In computers and related devices, for a long time, things were pretty much grey, black and silver in some kind of rotation until the ipod and imac made white the new black. Periodically, a hot cell phone or other device makes a signature color briefly hip.  Then Apple made a bunch of colors the new white, then it was silver and a bunch of more muted colors,  and black and white, and now they seem to be settling into an aluminum phase.  Interestingly, part of that story is that aluminum is a “greener” material than the plastic that was black or white.  Not really renewable, but recyclable and not as polluting to produce.

Although I’m not particularly hip to Microsoft’s anti-ipod, the Zune, I was pleased to see some interesting colors there.  Too bad they didn’t keep brown when they revised the device recently.   I gues UPS owns that patch.

I’m happy to see that a few electronic items are still or newly available in enclosures made of real wood – so far pretty much only speakers and radios – and I hope more are in the pipeline.  There’s nothing quite like the feel of wood, and I like the fact that each piece has a unique grain pattern.   Sure, some woods are endangered and some stains are terribly toxic, but some woods are sustainably harvested and are very renewable.

I’m not sure I’m ready for a wood ipod or pc, but I could see some limited use in mobile phones, maybe as an accent, like in some luxury cars, but less cheesy.  But wood has a real advantage in acoustics – wooden speakers sound great.

I couldn’t be happier with my Tivoli Model One radio.  In addition to the beautiful solid wood case and room-filling single speaker, the giant geared down tuning knob is a joy to turn.   If Tivoli had not so completely missed the mark with their Model Three clock radio (ridiculous price, terrible alarm clock) and iYiYi ipod thingy (overcomplicated controls, weird design, not wood. overpriced again), they would almost certainly have collected my money for a clock radio and ipod speaker system, too.  I like that they are adding more woods and finishes, but I don’t care for the direction the usability and technology are going.  I might have to buy another Model One to store away for when mine dies and Tivoli has totally jumped the shark.

As it is, I’m making do with a lousy alarm clock, and recently bought the Vers 2x ipod speaker.  The Vers is not as complete a design as the Tivoli, but that’s a high bar.  The wood is actually veneer, but it seems to be a high-quality one – I couldn’t tell until I read about it – and it sounds great has a good clean design.


Seemingly available only for Zune (not for ipod) is the iHome ZN14D, looking like a smaller Vers with plastic versions of the Model One’s controls grafted onto the front.  I’d have to have a closer look, but I’m guessing that it’s not at the quality level of either Vers or Tivoli.

But I’m glad it’s there, in its wooden case with retro rounded corners. I look forward to more ecological and aesthetic use of wood in electronics and elsewhere.