Deyan Sudjic’s new book explores the appeal of analogue technology

‘Analogue: A Field Guide’ by Deyan Sudjic delves into the design history of hundreds of iconic pieces of personal tech

Analogue: A Field Guide by Deyan Sudjic, book cover
(Image credit: Quarto Books)

Deyan Sudjic has always been at the forefront of the design conversation. As the founding editor of Blueprint, editor of Domus and a subsequent director of London’s Design Museum (as well as an ongoing contributing editor to Wallpaper*), Sudjic’s research, curation and writing have done an enormous amount to recalibrate the consumer understanding of the cultural importance of the design industry.

Analogue: A Field Guide, by Deyan Sudjic

Archive image of portable radio from Deyan Sudjic book, Analogue: A Field Guide

The Zenith Portable Radio Model L600

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

Analogue: A Field Guide is his latest book, the story of technologies that have now passed into history, considered bafflingly simplistic and convoluted by a new generation weaned on clouds, search, streaming and digital assistants.

Analogue camera

Asahiflex 1 SLR camera, 1952, designed by Nobuyuki Yoshida and Ryohei Suzuki for the Asahi Optical Co. Ltd

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

The book offers up succinct summaries of four core areas of technology – sound, vision, communication and information – as well as short biographies of 250 different objects, from typewriters to televisions. It’s sobering to consider a single modern smartphone can probably outperform every one of these devices combined, and then some.

red typewriter

Valentine typewriter, 1969, designed by Ettore Sottsass and Perry King for Olivetti

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

However, it’s this singularity of function that gives each piece of featured technology its appeal. In its focus on the minutiae of origin, form, function, and material, Analogue offers an insight into the almost fetishistic relationship we’ve developed with tech, old and new.

Analogue boom box

JVC RC M-90 boom box, 1981, designed by JVC for Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

One of Sudjic’s first books was entitled Cult Objects, published way back in the aesthetic hinterlands of the mid-1980s, just as the V&A’s Boilerhouse Project was evolving into what became the Design Museum, courtesy of Terence Conran and Stephen Bayley’s beady eyes.

red analogue radio

Beolit 400 radio, 1970, designed by Jacob Jensen for Bang & Olufsen

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

Much of the visual content in Analogue could have come straight from the pages of Cult Objects, which was one of the earliest celebrations of technology’s raw appeal to both designers and consumers. Forty years later, the consumer electronics of Starck, Rams, Sottsass, et all, has shifted from highly desirable signifiers of status, to outdated, unwanted junk or obscure museum pieces. Now, everything has become a cult object once again.

Analogue tape recorder

Nagra IV-S reel-to-reel tape recorder, 1971, designed by Stefan Kudelski for Nagra Audio Technology 

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

Analogue is not just a chronicle of how industrial design gave form to the technologies that in turn shaped our culture, but also a love letter to a lost world of tape, vinyl, celluloid and 35mm.

Analogue: A Field Guide offers up a treasure trove of forgotten electronic equipment, much of it now much sought-after, following decades of being left to rot languidly in landfill sites around the globe.

analogue cassette player

TEAC A 450 stereo cassette deck, 1973, designed and manufactured the Tokyo Electro Acoustic Company

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

Yes, there’s nostalgia here – you can almost smell the acrid tang of warm electronics – but the book could also give an unknowing generation a far greater insight into the craft and complexity of old-school content generation.

Analogue cassette player

Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck, 1982, designed by Niro Nakamichi for the Nakamichi Corporation

(Image credit: Quarto Books)

Analogue: A Field Guide, Deyan Sudjic, £30,, @quartobooksuk

Available from Amazon 

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.