The most recent challenge, suggested by Paul A. Freeman, asked for an elegy on a piece of obsolete technology. There’s nothing like a blast of nostalgia to usher in the new year. Sinclair C5s, faxes, floppy discs, typewriters; all were eloquently hymned. I admired Hamish Wilson’s elegy on a radiogram and John O’Byrne’s Whitman-esque homage to the Walkman:
O Walkman! O Walkman! our cassette days are
My ears have enjoyed every tune, the tapes I
played are worn,
The phone has come, the apps are here, the
playlists all inspiring,
But Apple killed this mobile thing for designs
sleek and aspiring.
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No mourning when the Olivetti
Clacked its final doubtful e,
Its drawbacks were, however petty,
As irksome as such irks can be.
Corrections now just took a jiff,
With Tippex obsolete long since,
Though ‘word processing’ had a whiff
Of manufacturing verbal mince.
Still, in the electronic kit,
So self-contained and blandly brisk,
There was one small outlying bit —
The unpretentious floppy disk.
But such detachment would not do:
For quirky oddness doomed to die,
The concept all too briefly flew,
A siliconic butterfly.
The pock, the pock, the smooth drift to and fro,
The rhythm of its soporific song,
The greatest video game we’d ever know,
Was that early masterpiece, Atari’s Pong.
The stately back and forth sometimes got fast
Enough that we would play our paddles wrong,
Losing our bids to outsmart or outlast
Each other for supremacy in Pong.
Today’s games are all 3-D CGI,
Finesse and drawn-out volleys don’t belong.
Players play fast and hard, craving a high
With bells and whistles alien to Pong.
Museum piece now, Pong still looks futuristic,
One yester-view that gave tomorrow strong
Pop-art cred, more cartoon than fine-artistic.
We mourn, we celebrate, we ping, we pong.
A thing of beauty it was not,
though it was all the rage:
Macintosh Classic, shoebox squat,
and resolutely beige.
Digital Future: bright, unfurled
and still in infancy.
The floppy disc would rule the world.
The web was wild and free.
Its battery-charge went long ago;
mute, starved of all elation —
a latter-day Greta Garbo
in moody isolation.
Who now can read each private line
held on those ancient discs?
Unhackable, a safe design,
secure from online risks.
Oh loveliness, oh evanescence,
precious glow of incandescence,
your hot and shiny filaments
were chandelier habiliments,
essential trappings of the lamp,
each lightbulb’s uniform and stamp,
and yet the direction Thomas Edison
pioneered and bravely led us in
yields to the light-emitting diode,
so I must write this sad goodbye ode.
Heavy, overheating, ugly,
Undistinguished grey or green,
Never fitting classrooms snugly —
Yet you threw upon a screen
The smallest print, the faintest picture,
The slightest detail in a map.
I won’t pass a single stricture —
Enjoy retirement, old chap.
Now they use a cool projector
Through a netbook, carried round —
Leave you for the weird collector,
Someone with a hundred pounds —
Two foot high, a beast to shoulder,
Without you lessons were old rope.
Crankily, we both grow older,
My Aldis Epidiascope.
In grandma’s scullery it stood, sublime,
The rainbow arch which crowned the cast iron
Embossed with the Victorian maker’s name
Whose fame has vanished in the mists of time.
How often, now grown older, do I yearn
To be once more that child of tender age,
To wield the wheel and watch the cogs engage
And thrill to see those mighty rollers turn.
For grandma just a tool, for me a toy,
A treasure from a magic wonderland
Whose many parts would move at my command
And light my eyes with hours of endless joy.
Yet times move on, long-gone the joys of yore;
Spin dryers have usurped the mangle’s place,
Life quickens at an ever-faster pace
And leaves behind the days that are no more!
Your next challenge is to submit a poem (16 lines maximum) or a short story (150 words maximum) that begins ‘It started with a tweet…’. Please email (wherever possible) entries to email@example.com by midday on 23 January.