Thank you. Come this way.
MOTEWIR It is an institution dedicated to the products, inventions and objects and entertainments that were once part of peoples’ lives, but are slipping – or have slipped – away. Some visitors consider these items halfway between historical and hysterical. Younger visitors may find some of this of curatorial interest only.
Over here in the Hall of Obsolescence, we have a beige Macintosh Powermac 9500 desktop computer. In the mid-nineties it was a cutting edge device for gearheads and graphic designers; with 32 megabytes of RAM and a $4900 price tag. The “Flying Toasters” screensaver may look a bit pixilated to today’s jaded eyes, but it was considered high-end video graphics in its time, at least at the consumer level.
The Mac is connected to a “dial-up” modem. Incredibly, there was a time when people weren’t constantly online, in-touch and on-call. If you wanted to connect to the Internet, you had to do it manually. Hear this? Every time a modem connected to distant servers, people heard this pterodactyl-like screech. Crazy, I know.
Next to the computer is a telephone hard-wired into a wall. Fun fact for you teens: telephone landlines predate voicemail and texting. If you weren’t home to get a call, it was like it never happened. Callers would have to try again later.
Watch your step folks, there were a lot of cables back then. Come this way. This primitive object is called an “ashtray.” It’s from a time when many people inhaled from tobacco-containing tubes called “cigarettes.” Next to the ashtray is its cousin from an earlier era, a “spittoon.” You can guess its purpose from the name.
This strange metallic thing in my hand, can anyone guess what it is? It’s a “Brannock Device,” once used by salespeople for measuring feet in shoe stores. This thing is analogue all the way, not a wire or cable on it. A real collector’s item.
Any questions? No? Right this way…this is our “Eighties to Noughties Entertainment Room.” In the display case is a Michael Jackson action figure in its original packaging. You can tell it’s from the eighties by the skin colour. Also, by the fact it’s not encased in an impervious plastic clamshell. Excuse me, ma’am, please don’t touch the vacuum tube receiver/amplifier, it’s an antique from Radio Shack. You are free to browse the encyclopedia on the bookshelf if you like, along with the Xeroxed “zines”.
Just past this excellently preserved Betamax recorder we have a stack of HD-DVDs. Remember them? I don’t either. Apparently HD-DVD lost the digital battle to Blu-ray back in 2008, even though it was the less expensive format.
And can anyone tell me what this is? Good guess son, but no, it’s not a “white brick.” It’s an original, scroll-wheel iPod from 2001. It holds 5 gigabytes of sound files. That’s the equivalent of one cheap memory stick from Staples today – or 3 Powermac 9500s from the past.
This is my favourite room: The Gallery of Forgotten Sounds. Here you can listen to the symphony of amphibians, crickets, and grasshoppers that once serenaded people on summer nights, along with the occasional train whistle. For balance we have a backfiring Ford Pinto and a Michael Bolton Christmas medley.
If you would like to enjoy a movie, today our Cinemascope theatre is showing a Ken Burns-like compilation of vanished or vanishing sights and scenes. Milkmen. Visible orthodonture. Body hair. Cursive writing. Migrating birds in V-formations. Woolly caterpillars. Nuns in habits. Hitchhikers. People putzing about, unrushed and unscheduled, conversing in public. Heartfelt goodbyes at airports. Kids playing unsupervised outdoors. And wrinkles! Remember when people with money aged gracefully?
Thanks for coming. Donations will allow us to expand the MOTEWIR collection; in the coming months we hope to add a waterbed, sprocketed film projection equipment, mail order uranium, lawn darts, and a Christmas tree made of actual cedar.
Any last questions? What’s that…public washrooms? I’m sorry, that’s one thing from the past we don’t have here at The Museum of Things Experienced With Increasing Rarity. Just kidding! Down the hall to the left, next to the poster of Simon Le Bon.
The Vancouver Courier, Dec. 7