Retro styles are making a comeback, both in home and office décor. Retro and antique office furniture can add a dash of style to an office interior, and more and more South African businesses are welcoming this trend into their offices. But what about retro office equipment? The typewriter is one example of iconic office equipment that just isn’t seen anymore, but are these objects making a stylish comeback?

Take a look at these 7 pieces of nostalgic office equipment:


1.The typewriter

More of a stylish decoration than a functional piece of equipment nowadays, the typewriter is an iconic and coveted symbol of the past. Before computer printers, the typewriter was the tool for typed documents, but took much longer and needed meticulous attention, as a mistake would require the entire page being retyped. Many typewriters are still functional and used by the true vintage fanatic, but most are used as decorative centerpieces in offices. You can now even buy computer keyboards styled to look like a typewriter, giving the user that antique experience but still maintaining the technological benefit of modern computer key input processes and regular printing.


2.The switchboard

You will probably recognise a switchboard from old war movies, where a host of women sit in front of a large panel and manually redirect telephone calls. Even the largest businesses had one all-encompassing phone number, and switchboard operators would answer the call on the main line and reroute the caller to the extension within the building that he or she was looking for, by manually re-positioning electrical telephone cords on the switchboard. Switchboard operating was a highly specialised and important skill, but of course it is now all done by a virtual system.


3.The fax machine

Many offices still make use of the fax machine, but its redundancy (not to mention the annoying noises) is swiftly showing this piece of technology to the door. Used as a means for transferring authentic copies of documents, the fax machine would scan a document from on one end and print out an exact facsimile of the document on the receiving end. It provided a convenient alternative to post, as it was instantaneous and allowed the sender to keep the original copy. Today it is much more convenient to scan and email a document, with much better image quality.


4.Carbon paper

Carbon paper is still used today in a few record-keeping notebooks. Positioned between two other pieces of paper, carbon paper would transfer what was written on the first sheet of paper onto the bottom sheet. This of course is now more easily done by the photocopier machine.


5.Metal telephone flip index

Now this is a retro item that is making a comeback. This nifty little tool held a telephone number book in its case, and by positioning a slider next to the letter of the alphabet you were looking for and pressing a switch, the case would flip the book open to that letter. Computerised phone number diaries and automated search tools are more convenient, but having the quirky telephone flip index has its appeal. Modern reproductions with brand logos or contemporary designs are common in high-end stationery stores.


6.Floppy disks

The floppy disk was the precursor to CDCs, DVDs, USB drives and other portable computer storage devices. Although it can barely fit a .mp3 song file, the 3.5” floppy is still in use today. In the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of industrial machines were built to accommodate floppy disks, such as ATMs, embroidery machines and aviation technology.


7.Adding machine

The most basic of calculators, this piece of technology was essentially an automated abacus. “Crunching” numbers was an actual sound in an accounting office, as the adding machine required a crank to be pulled after each key press. Adding machines were large mechanical devices with 72 keys that could only add and subtract. Modern calculators and computer programs do a much better job, but these retro machines are also kept around as displays of nostalgia.


These office items, among numerous others, set the stage for further technological developments, but in most cases the core elements are reproduced in modern versions. While equipment such as adding machines and typewriters are still found and functional today, many more are completely obsolete.

Whether you want to set up your office to function on antique items or simply wish to decorate in retro style, these items are a nostalgic reminder of years past.

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