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The Latest Trend: Technology for People Who Hate Technology

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Wow, do I like this idea:

At the London Design Festival this week, Swiss company Punkt launched its new “anti-smartphone” called the MP01. Designed by Jasper Morrison (who is something of a rock star in the design community), the MP01 lets you do two things — make calls and send texts — and that’s it.

Of course, that’s all phones used to do, and it’s what the so-called “basic” phones available at your neighborhood mobile-service provider still do. In fact, you Olds may remember the time when phones only made calls — no texting — and handsets were tethered to the wall with cutting-edge, anti-loss technology called “cords.”

But when high-end design entities like Punkt start turning back the clock and offering $300 artifacts like the MP01, it’s says to me that something more significant is afoot. I think it suggests that a cultural backlash against high-tech consumer electronics is gaining traction.

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In fact, Punkt offers an entire line of products that swim directly against the current of mainstream consumer tech. The company also offers a no-frills alarm clock, a simple USB desktop charger and a kind of minimalist cable obscurer. Punkt’s mission statement:

Technology. Tamed. We make thoughtful consumer electronics that have everything you need and nothing you don’t, so you can focus on the things that really matter. Like being in the moment.

Now that’s the kind of artful marketing prose that both sounds Zen and moves product!

Laugh if you want, but I think Punkt’s products are part of a larger backlash against advanced technology that’s popping up all over these days. Take the resurgence of vinyl LPs, for instance. It was initially the exclusive domain of hipster audiophiles, until something curious happened: Lots of people began to discover the genuine difference between listening to digital files through earbuds on the train and listening to analog records through speakers in your living room.

Sometimes the old ways are just better. Modern technology has so far been unable to trump the essential appeal of listening to Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl, sitting cross-legged on the floor with that iconic gatefold album sleeve in your lap. Turns out we got that right in 1973.

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And that’s not the only anti-tech indicator I see these days. I’d also point out the increasing popularity of retro-gaming and 1980s style “barcades”; the resurgence of independent bookstores; and the entirety of contemporary bike culture.

Personally, I’d love to see this trend continue. I think we’re overdue for a pendulum swing in mainstream popular culture away from gizmos that do 17 things at a time (particularly when you read about things like this). Maybe the single best indicator that a low-tech revolution is on the horizon? People are already thinking of ways to make money off it.

So head up to the attic and bust out that old Betamax player, maybe get an old CRT television and some rabbit-ear antennae, then sit back and enjoy: This is going to be sweet.