Someone made Windows 98 for your wrist, because why not?

There’s the recent re-launch of the Nokia 3330, which comes with the much-beloved game Snake. Then there’s a wireless keyboard that looks and feels like an old-school typewriter. And someone recently made a browser extension that brings Clippy back to life. 

from Pocket

One of the themes of the course – and indeed, something I’ve picked up on this blog – is the historiographical approach we’re taking. I’m interested in the role that nostalgia takes in this, and the ways in which it might influence our understanding of technological development. I included this article in the lifestream because it appears that this nostalgia, although not exactly new, is now considered to be totally commercially viable.

Albert Borgmann, the philosopher, argues that the structure and practices of our lives are being changed by technology, and he doesn’t necessarily see this as a good thing. He talks in terms of focal practices and focal things, the two being connected (the focal practice of ‘cooking’, for example, connected to the focal thing of ‘the oven’). For Borgmann, technology disburdens us from having to manually manage certain focal practices – he calls this technology the ‘device paradigm’. But Borgmann also thinks that we ought to make time for these pretechnological practices because technology, while disburdening us, does not make us happy – this is part of his critique.

[NB There is considerably more to it than that, it must be said].

Brittain sees this perspective of Borgmann’s as ultimately nostalgic, almost a yearning for pre-technology (something which Borgmann denied, in fact – cf. Higgs et al., p. 72). I wonder though if there’s any connection here to our nostalgia for the technology of our past:

indeed, it is difficult to know how anyone these days can be nostalgic for a pre-technological culture […] when none of us has lived ever lived more than momentarily in one (p. 72)

On the other hand, Borgmann denied that he was nostalgic about our past, and he criticises Heidegger for it. Instead, it’s about having an awareness of the past, and using that awareness to assess our present use of technology. He’s writing strongly in favour of that historiographical approach.

I don’t particularly agree with his line of thought, and certainly have some critical issues with the instrumental way he’s conceptualising technology, as well as using ‘technology’ as a catch-all term for a variety of fundamentally different things. But my question right now is whether our natural (?) nostalgia for technologies of the past – for the phone we had as a 17 year old, for the computer games we played as a 9 year old – can be reconciled in a meaningful way to the way we conceive of technology now.



Borgmann, A. (1984). Technology and the character of contemporary life: a philosophical inquiry. Chicago, Ill. ; London: University of Chicago Press.
Heikkerö, T. (2005). The good life in a technological world: Focal things and practices in the West and in Japan. Technology in Society, 27(2), 251–259.
Higgs, E., Light, A., & Strong, D. (2000). Technology and the good life? Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from