One of the things I see a lot of in my work is obsolete technology. It’s everywhere in the archives, all kinds of it. Things blossom and die with depressing regularity and it seems increasing speed. I especially love the older construction photos. The workers carry themselves with a powerful dignity that I find genuinely inspiring. I try to always remember who built the rooms where we study and teach. But their methods and tools, and frankly the job sites in general, look like nothing so much as a massive OSHA violation.
More recent obsolete technology is much funnier looking, even faintly ridiculous. I came across two really interesting examples of this earlier this week. This first picture was taken in Fondren Library not too long after it opened, sometime in the 1950s. The label on the back says that it’s a student play reading group meeting in the new Music Room. I freely confess that I don’t understand what they’re up to here. Does that equipment play something or record something? Both?
I really get a kick out of this next one. Obviously, it’s Norman Hackerman teaching a Chemistry class. It must have been taken very early in his tenure at Rice–look how young he is! I assume that’s a microphone of some sort, but ye gods what an ungainly device. I hope it’s existence was fleeting.
I’ll just stop here, or I’ll wind up boring you with a rant about floppy disks.