Gadgets, BC (Before the Computer)

Bacolod City, the Philippines

April 17, 2011

There was a time when stereo systems and television sets were furniture pieces and telephones were household fixtures. But with each new innovation in technology, we disposed of our obsolete gadgets. Not so with one family in my hometown who had preserved their appliances, among other things, reflecting the lifestyle of Negrense bourgeois in the last century.

Mom and a Candlestick Telephone @ Dizon-Ramos Museum

Dizon-Ramos Museum @ Bacolod City

The Dizon-Ramos Museum, formerly a house beside the mansion of Raymundo L. Dizon and Hermelinda V. Ramos, transported me, not only to the tantalizing world behind its perennially closed gates, but also to the bygone era of my childhood in the 70s.

The second floor of the house was a veritable museum of vintage gadgets.

  • Hi-Fi Stereo System

The first thing that jumped at me was this dinosaur of music players composed of a turntable and twin woofer speakers – the rage in the 70s. Size would always matter in technology, then (the bigger, the better) and now (the smaller, the sleeker). Music was neither portable nor personal. Unless it was from the radio, we could listen to music only in the living room and for everyone to hear. Records were usually played for visitors and family members. Listening to music was communal; we enjoyed it together, arguably (our parents probably didn’t relish the blaring disco ditties!).

Turntable and Woofer Speakers @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
  • Vinyl Records

A collection of LPs (long-playing records) was stacked on a shelf to complete the vintage 70s vibe. Vinyl records were vulnerable to wear and tear. The more they were played, the scratchier they became. Your favorite records would then sound the worst. I could still sing my favorite 70s songs from memory but skipping words where the needle had jumped on the disc. That made each record a unique listening experience. No two records had scratches on the same part of a song.

Vintage Gramophones @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
  • Gramophones and Transistor Radios

These were already old school in the 70s, conjuring up sepia scenes from period films ringing with their tinny music, truly a “primal sound” (to borrow Rainer Maria Rilke’s term) compared to today’s crisp audio. Obviously, this family had a trans-generational love for music and social gatherings. These halls must have regularly heard laughter and music along with the clicking sound of mahjong tiles. The “ladies who lunch” had sisters here – the “ladies who play mahjong.”

Mahjong and Bridge on Belgian Lace @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
  • Landline Telephones

Actually, their ancestors: the odd (candlestick phone) and the unwieldy (rotary dial phone). They sat in place on different tables. It took patience to dial numbers, especially 8, 9, and 0. And their urgent jangle demanded indoor running. It’s almost unimaginable now that calls could only be taken at home or in the office; the moment you stepped out, you were incommunicado.

  • Personal Computer

A cream-colored Macintosh PC stood out, not only on the bureau it adorned, but in the entire house of old machines cluttered with knobs and dials. iPaused to ponder this granddaddy of all iProducts that Steve Jobs would eventually invent. It apparently ushered a new era in technology. Though still a clunky contraption by today’s standards, this nascent PC already had that Apple streamlined look – smooth and simple – a foreshadowing of things to come, iPosited.

The First Mac @ Dizon-Ramos Museum

But it was not all about living the life. The family has produced one city mayor, Raymundo Dizon, Jr., and a Lasallian brother and educator, Rolando Dizon. The former was the Bacolod mayor in the late 70s when my brother was chosen as boy mayor for a week when he was in high school; the latter was a founding member of a volunteer organization for free elections. In that capacity, Bro. Rolly took an active role in ousting then Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos. The dictator wrote him a letter, now laminated on Bro. Rolly’s study desk, seeking his support during the time of political turmoil that led to the People Power Revolution in 1986.

Marcos’ Letter on Bro. Rolly’s Desk @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
Dizon Family Portrait and our own Family Tableau
Bro. Rolly and I: Green-Blooded Lasallians Both @ Dizon-Ramos Museum

The ground floor had been converted into an art gallery. Various collections of the Ramos-Dizon siblings filled their own rooms.

  •  Bro. Rolly’s Holy Land gallery crammed with religious art and objects from Israel where he lived for a time.
Into Bro. Rolly’s Holy Land Collection @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
  • His crystal collection, notable for the glass sculptures of renowned Filipino artist Ramon Orlina, as well as Murano glass art.
  • Rudy Dizon’s horse collection.
  • The Puentebella-Alunan doll collection.
An Orlina in Bro. Rolly’s Crystal Collection @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
Rudy Dizon’s Horse Collection @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
Thai Doll in Alunan-Puentebella Doll Collection @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
  • Various art pieces and installations, such as Ian Valladarez’s wire sculptures.
  • And more collections elsewhere in the house, such as the angel collection of Bella Galang, my mother’s friend and music teacher, on the second floor…
  • …and elaborate masks from the annual Masskara Festival of Bacolod at the gatehouse.
Ian Valladarez’s Wire Sculpture @ Dizon-Ramos Museum
Masskara Festival Collection @ Dizon-Ramos Museum

Other parts of the house – the kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining hall – were done up to look as they did back in the day, preserving the way of life of the Negrense upper class. However, other than the art, it was the appliances-turned-artifacts that left a lasting impression on me. I may not have shared this family’s station in life, but we shared an era.

56 thoughts on “Gadgets, BC (Before the Computer)

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  1. Years from now iPods would be part of historical pieces in museums na din. Hahahaha. And woah at the old school Mac. Kahit ancient na, it still has that Apple brand.

    1. So Robx don’t trade off and throw out your gadgets. Your gadgets today will be the artifacts tomorrow. 🙂 Yup, the first Mac is unmistakably Apple. It has Steve Jobs all over it!

  2. Quite a transportation into the ancinet time period, I say. What a wonderful one that! I remember the record players we used to have when I was a kid. The huge black discs, which used to get started when a small pin in set in the disc. I so wanted to do that but my mom would never let me to. Even the cassettes look so obsolete now. But I must mention that for one of the projects, a student has given me her recordings in a cassette and I don’t know where to play it. BTW, the place where our University is located is quite a rural one, hence the cassette!

    Age, the name Raymundo reminded me of the Spanish film by Pedro Almodovar, Volver. Penelope Cruz is the protagonist and her name is Raimunda. Have you seen Almodovar’s films?

    Life goes on . . .

    Joy always,

    1. Cassette players are so 80s! I thought it was so cool not to have those scratchy sounds. The audio was purer. The only downside was that the tape could get “eaten” (entangled by the player) when you rewind or fast forward too much. So what I’d do was wind the tape with a pencil, hahaha! But in retrospect, that vinyl extraneous noise gives it character.

      You teach in Madras U, Mrs. Sus?

      Yeah, I’ve seen some Almodovar. His films are edgy with a good measure of shock value. I love his older stuff like “Que He Hecho Yo Para Merecer Esto?” and those with the young Antonio Banderas.

    1. As Robx said, it already had the features of the Apple brand. Very Steve Jobs even in the 80s. Gadgets before it were cluttered with too many knobs and what-not. But the Mac was already streamlined.

  3. Love the soft and smooth touch of your narration in this post! I felt like as if being invited to a social gathering and listening to music in the hall. It’s also fun to imagine to be one of the “ladies who play mahjong” in the elegant hall. I can’t tell which one would be nicer… And the pic of “Entering Bro. Rolly’s Holy Land Collection” is amazing. It dosen’t look flat! 🙂

    1. Wow, you managed to post a comment that’s more than a sentence long! 😀 But “soft and smooth”? How’s that? You got it though – the mural is trompe l’oiel. Good student! 🙂

      1. “soft and smooth” means “easy to read than usual posts” (or just my imagination?) and probably that’s why I was able to read this one through to the end! ;P

    1. Ako din. Gave me a sense of how far the Mac has gone. Couldn’t relate sa mahjong set. Dunno how to play it. Loss, hehe.

    1. Something fell under the radar of the Lost Boy? 🙂 Yes it’s a must-visit in Bacolod. It’s on the same street as my house; drop in there too.

    1. That was the colorful 80s after all! I shouldn’t have bothered with the other appliances; the comments here are mostly just about the Mac. 😀

  4. Great piece, AJ. You’ve taken me back again to my childhood. Sometimes I wish listening to music is still a communal activity like before. It brings family members together, unlike now when music actually widens the gaps. With the different tastes in music, one can’t put a rocker and a country-music lover in one room.

    That photo of the ancient Mac is priceless!

    1. Me too! I would’ve kept our old players if I were as rich as these people. But we didn’t have a mansion to stash ’em in. I don’t even know where all our vinyl LPs went. At least, we could’ve saved those, tsk tsk.

  5. This is so interesting AJ! I remember all the vinyl records that my Mom had. In fact I bought a single with my first pocket money back in the early 80`s! It was a Kim Wilde! It is incredible how technology and gadgets have become such a great part in our lives…what would we do without it?

    1. We’re cut from the same 80s cloth, Nelieta. A part of my allowance also went to records. The first one I got with my own money was “Crazy for You” by Madonna. 🙂

    1. They cost a fortune now, Jim, especially if they are in mint condition. Check the going rate at eBay. If that still doesn’t tempt you, at least bring them out for display. 🙂

    1. Finally, someone is interested in another collection. Kala ko lagi na lang Mac. 🙂 Yes, Gael, pay the museum a visit next time.

  6. Thanks for sharing! I was always curious to know what the old PCs looked like but too lazy to search it on google :p I remember dropping a neighbour’s record on my foot by mistake, the record broke and that man started yelling at me……my toe was bleeding but he and his family didn’t seem to care….lol 😀 Lovely pictures…all of them!!!

    1. That record must’ve cost a fortune! Or if he didn’t wanna sell it, he might not find another copy of that record anymore. Now you know why the man was screaming at you. 😀 Collectors sell those things in eBay. Too bad we didn’t keep our old vinyls.

  7. nakalimutan ko na paano maglaro ng mahjong. hehe. — yung mahjong na lang akin para may macomment. bwahahahahaha.

    naiimagine ko how it was for people to gather in a communal area just to listen to music! naka dress-up pa sila. hehe

    1. Sowee walang bingo eh, mahjong na lang. Hehe. Yeah, during my time, naka-postura kami pagnakiking ng plaka sa sala. 😀

  8. In behalf of the DIZON RAMOS MUSEUM staff and the family, i would like to thank you AJ also your Mom for dropping by at the old house, you enjoy talaga in your visit here, hope that you can come back once more here in the Museum, for now we added more exhibit and change it from time to time para hindi nakakasawa ang makikita ninyo. MADAMU GUID NGA SALAMAT

    1. It’s our pleasure, Raymond. Yes, we would like to revisit when we go home again. Your family’s collections are so precious!

  9. nice family museum..
    I can’t really relate to the 70’s,
    you are correct, they invoke the sepia images..
    and just like black and white, sepia feels old.
    You also made a reference to the German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke..
    I would agree though, if you refer to it as primal sound.
    Its nice to walk back and reminisce things..
    If these were mine though, I would want them placed in a museum as an artifact of my existence. 🙂

    1. Well, this family didn’t just put their stuff in the museum; they turned their house into one! 🙂 I was in grade school in the 70s so I have plenty of memories of it. But I still consider myself an 80s kid cuz that’s when I was in high school, and most of my pop music idols are 80s icons.

      As for poet Rilke, it’s interesting that he wrote an essay about the phonograph, of all things!

  10. Believe it or not, my family still owns a Hi-Fi Stereo System! But we’ve managed to use it as a table. We’ve placed all of our family photos on top of it since it hasn’t been working for decades now. We also had several vinyl records too. But those were given out a few years back.

    1. Thanks, Ric!

      Mai, those vinyl records are worth a fortune in eBay now! You shouldn’t have given them away. Oh well, actually, that’s what we also did with ours. We didn’t foresee they’d become collectors’ items.

  11. daug mo pa ko…never been inside the Dizon house…hahaha. Now that Bro. Roly has passed on, maybe I will visit the place one of these days.

    1. Abaw tuod ka gid! It pays to be a tourist in one’s hometown, I guess. 😀

      This reposting (the entry was published last year) is my personal tribute to Bro. Roly. I was in this house almost exactly a year before his death. It was only then that I learned about his life and achievements and place in our history. The point of connection was our being Lasallians. But I wasn’t in La Salle yet when he was the university president so I didn’t really know him – until I visited his ancestral house last April. I have my sister to thank for taking me there.

  12. Aha! so those stuff my grandparents are keeping in our bodega collecting dust are now historical pieces and puede na pang museum! Grabe bilis ng technology nowadays, yung ipod now rarely na din ako makakita first cellphone ko which we used to call teletubbies because of the size e super obsolete na now.. disappointing too coz kids now rarely play on the streets like we used to, they are in front of the PC now or Ipad/psp etc… they don’t have physical exercise anymore! ;(

    1. Yeah, you should dust them off. You can recycle them as vintage decors or as other functional furnishings, like what Mai did to their stereo system – she turned it into a table. 🙂

      And yeah again, the march of technological advancement is accelerating by the day, it seems. My budget finds it hard to keep up. Once you’ve invested in one gadget, it becomes obsolete the next month! 😀

  13. What a well-preserved collection.
    These items are not only decorative pieces but
    they are worth keeping for centuries. They are truly
    considered “memorabilia” of the lost times but
    never forgotten.

  14. Wow, these are nice collections. Would love to have a musuem like this too tha twould house some of the things from way back that my family have too.:)

  15. Well kept treasures… nice collection of things that depict the past. Personally I love visiting museums such as this because they are indeed educational.

    I agree with Violy above, children now, prefer to stay at home. Wala na nga akong nakikitang nagpapalipad ng saranggola eh at nag-huhunt ng wildest gagamba for spider street fights… Fast changing… Glad that museums such as this care to preserve the tangible memories of the past to at least give as an idea.

    1. @Edmar: Well, we lived in a different time. Those before us would’ve also thought us lazy for not hunting for our food. 😀

      @Renz: Yep, back then, when it came to electronics (among other things, hmmm), it was “the bigger, the better.” I remember we replaced our stereo systems and speakers with progressively bigger models through the 70s! 😀 It was only in the 80s that portable electronics became widely accepted, like the boombox and the Walkman.

  16. wow, this is such a refreshing vintage post (both in the subject and timeline haha)! i love reading your post and looking at the vintage stuff while reminiscing how life was like in the older days without our present gadgets – it makes me think about the paradox of time – more gadgets now less time for true recreation.

    1. Paradox indeed. The gadgets before lent themselves to collectivist activities – communal experience to be shared with others, like music players, telephones (we even had party lines then, hahah!), etc. Gadgets now are personal (it started with the PC and then the Walkman, I guess). Even video games are played alone or with virtual opponents, although their precursor – the Game & Watch – was invented in the 80s.

  17. I really like museums especially if they allow guests to take pictures for souvenir and sharing it to their future generations.

    I kinda missed BC (before computer) days. Kids are more physically active back then compared to now.

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