What Makes You Feel Nostalgic?


The other day on Instagram I shared a picture of a classic pair of Compaq laptops from around 1989-90 from my trip to HP’s Houston Labs for a tour. This laptop – the 286-powered LTE/286 – was my very first laptop, and marked the beginning of my laptop-centric life, long before it was really a viable choice.

During the tour there were a couple of display cases full with a few dozen Compaq and HP laptops showing the history and evolution of the devices through the years. Also, throughout the facility there were a number of old Compaq computers in use as utility devices – controls, measurements, and so on. These were mostly DeskPro EN models, but there were also Armadas, DeskPro 386, Presario and so on.

I had owned some generation of pretty much all of those computers. I looked at many of those devices and had a little chuckle, but none of them really meant anything special. The DeskPro 386 was something I built into optical systems I hold significant intellectual property for. Laptops … well, I have owned so many that it takes something special to stand out – and very few laptops of the late 90s stood out!

But it made me think – why does the Compaq LTE/286 or HP Omnibook 300 laptop make me ‘warm and fuzzy’ in a way few others do? Then I wondered why I look at CDs as ‘just a medium’, whereas many of my vinyl records are ‘possessions of note’? It gets to the heart of what matters to us and why. So I asked myself the question ‘what technology makes me nostalgic’ …


What Makes Me Feel Nostalgic

1. Wedding and pre-wedding pictures together with Lisa

Yes I know I said ‘technology’, but hey, whatever. Photography is technology, so deal with it! 🙂

This is an easy one, because I make no pretense about how much I value my marriage and relationship with Lisa. We are incredibly fortunate, and always take time to appreciate our relationship and the hard work we have put in through the years.

Looking at wedding pictures we were so YOUNG! And we also had a lot of learning and growing up to do – as we all do at every stage in our lives. But we were so innocent and it was such a different time, I always smile.

2. Pictures of the boys when they were little

Sure I love any and all pictures of my boys, but there is something about going back to when they were little that triggers different feelings for me.

It is hard to explain, but looking at a picture of #mamaSalt and B immediately triggered memories of us at Storyland in New Hampshire when the kids were little, and in particular a picture of Chris clearly talking as we took his picture, and also of Danny on the plane to our first Disney trip playing with my Compaq iPaq and opening up a big cheery smile.

3. My old Vinyl Records

Now THIS one is interesting … I ‘went digital’ very early, and have never looked back. But recently as I have dug back into my record collection, doing a series of retro-reviews for another site, I have really felt transported in time just touching the album, looking at the jacket and seeing some wear or a stain or whatever. Sure I have the music available digitally, but this is about the physical item – it brings me back to where I bought it and when I was listening to it.

4. Certain Songs and Books

Music is a key part of my life, so yeah it gets two listings! But when I head the opening bass line to ‘Jean Pierre’ from Miles Davis 1981 ‘We Want Miles’ album I am suddenly back driving our blue 1972 Chevy Malibu. ‘Rubberband Man’ takes me to the Good Vibrations record store where I bought my first single; ‘On the Corner’ by John Patitucci has me on 128 North headed towards Billerica in my ’84 Audi 5000′; and ‘Number One’ by Chaz Jankel from the Real Genius soundtrack puts me back in the fraternity house at RPI.

And in a similar way to my records, I have a bunch of old books that I just love – and yes I own them digitally, but it is great grabbing the bulk of James Joyce Ulysses and reading a page or two at random. It puts me back in high school. ‘The Plague’ puts me on family vacation on Cape Cod in high school; The Foundation Trilogy is somehow most connected with some of my early work trips to Atlanta, Gainesville FL and Hattiesburg MS – even though I’d read them before.

5. Technology

I am typing this on an iPad, having started it on a MacBook Air, and yet I feel absolutely no connection to either. They are awesome, but they are tools. Which is true for nearly every computer device I have ever owned – my ‘impact on my life’ threshold is fairly high.

For example, I fondly remember having the original Blackberry (pre-phone), but I was also glad to have it gone. I have never really cared about any desktop computer I’ve owned. And every phone from flip to Android to iPhone and beyond remains fraught with too many compromises for them to feel like anything but a transition (though I miss good physical keyboards like my Droid 4).

For mobile devices, I have had the Newton, Palm, Pocket PC, Psion, Windows CE, and so on … yet there is a single device that still grabs me: the HP 200LX. I have talked about WHY I loved it, but more important than that was how it was just absolutely perfect for me at the time – top-notch calculator, integrated DOS and spreadsheets, document editor, and on and on. Great battery life, card slot, form factor, and sense of style – it fit between laptop and calculator and organizer. It was unique and visionary for a small audience of tech nerds like me. Just touching it brings me back in time, and allows me to forget that I had to stop using it because of a lack of connectivity, 8.3 naming limits, and lack of email address in the contact database.

As for laptops, I loved the Compaq LTE/286, the original IBM ThinkPad, the first Apple Powerbooks, Dell Inspirons and XPS, and pretty much every awesome laptop over the last few years. But again three stand out. The first is the Alienware M11X. This was the height of the netbook craze, and I had some of those as well – but Alienware brought about a ‘gaming netbook’ that just ignited my imagination! It had an 11″ screen and a small and light footprint, nearly all-day battery on integrated graphics and could play just about any game.

The best laptop I ever owned was the Apple G4 Titanium Powerbook. It was the first widescreen 15″ laptop, had a 1GHz processor, solid discrete graphics, and the ability to dual-boot Mac OS 9 and OS X. It was incredibly thin and light for the time – and was really the beginning of the end of the ‘fast OR portable’ choice … and it gave me screaming performance at games like Star Wars Jedi Knight II.

But my favorite laptops – and favorite overall piece of technology – are the HP Omnibook 300 & 800CT. Yes I am grouping two – but it makes sense. From the outside they look the same, but the 300CT was the first of its kind – a laptop designed by the calculator division. It had MS Office burned in ROM to preserve space and speed launch, ran off of 4 AA batteries, and had the unique pop-out mouse. The keyboard had amazing travel and responsiveness for a laptop of the time. The 800CT came just a couple of years later, but had a great color screen, 166MHz Pentium, and was both fast AND portable. I kept that system in action for a long time, and still have both of them around the house. For me they are a milestone of design in a laptop.

So What Makes YOU Feel Nostalgic?

23 thoughts on “What Makes You Feel Nostalgic?

  1. Photos of myself with my family as a kid, and photos of my 2 older daughters as babies. It’s amazing that as the years go by you start to section out your life and looking through old pictures brings back tons of feelings from different times. It’s also weird to see my parents looking younger than me!

    • Great point on seeing your parents younger than you are now … it is really weird! Looking at pictures is just an amazing thing – I don’t know how many times Lisa and I have been looking for something and found ourselves looking at pictures for an hour or more 🙂

  2. Definitely looking back at wedding pictures or pictures from when Wes and I first met. It’s already crazy to see how much we have changed, and I know there is much more to come!

    • So true – I loved looking at your pictures you posted on your anniversary post! And it is true – you feel so grown up … then you look at the pictures just a few years later and realize how young you really were!

  3. Power Rangers cartoons, hahaha. Shin guards and the smell of cut onion grass (ooohhh soccer fields). The intense quiet of the morning and the crunch of feet on a path instantly take me back to horse show mornings as well.
    Oooooh and backwards facing Volvos. YES

    • True story – we still sing most of the theme songs (set controls for Outer Space … Go Power Rangers – In Space!) haha

      Your parents had one of those Volvo wagons with the rear facing seat also? I was older when mine got theirs so I never rode in it, but I do remember it well! 🙂

  4. I’m feeling all nostalgic just reading your post and thinking… I have to say lots of things make me feel nostalgic. I guess it’s anything that is/was important to me. Family, relationships, travel experiences, work experiences, passions from childhood. Thanks for the trip through your technology history. 🙂

    • That is funny – how someone else’s post can inspire us that way. I saw one in my email this morning about a list of ways they were happy. And as I was doing some work I found myself listing things in my head .. thanks for sharing !

  5. I remember my first blackberry. I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at a bar during March Madness after some depositions, and I dropped it into my pint glass of beer. The beer and the glass were at the right level/shape so that my full keyboard submerged in beer, and the screen did not. It continued to work, but the keys were sticky and considerably noisier than before. It always made me laugh to type on it after that night. But aside from technology, I’m a very sentimental person, tons of things in our house, places, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. hold tons of memories for me.

    • Thanks for sharing … we have a curio cabinet with vases, figurines, cake toppers, etc that all have loads of meaning as well … nothing wrong with being sentimental at all 🙂

  6. I’m feeling nostalgic today as it’s my 15th anniversary. I looked through our photo album from the wedding and it brings back so many memories of so many phases of our lives together!
    Pictures of my kids as babies can make me cry… I love the ages they’re at and they’re still young, but sometimes, it’s remember how simple it was. No school, no homework, just me being mom and them being kids, play dates, that kind of thing.
    As for technology, I remember our first computer, the Commodore 64, and it was like an act of Congress just getting a word document to print (on our dot matrix no less). So I guess that makes me feel thankful for today’s technology! I wish I had some of my grandma’s old records that we used to listen to together. They’re nothing quite like the crack of a record.
    Thanks for the post!

  7. Fraggle Rock, old photos, Cool Water cologne and certain songs always bring me back to very specific times in my life when I can remember things as clear as if they happened just yesterday (which is pretty incredible since Robyn would tell you my memory is TERRIBLE!)

  8. Betty is so young still but pictures of her tiny baby days make me feel so nostalgic! And then there is TONS of music that makes me feel that way too. The other day we were having a discussion about old computers and talking about games we used to play in school when we were kids like Oregon Trail. Total nostalgia fest. 🙂

  9. I would say for me it’s old VHS tapes.. I am a huge movie buff and everytime I open my box of tapes I get a smile on my face and think when me and my best friend lived together and would watch the movies while drinking a beer and then throw a smashing party at our place. Also looking at old photos of my dad from when he ran in races when I was a kid. Makes me think of why I started running.

    • Thanks for sharing! VHS is interesting, like audio tape … because I rode those technologies to failure. So I have great memories of recording and watching tapes through the years … but don’t miss the technology because it was so prone to fail 🙂

  10. Pingback: Five times the Friday Favorites and #FlatsFriday 3! | Suzlyfe

  11. I still have my old casio scientific calculator from high school sitting in a drawer where I see it nearly every day. That little workhorse helped me ace every AP exam they had to offer and countless math, chemistry and physics competitions. Once I got to college, the world moved on and she was obsolete but will forever hold a place in my heart.

  12. Great post through the lens of a “Techie”.

    I often catch myself living in the past. Personally, the one thing that never fails to get me going is looking through old photos. I’m almost always engulfed with palpable sense of yearning that creates a deep pang in the pit of my stomach for happier times with my loved ones.

    I must admit that it can be very limiting to have to rely so heavily on the past to sustain me in the present, but I’m also grateful to have had those experiences and for the photos which serve to honour those memories.

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