Weird Retro Tech in the Vermont Country Store Catalog

Among the joys of living in a new place is receiving all the weird and sundry catalogs intended for the former tenant. Naturally, I’d never abscond with someone else’s mail (I’m more of a starched white collar type when it comes to federal crime) but seeing as I qualify as the addressee known as “...or Current Resident” I figured the Vermont Country Store catalog was fair game. On it’s cover, No. 9, Volume 69 of the Vermont Country Store catalog reminds that its publishers are “purveyors of the practical and hard to find,” and by “hard to find,” I presume they mean the “antiquated and obsolete." Or at least that's what the centerfold suggests – it's comprised of items specially selected to titillate the average Neo-luddite or retro tech fetishist.

On page 36, for example, is the “easy-to-use cassette recorder” with one-touch “play and recording” – a breakthrough in the early 80s (ditto the personal stereo cassette player/radio a.k.a. the Walkman). But why meddle with magnetic media when there’s an “electronic typewriter” on offer? If you prefer not to have “electronics” messing with your movable type, consider the Vermont Country Store-branded manual typewriter, which scoffs at the modern need for electricity.

You could conceivably get a pass in an Amish-household and write your racy Rumspringa memoir about “dressing English” unfettered by the accelerating pace of technology because “this portable manual typewriter types at a pace that lets you think.” Isn’t this how all typewriters work, or, really, any writing tool – from clay tablets to their digital decedents?

I have never had writing tech outpace my thinking, though frankly, I’d be grateful if it did. Then I could call my agent on one of the catalog’s “classic replica phones” (think: your parents’ wall-mounted kitchen phone circa 1985) and boast how the new novel is “practically writing itself” when I’m actually just reading other people's mail and trolling the Green Mountain State’s mail order scene.