Retrofuturism: 8 Design Innovations To Take You Back to the Future

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Ever since the Space Race began in 1955, American culture has had a fascination with all things futuristic. By the time of the first moon landing in 1969, space-age fashion had spawned the mod look, and television had boldly gone where no man had gone before. When these wildly imaginative ’60s-era visions of the future didn’t materialize, they quickly became kitsch, and the distinctive Jetsons-style existence we’ve yet to experience became known as retrofuturism. These abandoned technological ideas became romanticized by collectors, pop-culture enthusiasts, and grown-up kids nostalgic for tokens of yesteryear. Generations later, the same nostalgia has reignited interest in retro anachronisms and the futuristic-seeming products of our childhoods. Here are our eight favorite retrofuturist gadgets and anachronisms that prove that everything old is new (and cool) again.
image3dPhoto: Courtesy of Image3D.
Image3D Custom Slide Reel And Viewer
The Fisher Price View-Master is pretty much an icon of our childhoods; that unmistakable chunky red plastic device transported us to a fantasy world by enveloping our 120-degree vision span in various Disney scenes and comic-book panels. Did your 6-year-old self ever imagine she could be the subject in these spellbinding slides? Image3D offers the plastic viewing device plus a service to build custom slide reels containing your seven favorite digital photos for $29.95.
lomoPhoto: Courtesy of Kickstarter.
Lomo’Instant Camera
Before there was Instagram, there were instant-film cameras. Lomography, the company that’s brought you all sorts of affordable, artistic twists on 35mm film cameras, is crowdfunding a new instant-film camera to bring you Instagram-style filtered photos IRL. The camera uses widely available Fuji Instax Mini film and offers color filters, fisheye lenses, and the ability to shoot in manual mode to control depth-of-field and shutter speed. A pledge of $69 or more to Lomo’s Kickstarter gets you the earliest edition of the camera, which has an estimated delivery date of November 2014.
lomoPhoto: Courtesy of Polaroid.
Polaroid Socialmatic Camera
Remember taking Polaroids with your friends and fighting over who would keep the lone image? Polaroid, whose early-’80s OneStep Land Camera inspired Instagram’s app icon, will bring its Socialmatic instant camera to the market in fall 2014. The slim-line, square device marries old and new photo-sharing technology in a totally rad way — the camera uses Polaroid’s ZINK® Zero Ink® film, and each camera comes with a unique QR code to brand your photos and help gain new followers. Like your favorite smartphone, the Socialmatic comes with both front- and rear-facing cameras, in 14- and two-megapixel resolutions, respectively. The 4.5-inch touchscreen LCD display runs on Android OS and has built-in wifi, so you can share your snaps to social media in an instant — no more arguing about whose mirror the pic will be tacked to.
steampunkPhoto: Courtesy of Etsy.
Steampunk Accessories
Steampunk is arguably the purest expression of retrofuturism in today’s culture. It’s a fashion and a lifestyle that combines Victorian-era clothes like corsets, hoop-skirts, and men’s formalwear with Mad Max post-apocalypse, sci-fi influenced technology that is part retro, part cutting-edge, and totally DIY. For example, we once saw steampunk writer Thomas Willeford control a PowerPoint presentation with his customized navigator’s typewriter-key wrist guard. If corsets and soldering aren’t your thing, accessories are a great way to participate in this fun, funky style. We recommend cruising Etsy for pendants made from old watches, typewriter keys repurposed as rings and more.
notebookPhoto: Courtesy of Evernote.
Evernote Notebooks by Moleskine
You know what’s totally retro? Handwriting. No, really. The New York Times reports kids these days are only taught penmanship through first grade; then the focus shifts to typing. Moleskine has long been a frontrunner in durable and classic leather-bound notebooks. Their Evernote Notebook puts a futuristic spin on that oh-so-retro act of, you know, writing stuff by allowing you to digitize your notes and doodles for maximum portability and organization. Whoa.


The Tron Lambo
1982’s Tron and its 2010 sequel imagined high-speed action in a virtual world in which light cycles created mesmerizing trails of neon. Supercar enthusiast Nasser Al-Thani decided to bring Tron’s light show off the grid and into reality. This half-million dollar Lamborghini Aventador was modded by the billionaire and member of Qatar’s ruling family. After making quite a scene in London, the drool-worthy custom ride was spotted during this year’s Cannes Film Festival. If neon-orange and purple aren’t your thing, perhaps the matte-black Aventador will win your heart on the big screen in another sci-fi reboot, Transformers: Age Of Extinction.


Reading Rainbow
From 1983 to 2006, the PBS children’s television program Reading Rainbow made reading seem like a gateway to a magical land and gave kids a platform to air their own book reviews. Now those kids are all grown up, and when series host LeVar Burton announced his Kickstarter campaign to reboot the show, he nearly broke the Internet. Backers funded the campaign’s $1 million goal on the very first day. The goal’s now been bumped up to $5 million, with the mission to bring the beloved series onto the Web, into classrooms, and to update the existing tablet app. Criticism of the new for-profit, Internet-based series exists, but when America opens its wallets this quickly, there’s no denying the nostalgia factor here.
dressPhoto: Courtesy of Stop Staring Clothing.
Stop Staring!’s Rockabilly Fashion
One of the most instantly recognizable anachronisms in street fashion is the rockabilly look: guys with pompadours, Western button-downs and Dickies work pants, gals with pin curls, flawless cat-eye liner and wiggle dresses. These 1950s fashions saw a revival in the ‘90s that’s still going strong in major cities today, though the updated look includes some seriously sexy tattoos. Retro womenswear line Stop Staring! is beloved by celebs and frequently sells out in boutiques and online, which is no surprise, given that these ultra-feminine styles flatter every body type.

This post was authored by Katie DeRogatis.

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