Back to the future

It is difficult to imagine a world without iPhones, sushi-trains and PlayStation shoot-em-ups, but a new-found hunger for nostalgia is turning curiosities like clamshell mobiles, hamburger joints and Space Invaders into modern-day must haves.

There's little doubt the retro-revival is well under way, and with the advent of modern technology and materials, the new old school is better than ever.

So relax on your beanbag, plug in your Walkman and check out some of the latest old stuff to hit the shelves.

Flipping out: Even if you've forgotten Gordon Gecko in Wallstreet, it's impossible to forget his mobile phone. When Gordon called the stock-floor, he used his trusty Motorola DynaTac 8000X. Released in 1983, the DynaTac was the world's first handheld mobile and cost a whopping $US3995. The DynaTac became known as 'the brick', because it was about the same size and just as heavy.

Motorola has no intention of reissuing the faithful brick, but they are exploring the Australian market for opportunities to bring in the Gleam. What's Gleam you ask?

It's a revamped version of the old school flip-phones, popular throughout the 1990s and while it might not be quite as clever as an iPhone; it's a hell of a lot sexier. We love the way 'Hello' glows on its shell when it rings. Prices and launch dates yet to be confirmed.

Get your fix: Is there a coffee shop in the entire city that doesn't have a designer fixie chained up out the front? A fixie, or fixed-wheel bicycle, simply means a bike without gears, or (often) even brakes; if the back wheel is spinning, so are the pedals.

The originals date right back to the 1800s (think penny farthings). Later they were used as track bikes to race around banked timber velodromes, and during the 1980s they were a cheap form of transport for West Indian cycle couriers in New York City, who cobbled them together from bits and pieces found in dumpsters.

Nowadays fixies are big business, used by everyone from bankers to brokers. Sure, you can pick them up for less than $500, but if you're serious about getting a model that will stand out from the café set and not just be last year's fashion item, check out the Bianchi Pista Via Condotti. For a start it's steel, which is as old school as you can get. It has Italian design cred and is painted in the famous celeste green. Plus it comes with a flip-flop hub, so you can freewheel around when your legs get tired. It retails for $1299.


King of Burgers: Tired of sashimi? Might be time to go back to your roots and grab an old school hamburger. And no, we aren't talking about something you buy from a place that asks if you want fries with it. Nor are we referring to one of those tricked up gourmet jobbies with marinated Venezuelan lamb, or Albanian duck. We mean an old-fashioned-honest-to-goodness-beetroot-dripping-hamburger.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald 'Everyday Eats' the best burger in Sydney can be found at Revolver café in Annandale Street, Annandale. A single beef patty, smoked mozzarella, pickled cucumber, beetroot, tomato and rocket, served with a side of lemon-roasted chat potatoes. Cost: $14.50.

In Melbourne check out the burger with the lot at Andrews Hamburgers in Bridport Street, Albert Park. Cost: $10.50.

Alien invasion: Modern video games utilise more computing power than the Apollo mission. Then there's the convoluted storylines and the myriad of nasty characters, and the blood and the gore - which is why some of us prefer to simply blast 8-bit aliens out of the sky before they destroy the Earth.

Space Invaders was created by Tomohiro Nishikado and released in 1978 in a cocktail cabinet form, with black and white graphics. By today's standards it's basic to say the least, but that's part of the charm. Ditto when it came to those other old school favourites such as PacMan, Donkey Kong and Frogger.

You can relive your halcyon days at the video parlour with a rejigged cocktail cabinet loaded with 60 classic 1980s games, including this writer's favourite: Galaga. The table is architect designed and comes in a variety of laminated finishes.
Price: $2499 from:

Foot power: Back in the day, scooters were only used by kids to whip along the footpath and frighten pensioners. They were pretty basic, foot-propelled contraptions that had lots of sharp edges to give you tetanus.

These days a scooter can be a viable commuting tool. Every day in Sydney, fully-grown adults in pinstripe suits propel their scooters to work. You still have to use your foot (or feet if you are particularly dexterous), but the modern scooter really gets along at a cracking pace, and is much more reliable than NSW public transport, not that that's saying much.

Check out the high-end scooters by Micro, a Swiss company that makes scooter riding cool for executives. The White and the Black models are a gorgeous euro-design and come with large (200mm) polyurethane wheels for a super smooth ride. They fold up neatly too, so you can hide one under your office desk. $279.50 with free delivery.

Shoe cool: At the moment, running shoes appear to be either under-engineered, ie; barefoot. Or over-engineered, with springs and computers hanging from them. But in 1988 New Balance found perfection with the 574. Originally a dedicated running shoe, the 574 was popular with marathoners, until more casual wearers noticed how fabulously minimalist and uber-cool it looked.

With its suede and mesh construction and distinctive 'N' logo, the 574 is an old school classic that is still perfect for wearing to the weekend BBQ, or slipping into to do a 42.195 km run. The modern version comes in a huge variety of fabulous colours too. From $100.00.

Built to fly: For three wonderful years, from 1955 to 1957, if you had deep enough pockets you could purchase a car that was quite simply sex on wheels. The Mercedes 300SL, was a two-seater sports car with distinctive gull-wing doors. It was also incredibly fast for its time (hitting 260km/hr) equipped with a 3-litre engine and one of the earliest examples of direct fuel injection.

The modern version, launched in 2009, is called the Mercedes SLS. You still need deep pockets to buy one, with a price tag starting at around $487,000. But you are getting the ultimate old-school inspired sports car, powered by a 6-litre V8 and a top speed of 317km/hr. Plus you'll have no trouble winning the traffic light derby, with a 0-100km/hr time of 3.8 seconds. But that's not that this monster is about. It's about sheer presence. And those funky gull-wing doors.

Born to be mild: The problem with original old school motorcycles is that you need to be a mechanic to own one. Reliability was never a strong point, when it came to old BSAs and Nortons.

Dare Jenning, formerly of Mambo fame came up with a solution: Deus Ex Machina. His ultra-hip depot at Parramatta Road, Camperdown specialises in transforming modern, reliable, Yamahas, Kawasakis and 'new era' Triumphs in such a way they become something greater than the sum of their parts. The look is old school, but thankfully the mechanicals are strictly 21st century.

You pay around $8500 for the standard bike and spend anything from $1000 to $25,000 on getting the Deus custom look. Actor, Orlando Bloom is the proud owner of a Deus machine. So is the piano man, Billy Joel, who dropped $50,000 for the privilege. 

The other two-wheeler that is making a huge impact throughout our cities is the humble Vespa. First manufactured by Piaggio, Italy in 1946, they epitomise old school cool. Just ten years after the first Vespa rolled off the production line, Vittorio Tonon opened Vespa House in Collingwood, Melbourne. Three generation’s later it’s a Melbourne landmark for Vespa lovers, who drop by to breath in the history. From $6000.