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The fashion world is always experiencing revivals of one sort or another. Not so long ago every wannabe WAG in the country was obsessed with looking like Audrey Hepburn. Before that, it was the Seventies, flairs and great big, sunglasses that made your average girl or boy in the street look like an extra from Barbarella.
In the forward-thinking technology industry it doesn't happen too much. But there is the odd occasion when product designers look to the past for inspiration. Gear4's latest portable Bluetooth speaker, the BlackBox, is one example: it looks like it could quite possibly have lived out its life as a prop in BattleStar Galactica (the original TV series) or Knight Rider.
There's the Eighties hi-fi look: it's all made from black, glossy plastic and it's very boxy, with sharp edges everywhere. Don't get me wrong, I like the design, but sit it on top of my dad's old Technics system and you wouldn't look twice. Then you turn it on and, all of a sudden, there are blue and red lights everywhere. On top of the extended cube-like design a series of touch-sensitive buttons appear in cool, glowing blue, and on the front a red LED panel KITT would have been proud of leaps into life.
Fortunately, it's all done very tastefully, and the end result is rather spectacular. Stick this BlackBox in the corner of your living room and it's exotic looks will draw admiring glances whenever you've got friends over for dinner or drinks. Those red LED lights on the front turn into an equaliser when the music is playing - you can switch between a number of different types of display, all of which pulse rhythmically in time with the music - and when you're doing something else with the speaker, they'll momentarily display the volume level, Bluetooth status or a confirmation of whatever button you've just pressed.
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