Martin Helmut Fieber

Cassette Futurism

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A technological aesthetic reminiscent of late 1960s to early 1980s tech (regardless of the real time setting of the media) as codified by early microcomputers …

—TV Tropes, Cassette Futurism

What is it?

Two of my favourite movies are Ridley Scotts Alien and Blade Runner. Both of them have a distinguished style in their environment, items, and general aesthetics, best called cassette futurism. A retro aesthetic that combines visuals from the late 1960s to early 1980s forming general computers, handhelds, cyber-decks or even environments and every day products — usually associated with low-fi tech.

Interior design by Syd Mead
Interior design by Syd Mead, official website.

Imagine futuristic space travel, but software updates come on cassette tapes, locks are secured via punch card, the flight computer is analog, and if something is broken you can open it up and probably solder something back together or put tape on it for a repair. I love it.

Computer deck and rewire station in the game Alien: Isolation.
Alien: Isolation by Creative Assembly, Alien franchise copyright by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC.

I want to give some appreciation to some movies and artists utilising cassette futurism one way or the other.

Alien

THE Alien movie in the whole Alien franchise for me. I know how people love the second one, Aliens, and I do too, but the first movie, slow paced as it is, this is where my heart lies.

The design of the interior and devices, computers or the motion sensor used in the movie, are good examples of cassette futurism. Low tech in a high-tech scenario, like space travel.

Impressions from the Alien movie showing a computer, a corridor and some icons.
Pictures of the movie Alien (1979), copyright by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC.

Some websites going into design details like typography, iconography, and spaceship design:

I'm also working on recreating an Alien Bulkhead door as designed by Ron Cobb in 3D with Blender.

Blade Runner

Same director as Alien, Blade Runner hits hard on design. A dark, cyberpunk'esque, cassette futurism, sci-fi, movie. Based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by the way an amazing author of science fiction literature. Seeing this movie sharing certain connections with Alien, some would say sharing a universe, it is no wonder it tickles the spot in my heart.

Besides that, the second movie, Blade Runner 2049, is an amazing masterpiece as well in my opinion.

From the Blade Runner movie, a computer screen, the city and a keyboard.
Pictures of the movie Blade Runner (1982), copyright by Warner Bros. Pictures Group

Also a good look is Blade Runner at Typeset in the future, going deeper into the used typography.

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