I remember visiting my grandmother's house as a toddler and the monolithic TV in her living room. Encased in wood and decoratively adorned, it was massive and sturdy like an old oak desk. Saying "they don't build them like they used to" is an understatement. Long before the iPod, a stereo cabinet holding all of your hi-fi equipment and vinyl records could take up an entire wall of the living room. Electronics were as much furniture as they were media devices then, but over time we've cut away all the bulk until essentially all we were left with was the media.
Tablets and smartphones, and even super thin big screen televisions: in many ways the promise of a modern device is its ever shrinking physical footprint in our homes. While I do love the industrial simplicity of my Apple iPad, there's definitely something to be said for the hearty physicality of the 1950s TV, radio, and media console.
The Kuba Komet
This elaborate media console from the late fifties has more in common with a Cadillac of that era than a TV of today. With fold-out shelving to reveal your records and hi-fi this entertainment console was built to take over a room.
1964 Magnavox Astro-Sonic Stereo Hi-Fi
Retro gadget blog, Retro Thing, offers up this beautiful find (as well as a number of other fantastic stereo consoles). With stereo speakers, a record player and radio built in, what else could a person need? Other than maybe a 30 pin connector to dock an iPhone.
Though I'm not sure I would describe this as "slim" this eBay item caught my eye, as it's listed as still working. A television from 62 years ago! This Mahogany encased 14" TV is available on eBay for only $99.99. While this old TV might not be in the best shape, it does makes you consider; what condition will my iPad be in after 62 years?
An incredible resource for designers looking for some retro inspiration, archival site Vintage Ad Browser has some beautiful examples of electronics ads from the 1950's with a wide range of interesting cabinet TV models from Magnavox, Zenith and Admiral.
While my personal taste is distinctively more modern than the above, there is something about the combination of wood finish and tech that I do find attractive. Could you imagine a Samsung flat panel TV, with a lovely rich wood bezel? There's just something about plastic that just doesn't have the same appeal. While I could do without the tail fins of the Kuba Komet, there is definitely something to the warmth and style of these old cabinets and consoles.
(Images: As linked, lead image courtesy of Retronaut)