5 Pieces Of Iconic Vintage Tech In Film
Collectors, film fans, and tech lovers rejoice! Discovery’s latest show Vintage Tech Hunters combines all your faves into one series. Hosts Shaun Hatton and Bohus Blahut spend each episode travelling across North America in search of rare and valuable tech and pop culture memorabilia that is now selling for a hefty markup. Think, Antiques Roadshow, but for stuff from your childhood.
To celebrate the first season of Vintage Tech Hunters, we’re looking back at five classic pop culture tech items that we really wish we hadn’t sold for $2 in a garage sale.
Old Tube Television–Poltergeist
Thanks to director Tobe Hooper and writer Steven Spielberg, the North American pastime of sitting in front of the television took a terrifying turn in the 1982 film Poltergeist. The film featured ‘the Beast,’ a ghost that communicated with Heather O’Rourke’s Carol Anne through the family’s tube television. Sitting close to the screen suddenly seemed much less inviting in 1982.
While thin is in when it comes to 2018 TVs, tube televisions were the only way to see daily programs from the comfort of one’s own (hopefully not-haunted) living room in the 1980s. Named for the cathode ray tubes that displayed images on screen, tube TVs have now been largely replaced by LCD and High Definition TVs and monitors—but that doesn’t mean we don’t still get a chill down our backs every time we come across the vintage model. “They’re here!”
Speak and Spell–E.T. the Extraterrestrial
How would E.T. have been able to phone home without the help of the Speak and Spell? Steven Spielberg’s much less terrifying 1980s movie about a lovable alien featured the groundbreaking Texas Instruments toy, enabling E.T. to communicate with his home planet and arrange his rescue. One of the earliest models of a handheld electronic device with a visual display, Speak and Spells became one of the biggest tech toys of the decade thanks to E.T., with the console popping up again on the big screen in Bride of Chucky, Poltergeist III and less terrifyingly in Toy Story 1 and 2 as Mr. Spell.
Want to see a Speak and Spell in action today? Watch Episode 2 of Vintage Tech Hunters, where Shaun and Bohus find one of the iconic devices. Can you spell, ‘Worth lots of money now’?
White Cordless Phone–Scream
After Drew Barrymore helped E.T. phone home in 1982, she got a call herself in the 1996 Wes Craven teen thriller Scream. Though her screen time as Casey Becker was cut short due to a masked murderer, Barrymore’s role was an iconic one, complete with burning Jiffy Pop and a cordless white telephone.
Writer Kevin Williamson was inspired to write the film after watching news coverage of killings in Florida. Home alone and scared, Williamson grabbed his own cordless phone and called a friend who teased him about horror films, making Williamson the original Casey Becker. Minus the vicious murder, thankfully.
Cassette Player–Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
A superhero movie with a great soundtrack isn’t new, but a soundtrack that’s played through a Sony Walkman TPS-L2 in 2017? Now that’s different. Billed as the first ever Walkman, Sony released their portable music player in 1979 in Japan and in North America in 1980, where it sold for $200 US or $786 Canadian by today’s standards. Originally called the ‘Soundabout,’ which was later renamed the Walkman, the vintage music player saw a resurgence in popularity following Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with the TPS-L2 selling for up to $900 on Ebay.
It could be argued that the second life of the Sony Walkman has continued to be felt in pop culture thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In 2018, Britney Spears re-released her debut single “…Baby One More Time” on cassette at Target in the US. But what do we play cassettes on? If you’re lucky, the Sony Walkman.
Video Camera–Back to the Future
Before everyone was an amateur videographer thanks to smart phones, there was the JVC video camera. The first VHS video camera made its debut in 1984’s Back to the Future, when Michael J. Fox starred as time travelling teen Marty McFly. The JVC GR-C1 was responsible for the birth of home videos and the death of the short-lived Betamax.
The JVC GR-C1 was every aspiring filmmaker’s dream, with its ability to record up to 45 minutes of screen time on a single VHS while also allowing for playback viewing right on the camcorder. While personal video recorders have come a long way in 34 years, the JVC GR-C1 is still available online, often marketed as a piece of nostalgia for Back to the Future fans. Plus, it’s cheaper than a DeLorean.
Watch Episode 1 of Vintage Tech Hunters, where Shaun and Bohus find a JVC GR-C1. Or maybe they went back in time 34 years, bought the camera, and then travelled forward to 2018? There was a lightning storm the other night…
Watch Vintage Tech Hunters every Monday at 8e 5p on Discovery.