Retro Tech Is Back In Style

Retro Tech Is Back In Style

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Everything old is new again – it’s a truism that covers areas from clothing fashions to movie remakes to interior design, and occasionally bleeds over into technology. (Just ask the next hipster you see riding a fixie to the record store to purchase vinyl albums!)

Is there room for retro in event technology? While we’re unlikely to see a resurgence in three-gun projectors and Kodak ignored Paul Simon’s pleas and took Kodachrome away almost a decade ago, there are still some areas where a retro look can have an outsized impact.

Half a century ago, the standard for displaying constantly updated text was the split-flap display, often called a Solari display after one of the earliest manufacturers. In this millennium, LED and LCD signs have replaced the old split-flap displays in train stations and airports, but Oat Foundry is keeping the tradition alive, manufacturing new models in the US for purchase or rental. While their rental options aren’t inexpensive – they range in size from a 23″x45″ model that can display 3 rows of 15 characters to a model that offers 6 rows of 32 characters on a 41″x98″ surface, and in price from the low to the mid four-figure range per day, plus shipping – the impact of seeing text flip into place and hearing the sound of the flaps snapping into position make this throwback display a real attention-grabber.

Maybe text isn’t radical enough for you, and what you really want out of life is a mechanical bitmap solution. Luster can help! Their flip-disc display supports resolutions up to 280px by 112px on a wall 168″ x 67″ in stunning one-bit black and white. It can display still images or video at over 30fps and includes a camera so it can be configured for interactivity. Again, it’s not an inexpensive option – that maximum size/resolution wall would run $44,000 plus shipping for a one-day show, and their smallest solution (84″x50″ and 140x84px) would be $19,000 plus shipping, with each subsequent day costing $3,000 – but the impact on attendees is hard to overstate.

If you want a retro look without the premium price tag, Alford has a solution for you. Our custom Retro Flip Text app lets a computer simulate the look and sound of a split-flap display on a digital display. Use it on large flat screen displays in the lobby to update breakout locations or display agendas or send the Twitter feed to the main screens in the general session during breaks; anyplace you want to display text in a unique manner, we have the technology to support you and help you realize your vision.

Alford Media