When I was a kid every electronic component in the house – be it analog clock radio or color TV – was housed in “genuine” wood grain. I believe that since the electronics of the day were the size of furniture, they should look like furniture. Most of my friends had console televisions; mammoth wooden affairs that looked like sideboards… except for the big glass bubble on one side. We didn’t have a console set, but our “portable” television had simulated walnut sides. It matched our “wooden” stand made out of high quality resins. Even so-called “high tech” items at least had wood grain sides. The Atari 2600 originally had wood-like accents. So did most early VCR’s.
Things began to change in the early 1980’s. Wood gave way to chrome. Everything was shiny and faced in brushed aluminum. My TRS-80 wasn’t aluminum, but a gray plastic just oozing “future”. To this day I still think it’s what a computer should look like. By the end of the decade, times were changing again. Black was the new black. When I graduated college and actually had disposable income, I bought a black TV set, black stereo components and black speakers. I’m not that into black, but I had no choice.
Over the last ten or fifteen years, there have been some deviations here and there. Apple based products seem to be any color of the rainbow. We had beige computer products for a long time; that seems to have – mercifully – gone away. Brushed aluminum made a brief comeback, long enough for us to buy a shiny (but not too shiny) HDTV a couple of years ago.
However, there was one comeback I had never seen and never expected. I was in Office Depot the other evening and a display caught my eye. It was a box for a portable hard drive. The advertising said something about it being “natural” and “eco-friendly”. I didn’t pay that much attention. I was too busy staring at the picture of the drive itself; there in all its glory, housed in genuine wood grain.