Since Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1953, the world of tech has come a heck of a long way – and not just in in obvious ways like the rise of the Internet and putting a man on the Moon. Join us as we take a stroll down memory lane, looking at some of the finest 50s gadgets and their modern equivalents...
Turntables – Garrard 301 and Rega RP1
The Garrard 301, a classic British-made turntable, was introduced in 1954. Fondly remembered for their design and performance, restored 301s are still prized today by vinyl-spinning audiophiles – some of whom claim it produces better sound than a modern day turntable worth thousands of pounds.
The Rega RP1, launched last year, won’t cost you that much – in fact it can be had for around $599 – and our friends at What Hi-Fi? are in love with it. Not only is its modern minimalism a treat for the eyes, it pumps out audio that’ll have your ears weeping with joy (now there’s an image).
Toys – Matchbox Road Roller and Matchbox Power Shift Construction Truck
1953 was the year in which the first ever Matchbox toy car was launched – except it wasn’t a car, it was a road roller. A simple die-cast metal toy from Brit company Lesney, it actually came in a matchbox and sold over a million units.
Matchbox is now owned by toy giant Mattel, and while the products are more advanced there’s definitely less charm about them. This construction truck features working lights and sounds – but where is its HEART?
Cameras – Eastman Kodak Brownie Holiday and Fujifilm X10
Kodak’s Brownie Holiday camera arrived in 1953, a stripped-down Bakelite-bodied snapper with just a shutter button, a viewfinder and a knob to advance the 127 film. As the name suggests, it was designed to accompany you on holiday, being compact and incredibly simple to use.
The Fujifilm X10 may be retro in its styling – and in certain touches like the optical viewfinder and manual zoom ring – but it’s every inch the modern compact digital camera, delivering fantastic photos and HD video.
Televisions – Philips TX1422 and Philips 50PFL7956T
Another product introduced in the Queen’s coronation year, the Philips TX1422 looks like the archetypal old-fashioned television, all beautifully polished wood, a tiny curved screen and Bakelite dials.
Philips is still making tellies 60 years later, albeit a lot larger. The 50-inch Philips 50PFL7956T is a 21:9 ultra-widescreen model with 3D, Ambilight and basically more technology than a moon lander. And compare its ultra-narrow frame to the giant wooden box of its predecessor!
Telephone – Belgium Bell and Eclipse
The Belgium Bell was a gorgeous vintage Bakelite telephone with a dial and, yes, an actual bell. You can actually buy restored examples of these charming Brussels-made devices on Etsy and they’ll still work – although you can forget about using any touch tone services.
The Eclipse is gorgeous in an entirely different way. The handset and base unit sit together in a continuous elliptical shape, but the design never hampers usability: the handset rocks a crisp display and high quality speakerphone.