Many of us breathed a sigh of relief when the uncomfortable lesson in bland that was the digital age of beige came to an end, but even some of the latest styling can be somewhat disappointing. The growing popularity of Steampunk design is evidence that many crave a return to the classic looks of yesteryear but enthusiasts wanting their technology to take on a vintage look are, for the most part, left with little option but to modify the kit themselves. Those with no time to spare or no skills to speak of, though, are left to look on with envious admiration. Kirk DuQuette has not only created a whole bunch of stunning computer peripherals and mobile device docks that hark back to the Victorian age of steam but, without much of the valve, cog and gauge overkill, he has also made some of them available for purchase.
An unfortunate encounter with an 80 year-old driver lost DuQuette the use of his right hand and forced him to rethink both his day job as a graphic artist and his hobby as a noted Hot Rod Woodie designer and builder. While recuperating, he discovered that he had cancer and, needing something to keep himself occupied and help him through the ordeal, he turned his attention to modifying the look of computers.
"I've been doing computer mods for years," DuQuette told Gizmag. "I was able to handle the smaller size compared to hotrod building. I was sick of the cheap plastic look of everything and wanted stuff to look old, like it was built years ago, so turned to styles from the Art Deco, Shaker and Victorian periods."
Putting his handsome Old Time Computer creations online, he attracted quite a following and decided to go into small-scale production. An Etsy store followed for selected designs and some others were put up for auction on eBay.
DuQuette makes a wireless keyboard and laser mouse combination, linked to a computer via a 2.4 GHz USB receiver. The keyboards are available in different finishes (including hand-painted faux marble, burl walnut, and gold or silver engine turn effect) and feature raised, disc-shaped keys like those on the Philco PC concept from Dave Schulze, which was itself inspired by the ones found on a classic mechanical typewriter such as the Underwood.
For those who want some mechanical authenticity as well, noisy and heavy models built using old IBM Model M clicky keyboards are available, connecting via an old-school PS/2 connector (users of modern computers will likely need a PS/2 to USB adapter). A modern wireless mouse also receives a marble effect antique make-over, with oak trim, and there's even a similarly-styled wooden mouse mat.
LCD monitors are put through the same artificial aging process and given a hand-painted marble base and gold and brass trim. The smooth brushed aluminum finish of an iMac can be masked behind an equally gorgeous vintage custom cover in oak with brass and gold accents. The base gets hidden by a hard maple cover with marble finish and there's oak and gold trim for the keyboard.
Although not for sale, he has also built a full desktop computer system into a kidney-shaped antique desk that features three drives, offering a choice of booting to Windows, Mac or Linux. It's powered by a dual-core processor running at 3.2GHz, has a DVD optical drive and hidden USB ports and is about as far from the dreaded beige box of the 1980s as you could possibly get, but not quite as imposing as Bruce Rosenbaum's Steampunk Organ Command Desk.
With the future of personal computing looking decidedly mobile, the latest additions to DuQuette's growing online collection are docking stations for iDevices like the iPhone and iPad (or both). The docks are available in various woods and a number of different finishes, brass and gold fixtures and fittings add a little extra something to the aesthetic and they can even be made to fit over iMac or Apple Studio Monitor bases. Dual and triple device docks can be produced.
All models include a USB cable, can both sync and charge, are compatible with newer iDevices and can be used in conjunction with device covers. Docks/stands for Android devices and e-Readers can also be made.