Significant Anachronisms

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It had to happen eventually.

In September 2009, I noticed that a modern smartphone or PDA of some sort had somehow ended up in a photo on the cover of the 1960 French edition of Chester Himes’ Imbroglio negro (All Shot Up). So I posted my discovery to HiLobrow.

After that, without even looking for them, I found anachronistic smartphones/PDAs in two pre-1950s films — Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944) and Frank Capra’s Platinum Blonde (1931).

My discovery of these time-traveling devices has obviously inspired San Francisco-based artist Alex Varanese, who recently unveiled “ALT/1977: WE ARE NOT TIME TRAVELERS,” a series of images in which he imagines how an mp3 player, a laptop, a mobile phone, and a handheld video game system would have been designed — and advertised — if they’d been invented in 1977.

(Happy Video Games Day, today.)

It’s a fun conceit, and it’s brilliantly executed. I particularly enjoy the sly shout-out to yours truly in Varanese’s rendering of the MobileVoxx…

What an honor!


Joshua Glenn is an editor, publisher, and a freelance writer and semiologist. He does business as KING MIXER, LLC. He's cofounder of the websites HiLobrow, Significant Objects, and Semionaut; and cofounder of HiLoBooks, which will reissue six Radium Age sci fi novels in 2012. In 2011, he produced and co-designed the iPhone app KER-PUNCH. He's coauthored and co-edited Taking Things Seriously, The Idler's Glossary, The Wage Slave's Glossary, the story collection Significant Objects (forthcoming from Fantagraphics), and Unbored, a kids' field guide to life forthcoming from Bloomsbury. In the '00s, Glenn was an associate editor and columnist at the Boston Globe's IDEAS section; he also started the IDEAS blog Brainiac. He has written for Slate, n+1, Cabinet, io9, The Baffler, Feed, and The Idler. In the '90s, Glenn published the seminal intellectual zine Hermenaut; served as editorial director and co-producer of the pioneering DIY and online social networking website; and was an editor at the magazine Utne Reader. Glenn manages the Hermenautic Circle, a secretive online community. He was born and raised in Boston, where he lives with his wife and sons. Click here for more info.

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