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Retrofuturism

Robot, Camden: serf

Robot "Robot" burglar alarm, Camden • And finally, the ultimate computer: a 1980s New Romantic-style robot. (I know I've included Robot before, but this is a slightly different logo.) Wikipedia pop fact: the word robota means literally "serf labour" in Czech. • Spotted: Well Walk, Camden, London, NW3, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn
Robot, Camden: serf

Code, Lambeth: console

Code Security Systems

"Code Security Systems" burglar alarm, Lambeth • Judging by the logo, I think they mean computer code – the look is very early 1990s console game (or possibly a reject from a gay rave club). • Spotted: Beehive Place, Lambeth, London, SW9, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood

Code, Lambeth: console

Somer 2000, Bristol: anvil

Somer 2000 "Somer 2000" burglar alarm, Bristol • A really unusual name and logo, which looks like a 1980s retro-futurist illustration of a communist-era anvil. However it may go back further than that: the Somer 2000 website informs us that the firm incorporates the vintage-sounding Sutton Transformers, whose logo this seems to be (note the S and T). The former were founded in 1995, the latter in 1975, so I'm not sure where the 2000 comes in (if it was meant to sound futuristic, they underestimated their longevity).  I still think that's an anvil, with the lightning bolts shooting out – perhaps they made their transformers in a forge. • Spotted: Merchants Road, Bristol, Avon, England, 2013 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
Somer 2000, Bristol: anvil

Disc Security Systems, Glasgow: real CD

Disc Security Systems "Disc Security Systems" burglar alarm, Glasgow • Scotland seems to sprout even more musical alarms than Norwich. I've already featured Disc, but this is a much better photo. How I love these sounders - I mean, each one has computer-readable lettering and an actual, real CD on it! How cool is that? If each one played a different Scottish musical "legend" - eg the Bay City Rollers, The Proclaimers, The Krankies - that would be the icing on the cake. • Spotted: George Street, Glasgow, G1, Scotland, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
Disc Security Systems, Glasgow: real CD

“Maxpro”, Stroud: extravaganza

Maxpro Security Systems Alarm Stroud "Maxpro Security Systems Alarm Stroud" burglar alarm, Stroud • Now we move from general business excellence to the self-proclaimed pros. In this case a superb 1970s disco extravaganza called Maxpro, which either stands for the maximum amount of professionalism possible, or some geezer called Max. • Spotted: Russell Street, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Stroud
“Maxpro”, Stroud: extravaganza

“Future”, Bath: timely

Future Security Systems "Future Security Systems" burglar alarm, Bath • So endeth two years of burglar alarms. But blub ye not (in the unlikely event that you were), because - amazingly, heroically, certifiably - I have at least another year's-worth to publish, though I won't always be writing "pithy" comments as in the past. And to usher in the new year, 2013's first theme is "Time", which I shall kick off with the, um, futuristic Future. Why? Well, 2013 sounds like a science fiction year, and also there's a big publishing company called Future based in Bath, where I found this sounder. So here's to the future. Cheers! • Spotted: Margaret's Buildings, Bath, Avon, BA1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bath
“Future”, Bath: timely

“Sentinel”, Hereford: shattered

"Sentinel" burglar alarm, Hereford • Same firm as yesterday, much older sounder. Presumably that bit of shattered electronics was a strobe once upon a time. The long-established firm is still around today in Hereford - you can see their current identity here, featuring the popular shield and silhouetted figure tropes.• Spotted: Town centre, Hereford, Herefordshire, HR1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Hereford and South Herefordshire
“Sentinel”, Hereford: shattered

“CG Computa Guard”, Bolton: green and gritty

"CG Computa Guard" burglar alarm, Bolton • Let me count the ways I love this. It suggests it's guarded by a computer. It's spelled groovily. It's green, which is unusual. It's square, and I like squares. It's got a really basic monogram, and I like those too. It's vintage. It's from Bolton, which sounds all gritty and Northern. It was on an escarpment of grandly decaying windswept buildings, in true gritty Northern fashion. It's rusty. And it's got a shield on. A total winner. • Spotted: St Georges Road, Bolton, Lancashire, BL1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bolton North East
“CG Computa Guard”, Bolton: green and gritty

“Micromark”, Great Missenden: 1960s sci-fi

"Micromark Security Systems" burglar alarm, Great Missenden • I've already featured Micromark in the retrofuturism section, and I now know they're a defunct DIY option – but I still like their unusual proprietary boxes, which are really 1960s sci-fi. There are quite a few yellow ones around, but this the only white-with-big-black-spot example I've seen. • Spotted: Town centre, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, HP16, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chesham and Amersham
“Micromark”, Great Missenden: 1960s sci-fi

“MicroTec Security”, Milton Keynes: fancy-edged

"MicroTec Security" burglar alarm, Milton Keynes • Like yesterday's pointy-sided MicroTec, this newer box is a rarely-sighted fancy-edged shape – indeed the only example I've seen. It's duller and less recognisable than the older enclosure however, so it's good to see they've kept their striking retrofuturist logo. • Spotted: Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK9, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Milton Keynes North
“MicroTec Security”, Milton Keynes: fancy-edged

“Microtec Security”, Richmond: pointy-sided survivor

"Microtec Security" burglar alarm, Richmond upon Thames • This is quite a striking old pointy-sided sounder design which doesn't crop up very often, though I also featured a vertical one here. I know that 20-year-old MicroTec Security still exists, and with much the same logo, because I was driving behind one of their vans in central London the other day – although they're actually based in Farnborough, Hampshire. Their name also qualifies them for the recent "retrofuturism" category, due celebrating micro-ness and tec-ness. This is a triple whammy as it also uses computer-style "camel caps", where a capital letter is used to break up two strung-together words. • Spotted: Barnes High Street, Richmond upon Thames, London, SW13, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Richmond Park
“Microtec Security”, Richmond: pointy-sided survivor

“SAS”, Tower Hamlets: commandos on a spacecraft

"SAS Protection" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Finally, something that definitely is obsolete – NASA's recently-decommissioned Space Shuttle, the last of which, Atlantis (below), had its final flight in July 2011; the programme had been running since 1981, which is probably closer to the date of this sounder. What a Space Shuttle has got to do with the SAS, aka the British Army's crack Special Air Service corps, is anyone's guess. But if I was burgling a building and an immense orbital space vehicle bearing a payload of gun-toting, balaclava-clad commandos turned up, I'd definitely be a bit worried. • Spotted: Cambridge Heath Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow [caption id="attachment_10532" align="alignnone" width="472" caption="The last Space Shuttle, Atlantis, prepares to land – presumably not on a burglar"][/caption]
“SAS”, Tower Hamlets: commandos on a spacecraft

“Robot”, Islington: insane apprehension device

"Robot" burglar alarm, Islington • Technically, robots are still futuristic, but there's something so insane about the idea of a 1980s-looking mechanised burglar apprehension device that this Robot sounder definitely belongs in the "retro-futurism" category. I've spotted a couple in the North London area, but googling Robot Security draws a blank, so presumably the firm is no longer of this world. For real robotic security, you could try the useless-looking droid below, which theoretically chucks a net over potential intruders but looks less effective than a hoover. • Spotted: Hemingford Road, Islington, London, N1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury [caption id="attachment_10526" align="alignnone" width="472" caption="The hoover-like T-34, a not-very-threatening Japanese security droid"][/caption]
“Robot”, Islington: insane apprehension device

“Disc”, Glasgow: sounder with a built-in CD

"Disc Security Systems" burglar alarm, Glasgow • This is one for the retro-futurism archives – a weird and wonderful bell box with a mini-CD in the centre (not quite obsolete, but hardly futuristic), and a faux-computer font as discussed in the Micro entry. Photos on the Caledonian firm's website suggest the CD comes to life when the sun shines (cue crap Scottish weather jokes), refracting a shimmering rainbow of hues – though if they wanted to be truly retro-trendy, they'd need a steampunk vinyl burglar alarm like the 1939 Burgot example below. The Disc here is proudly protecting the Glasgow Police Museum, which explores the history of the UK’s first police force – namely, the City of Glasgow Police – and apparently contains Europe's largest collection of police uniforms. Nice to know they still need a burglar alarm, though. • Spotted: Bell Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central The Police Museum in Glasgow with its Disc burglar alarm-cum-CD Burgot burglar alarm with vinyl disc, 1939, from the Science Museum, London
“Disc”, Glasgow: sounder with a built-in CD

“Micromark”, Herne Bay: sixties sci-fi DIY mystery

"Micromark Security Systems" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • I've included this splendid space-age case in the "retro-futurism" category because it's a top piece of 1960s-style sci-fi design, and Micro-Anything, like Anything-Tronic, conjures up the early days of integrated circuits (and yes, that does include Microsoft). I've seen quite a few of these around – they seem to be used by Micromark only – and they're always still in pristine condition. I'd assumed that this was because they were some high-end piece of kit, but having done an image search on Micromark, I've discovered they target the cheap DIY market, as explained in this Guardian article and on this spammy-looking Security System Guide. This and several other Micromark systems (none of which I've spotted in the wild) crop up listed on Amazon and various price comparison sites, but they generally seem to be unavailable, so I'll leave it to the experts to tell me more about this mysterious brand. Bizarrely, there's a YouTube video here of some lad setting up a Micromark alarm on his wardrobe – I doubt that his mother was impressed. • Spotted: Station Road, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Micromark”, Herne Bay: sixties sci-fi DIY mystery

“Nu-Tron”, Camden: on the old-tron Scala Cinema

"Nu-Tron Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Camden • Like yesterday's rare round-topped Nu-Tron (aka Old-Tron) sounder, this newer version again has an unusual box shape, though one that's much more commonly seen as it's popular with many other companies too. I know nothing of it inner workings, but in superficial design terms it's a good choice: the rounded grey N matches the rounded grey sounder nicely. I found it on the old Scala cinema at Kings Cross, which is now a pool hall; and it looks like someone's scraped a circular sticker off the centre of it, suggesting it's been maintained. • Spotted: Kings Cross Bridge, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Nu-Tron”, Camden: on the old-tron Scala Cinema

“Nu-Tron”, Tower Hamlets: thermonuclear device

"Nu-Tron Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Thanks to various commenters, I now know that Nu-Tron is the successor company to yesterday's M-Tronic, and you can certainly see the resemblance in the big rounded initial. It's an unusual shape of box which I've not featured before, and anything called Nu-Tron that looks more like an Old-Tron simply demands to be put in the "retro-futurist" category. But as for naming your sounders after a thermonuclear device specifically designed to kill all nearby humans while leaving buildings standing? A bit extreme, surely. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Nu-Tron”, Tower Hamlets: thermonuclear device

“M-Tronic”, Islington: antiques arcade oldster

"M-Tronic Alarms Ltd." burglar alarm, Islington • Recently there was much discussion under an old Lander box about the firm M-Tronic, and its successor Nu-Tron. To summarise, it was stated that M-Tronic was an east London company whose bell boxes were secured with two screws (just about visible through the rust here) similar to a Lander box, and whose owners sold out to Lander before going on to form Nu-Tron – a firm which will be discussed tomorrow. I'd never seen an M-Tronic sounder, and the commenters reckoned very few ever existed, but I've now discovered this incredibly oxidised, but still legible, M-Tronic example in the apt surrounds of an Islington antiques arcade. I've put it in the "retrofuturism" section because calling anything something-tronic sounds futuristically dated. And it also makes me think of futuristic-in-80s electro record label M-Tronic, and the similarly vintage electro-hip-hop duo Mantronix, whose logo serendipitously features yesterday's computer typeface. Though even both of those old-skool "tronics" are probably more recent than this ancient alarm with its pre-01 phone number. Interesting phone fact: the prefix here, 555, is regularly used for fictitious phone numbers in American films and TV shows (see for instance The Simpsons), as it covers a special set of numbers not used by any US exchange. • Spotted: Camden Passage, Camden, London, N1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury
“M-Tronic”, Islington: antiques arcade oldster

“Micro”, Camden: a classic of computer design

"Micro Security Systems" burglar alarm, Camden • This is a classic piece of retro-futurism - it's called Micro, and is illustrated with a microchip, that pinnacle of modernity. The typeface is a Letraset classic called Data 70 (the name's a good clue to its vintage), created by British designer Bob Newman in 1970. It's one of many such that came out around that time, based on the machine-readable MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) text you can still find in chequebooks, which despite the banks' best efforts are still with us. Since their brief moment of trendiness, such "computer fonts" have lived on eternally in the worlds of sci-fi and naffness, though it's the kind of naffness that graphic designers always retain a fondness for. For any typophiles perusing this, there's a really interesting thread about the origins of Data 70-style letterforms here. Of more interest to security professionals will be that the Micro lives above an extremely well-preserved vintage AFA sounder, with all the attendant wiring intact – it's pictured below. Much more fascinating than  the origins of a dodgy old computer font (not). • Spotted: New Oxford Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Micro”, Camden: a classic of computer design

“Aaron Hi-Tec”, Bristol: now looking sadly lo-tech

"Aaron Hi-Tec" burglar alarm, Bristol • To kick off the retro-futurist theme, here's an LED font that's obviously meant to look high tech (after all, it says so in the name), but is now definitely vieux chapeau. I've recently featured an oval Aaron sounder, but this one's much older, and its decay adds still further to the retro-futurist poignancy. To be fair, the style of Aaron's LED text is a bit more modern than the seven-segment display on yesterday's Monarch, and you still see this kind of scrolling display on everything from bus stops to billboards. It's just not very high tech, that's all. • Spotted: Jubilee Street, Bristol, Avon, BS2, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Aaron Hi-Tec”, Bristol: now looking sadly lo-tech

“Monarch”, Lambeth: dribbly digital throwback

"Monarch Security Services" burglar alarm, Lambeth • I started the royalty theme with a Monarch, so I'll end with one. I don't know if this is the same firm, and as it's long pre-internet I can't find out, but it's the most sorry example of a regal alarm so far – faded and dribbly and with a design that makes no reference to the lofty name. Instead, it's in a style that's come to be known as "retro-futurism", that is to say designs which were originally an attempt to look futuristic but now look poignantly dated – like this alarm's imitation seven-segment LED font, recalling the days when pocket calculators cost 200 quid. With renewed interest in film cameras, vinyl records and 8-bit video games, retro-futurism is much in vogue these days. I'd hate to see burglar alarms left out of a fashion craze, so coming next... retro-futurism! • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Monarch”, Lambeth: dribbly digital throwback