Retro-Geek: On the Fascination of Machinery

I have no clue about art or design. I learned recently from The Time Traveler that stuff like the following has its own genre and sub-culture: It is called Steampunk.

Steampunk-Computer

Steampunk Computer (Wikimedia)

I am intrigued – as I was by the illustrations in Stephen Hawking’s book Illustrated Brief History of Time long before I knew this was Steampunk at its best. Why does Steampunk ‘work’ so well?

I believe it does for the same reasons as: The Flintstones, Max Raabe, even Star Wars, and the British Sherlock Holmes TV show. Though the latter should maybe be tagged Steampunk anyway. It is the 1 one 1 correspondence of modern gadgets and their ancient counter-parts that have never existed – done meticulously at a ridiculous, nearly microscopic level.

I am sure there are tons of articles by artists, designers or psychologists (which I did not research) that explain the phenomenon. Is it about our nostalgic feeling about an ancient era? Plus the spirit of innovation and the probably naive believe in technological progress (at ‘that time’)? Is it our subconscious longing for really understanding how stuff works – locating the tooth wheels and levers, instead of being put off by the enigmatic – but dull – integrated circuit boards in our iPhones and notebooks?

Or is it just the combination of metal and wood? Of silver, gold, black and a bit of rust & dust?

Steampunk transformer helmet

Steampunk transformer helmet (Wikimedia, http://www.steampunker.de)

Every scientist or engineer starts out as a tinkerer in his parents’ garage or the like (the cliché says, but this is backed by bios of famous physicists, such as Richard Feynman or Isaac Newton). So as for geeks in particular, Steampunk seems to allude to a part of our common DNA. We remember the clocks and cameras we had dismantled.

But probably you should not or cannot dissect a cultural phenomenon by writing about it. You can rather tell a story or create artwork that follows the unwritten rules of the sub-culture, and like-minded people will get it – or not.

It seems I have established the tradition of The Light Geeky Friday Post since last week. So I add a new category to my blog:
Geek Collection (and I might re-categorize old stuff, very retro).

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