Timeless technology

This content is 1 year old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In recent days, I’ve been thinking about tech that has become ubiquitous. Like the IBM Personal Computer – which is now well over 40 years old and I still use a derivative of it every day. But then I started to think about tech that’s no longer in daily use but yet which still seems modern and futuristic…

…like Concorde

Concorde may not have become as world-dominant was originally intended but, for a while, the concept of supersonic flying was the height (pun absolutely intended) of luxury air travel. Sadly, changing market demands, soaring costs, environmental impacts, and the Paris crash of AF4590 in 2000 sealed its fate. The plane’s operators (British Airways and Air France) agreed to end commercial flights of the jet from 2003.

The elegant lines and delta wings still look as great today as they would have in 1969. And supersonic commercial flights may even be returning to the skies by the end of the decade.

…the British Rail Advanced Passenger Train

British Rail’s Advanced Passenger Train (Experimental) – or APT-E – of 1972 is like a silver dart. Just as you don’t have to be a plane-spotter to appreciate Concorde, the APT-E’ is ‘s sleek lines scream “fast” and in 1975 it set a new British speed record of just over 150 miles an hour.

BR APT-E in 1972

The APT project was troublesome but the technology it developed lived on in other forms. The idea of a High Speed Train (HST) developed into the famous Inter-City 125. That was introduced in 1976 and is only now being withdrawn from service. Meanwhile, tilting train technology is used for high speed trains on traditional lines – most notably the Pendolinos on the UK’s West Coast Main Line.

…and Oxygène

Last night, I was relaxing by idly flicking through YouTube recommendations and it showed me this:

It’s an amazing view of the early-mid 1970s electronic instruments that Jean-Michel Jarre used to create his breakthrough album: Oxygène. And, as I found earlier this evening, it’s still a great soundtrack to go for a run. Listening on my earphones made me feel like I was in a science fiction film!

Modern electronic artists may use different synthesizers and keyboards but the technology Jean-Michel Jarre used smashed down doors. Oxygène was initially rejected by record companies and, in this Guardian Article, Jarre says:

“Oxygène was initially rejected by record company after record company. They all said: ‘You have no singles, no drummer, no singer, the tracks last 10 minutes and it’s French!’ Even my mother said: ‘Why did you name your album after a gas and put a skull on the cover?'”

Jean-Michel Jarre

Nowadays, electronic music – often instrumental – is huge. After playing the whole Oxygène album on my run, Spotify followed up with yet more great tracks. Visage (Fade to Grey), Moby (Go), OMD (Joan of Arc)… let’s see where it goes next!

What other timeless tech is out there?

I’ve written about three technologies that are around 50 years old now. Each one has lived on in a new form whilst remaining a timeless classic. What else have I missed? And what technology from today will we look back on so favourably in the future?

Featured images: British Airways Concorde G-BOAC by Eduard Marmet CC BY-SA 3.0 and The British Rail APT-E in the RTC sidings between tests in 1972 by Dave Coxon Public Domain.

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