, Jenny Joseph did the modelling.

The photos from that shoot were then used to craft the painting that went on to become the iconic and perhaps most well-known image from the silver screen. It took Michael Deas two months to paint and the rest is history. You can find out more about it in this interview.

A Super Mario Bros victory

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A Redditor posted this photo of their father posing on Christmas night 1988 after beating Super Mario Bros on the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

Classic gaming on a chunky tube television. If this isn’t retro, we don’t know what is.

The Golden Gate Bridge

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It isn’t just awesome films people turn out in their droves for. It’s also bridge openings apparently. This image from 1937 shows the crowds that turned up when the Golden Gate Bridge was first opened to the public. Legend has it that the bridge “flattened out” and strained under their weight.

In 1987, for the 50th-anniversary celebrations, it almost happened again when an estimated 350,000 people turned out to walk the bridge. Most of the walkers were turned away when the bridge was closed – but only after the weight of those that made it caused the bridge to sag by seven feet.

Taking a screenshot

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Computing wasn’t always easy. Back in the 80s, it wasn’t a simple task to take a screenshot if you need to for instruction manuals, school lectures or something else.

A camera, a steady hand and some clever gear were needed, then the arduous task of developing and printing to make the shots useful.

Underwater camera operator

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This awesome underwater photo from the 1930s shows a press photographer casually capturing some footage without any form of facemask, breathing apparatus or underwater gear. Impressive stuff and retro-cool too.

Retro computing

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Computers were a lot fatter and had far less RGB back in the old days.

Reddit user Lavery712 found and uploaded this image of his Dad from 1984 showing him beavering away on retro computers.

Apparently, he was trying to transfer files from his Commodore 64 to his first retro computer.

Repairing a Spitfire

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This fantastic (and rare) colour photograph shows a team of men from the RAF Repair and Salvage Unit working to salvage a badly damaged Spitfire.

The work went underway at the Brazenville airstrip in, Normandy, which was just a small strip of land near the D-Day landing beaches used between June and August 1944. Based on the damage it is thought this plane likely crash-landed on its belly and the men are trying to repair the landing gear. Telltale signs can be seen from the damage to the undercarriage and the broken propeller.

This retro image is a brilliant testament to the men behind the front lines who fought to keep planes in the air to help keep the battle going.

Jayne Mansfield

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Jayne Mansfield

We enjoyed this old photo of actress Jayne Mansfield, not necessarily for the actress herself, but for the old-school cool of the chopper cockpit, she’s sitting in.

Thought to be a Piasecki HUP Retriever, an old twin-rotor helicopter with flexible blades that would droop when not in use. Hence the sign on the front warning to take care of the forward blades.

Star Wars opening day

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This photo shows the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in May 1977 when Star Wars was first showing at the cinemas. The queues show just how popular the film was and continues to be to this day.

Susan Kare

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Susan Kare

Susan Kare is a famous artist and graphic designer who is most well known for creating many of the fonts, icons and images for companies such as Apple, NeXT, Microsoft and IBM. She’s seen here, at some point in the 1980s posing for a photo in front of various Apple computers – sporting big hair and a thoroughly 80s look.

Although you might not recognise the woman herself, you’ve more than likely seen some of her work at some point in your life. She’s even responsible for the design of Microsoft Solitaire from Windows 3.0.

The Fiat factory racetrack

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This retro-cool photo shows the real race track that topped off the Fiat car factory in Turin in the 1920s and beyond.

This track was used to test drive (and race) cars that had come off the production line to ensure they were ready for the real roads. Alas, it’s no longer in use as the factory closed in the 1980s, but there’s no denying it’s cool.

NASA before Powerpoint

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NASA engineers and scientists obviously have a lot of information to share with each other and educating colleagues is obviously serious business.

This image shows how they managed in the days before Powerpoint presentations with massive chalkboards, ladders and a lot of chalk.

Now and then

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This awesome photo is the result of merging two images of some very brave men. Veterans of the British Parachute Regiment were invited to visit a restored Dakota aeroplane in 2011. The photos captured showed the men sitting in a plane they once jumped from many decades before in order to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.

After the photo was taken, a talented photo editor blended in a vision of the past – an image of some paratroopers in their heyday. The men on the right were seen in high spirits sitting in the plane that would likely take them into battle. This image originally appeared online suggesting it showed the same men all those years later, but it’s thought that is unlikely.

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Dario Campanile/Paramount Pictures

The original Paramount Pictures logo was said to have been created based on a doodle by William Wadsworth Hodkinson, the founder of the company. The image is apparently based on his childhood memories from Utah and is thought to represent Ben Lomond mountain. Interestingly the stars in the logo were there to represent the number of actors signed to the film company at the time.

This image though, shows artist Dario Campanile standing next to his rendition of the famous logo that he was asked to paint for the company’s 75th-anniversary in 1987.

Macaulay Culkin and the DeLorean

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This photo may well be peak 1990s. It shows Home Alone’s star Macaulay Culkin wearing Rebook Pumps and posing against the Back to the Future Delorean. Amazing.

One of the first electric cars

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Electric vehicles are now incredibly popular and finally becoming common on our roads. But these vehicles are not a new idea.

Indeed the first electric motor is said to date back to 1828. While the first human-carrying electric vehicle took to the streets in 1881. When French inventor Gustave Trouvé put his car on the streets of Paris.

This image though is from 1895 and shows the great English inventor Thomas Parker, posing in his first electric vehicle. It’s taken a long time for things to move on it seems.

Lancia Stratos Zero in 1970

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Prototypes and concept cars are often brilliantly bonkers and beautiful. The Lancia Stratos Zero was no different and in 1970 it wowed people on the streets of Italy as it passed by.

George Lucas in 1984

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When Star Wars originally hit the big screen there was far less in terms of special effects that were assisted by computers. It was all models and skills back then. This photo of George Lucas among the props shows a taste of this.


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