WHO: Sony Corporation
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
WHEN: 1978-2011
WHAT: Dream Machine Clock Radio

Everyone of a certain age (ok, old Millennials, Gen X and up) will remember a time, pre-smart phone, when waking up to a clock radio was the way we all woke up, mostly the only way. Beyond our boom boxes, stereo systems, and our bedside lamps, the clock radio was our main interaction with “tech.” Whether you woke to the sound of the womp womp womp or your favorite morning radio DJ’s voice, every day involved engagement with our clock radios. But our desire to have a certain one, was ruled by Sony (with a tip of the hat to Panasonic), with the launch of its Dream Machine line in 1978. Discontinued in 2011, the Sony Dream Machine alarm clocks, specifically the “digicube” model that dominated the ‘80s and ‘90s, was our glimpse into the future.

The Dream Machine’s beautiful, sturdy box in molded, glossy (usually) white fantastic plastic spoke to our imagined, Jetson-like vision of a monorail and robot-dominated future. It was the sophisticated, stay-at-home sibling to our bright yellow Sony Sport Walkmen, the cooler cousin to mom and dad’s Rams-designed Braun travel clock, and the ancestor to our as-yet-unknown appetite for all things Mac. The postmodern stylings, those blue, then green, sometimes red LED display numbers that kept a glowing vigil as we drifted off, the gentle up and down crank of the volume wheel and its smooth switch were often the last thing we touched each night and the first each morning. Sony branded the long, oval snooze button on the Dream Machine models the Dream Bar, a romantic take on those 8 or 12-minute increments between sleeping and waking, where we become unsure, like the Taoist parable, if we’re a person dreaming of a butterfly or if we ARE the butterfly. Dreamy indeed.

Unlike its modern counterpart, the smart phone, the Dream Machine did what it did very well, and left it at that. It had nothing more to say, did not contain the multitude of our work and social lives or anything close to the vast expanse of the internet as we know it. It simply existed, for us alone, serving a singular purpose to bring us to the present moment, to sleep or wake with our unfettered thoughts; and it looked damn good doing it.

Words by Minya Quirk
Images courtesy of Ebay