Antique Technology: Everything Old is New Again
By Maxine Carter-Lome
Every year brings with it the promise of something new. Automobile manufacturers introduce new model cars designed to get drivers to trade in and trade up; Apple introduces the next generation iPhone to make your current cell phone obsolete; new collections of collectible objects are issued to the delight and anticipation of their collectors; blockbuster sequels hit the big screen to keep franchises and theatres alive with loyal fans; and new patents are issued for next generation technologies and products.
Patents are like looking into a crystal ball to see the future. They reflect the vision and genius of all types of unlikely and unsung people who have a novel idea and a way to break new ground or build a better mousetrap. To see what the future holds, consider some of the patents issued in just the last two years:
- Airbus invented a way to 3D print parts like a fuselage, wings, and a door that can withstand the tough operating conditions of an aircraft. The technique involves applying a powder form of strong materials such as titanium and aluminum and selectively melting them with lasers. A subsequent step of cooling then induces internal stress within the layers that causes it to bend in a required direction.
- Nike received a patent for a high-tech golf aid that includes a golf ball tracking system and a heads up display. The heads-up display is worn on the user’s head and displays an image within a field of view of the user. The heads-up also displays shot statistics for each one of the multiple trajectories possible.
- NASA has invented an extremely sensitive magnetometer that can detect the faintest of electromagnetic signals indicative of geophysical weather and atmospheric changes. In addition to predicting earthquakes, this magnetometer can also detect global lightning activity, storms, global temperature variations, geomagnetic activities on other nearby planets and detection of underground nuclear tests.
- Ford received a patent for a system that allows the front seats to be moved from a front-facing position to a rear-facing position when the vehicle is stationary or while the vehicle is operating in an autonomous mode.
In the years to come, we will see these and thousands of other new patent-issued ideas and technologies hit the market in some form or fashion. In many cases these technological innovations will alter the evolutionary projection of everything from what we wear to how we shop, produce goods, market, consume information, communicate with others, and even groom our pets (consider Patent 4233942 – a device to “protect the ears of long eared animals, especially dogs, from coming into contact with their food or drink while they eat.”)
But what happens to objects and technologies when something new and shiny, more efficient, or better comes along? The stalls of antique shops and aisles of flea markets are populated with the objects and technologies that tell that tale. Yet items once well-used and then discarded, rendered obsolete, or replaced by a better iteration now take on a second life in the eyes of collectors who appreciate the craftsmanship, ingenuity, simplicity and history of useful items from our past. This is the emerging collectible category of antique technologies.
Kary Pardy, who will be contributing a new monthly column on the subject of antique technology starting with the February issue, provides an overview of this topic. We also explore the technology and design evolution of the metronome and record players as examples of collectible antique technologies. And, we take a look at six of the country’s premier industrial heritage sites and share the stories they tell of time and technology passed.
In this issue we are also excited to introduce two new columns: “Sports Scores!” which looks at the sports collectibles market by telling the stories behind recent sales at Heritage Auctions, and “Lots to Consider,” a highlight of items from upcoming auctions plus the gavel-down price realized for the items showcased in the previous month.
This issue also contains our annual Show Directory. This is a great resource for planning your shows for the year ahead. It can also be found online on our website so you have it as a handy reference when and where you need it. We are heartened to see so many shows planned for 2018 around the country. Wherever you live and wherever you travel, a great show or antiques and collectibles flea market is just an adventure away.
We have an exciting year planned editorially as we continue to explore the market for antique collectibles. For more from the Journal of Antiques and Collectibles follow us on Facebook and sign up to receive our free “Post-Press Update.”
Happy New Year!