當我把一盒1985年Prince的《Around the World in a Day》錄音帶放進Braun在1979年推出的C301卡式錄音機時，可以感到房間倏地換成了80年代初的空氣，那是我第一盒放進這台機的錄音帶，那種真實而溫暖的聲音質感很快讓我忍不住流淚，不料同時一股白煙突然在錄音帶匣冒起不止，我馬上把電源關掉退到房間角落，濃煙持續不散，把我嚇得沒了半條命。畢竟這台錄音機在世上壞一台便少一台了。
As I inserted the cassette tape of Prince’s “Around the World in a Day” in the 1979 Braun C301, the room vibed the 80’s. It was the first tape I played with the stereo cassette deck; its genuine, heartwarming texture put a tear in my eye. A thin, twisting and curling column of smoke emitted from the back of the deck. Terrified of possibly destroying a near extinct cassette deck, I shut off the power and retreated to the corner, the smoke still billowing.
In 1980, Braun launched a comprehensive Atelier system including turntable, CD player, cassette deck, and amplifier. C301 is an earlier model, but equally exceptional in sound. I took mine to maintenance and was told one of the parts had caught fire, but the damage wasn’t beyond repair.
I was attracted to the C301’s front loading, bare-it-all cassette compartment, and how one could watch the cassette reel spin. Dieter Rams was another reason to fall in love with the C301, which was the first product Rams launched as Braun’s head of design.
現在人們提起Dieter Rams，必把他說成是影響蘋果電腦設計的傳奇設計師，話雖如此，在有關他的紀錄片《Rams》裡可以看到他的工作室似乎連一台電腦也沒有，他更再三表示他對社會的憂慮——人們在街上走路時只顧盯著手機，而不再留意身邊的人，不再看清楚城市裡的一事一物。這些擔憂無疑正時時刻刻上演，慢慢地人的身心被操控著而不自覺。儘管現代科技產品的外貌和程式介面仰望著Dieter Rams定下的設計標準，但失控的資訊和過度操控的媒體並沒有讓我們「Less but better」。
Most people would think of Rams as the legendary designer who influenced Apple. In fact, as the documentary “Rams” reveals, Rams’ studio is devoid of computers – in line with his worries about society’s obsession with screen time and its declining ability to care for anything, or anyone, else. Whilst modern technological products and interfaces pay tribute to Rams’ principles of good design, the white noise of information overload and fake news continues to impede our ability to live his spirit: less but better.
Rams himself is still using the hi-fi systems he pioneered at Braun. If it wasn’t for mechanical failure, they were consumer products built to last a lifetime – even in today’s throwaway society. More than a tenet of good design, “less but better” if a way of life. Though celebrated as a visionary genius, Rams maintains that system reform should come before design, championing product designs that minimise physical and visual pollution. These are humanist considerations that should spur our deeper reflections.
True to other classic Braun products, the C301 boasts simple, utilitarian buttons that render instruction manuals redundant. One pushes the “start” button and activates the humming engine of the machine. Watching as the cassette reel spins glowing circles, the materiality of music endures.