Reilly Brennan lives in San Francisco but will always be a Detroiter at heart. He is the Executive Director of the Revs Automotive Research Program at Stanford and teaches a class on heroes and Dale Earnhardt at the Stanford d.school. He created a car photo thingy called Carmagnum.
Sony discontinued their Dream Machine clock radios in the U.S at some point over the last year. This proved to be a non-event for most of the consuming public, but when I found out directly from Sony’s PR team last week (they’ve moved over to the “Dash” line of clock radios), it struck me as the death of another great consumer brand. Is it that Sony can’t manage technology brands through format evolution? Or is it that they just have too many things going on, too many new brands to create, and too much…stuff to do? I wish I knew. When you search for the Dream Machine on Google, your first result is Sony’s own page for the ICF-C180 (“Start your day with the ICF-C180!”), sadly reported as “No Longer Available.”
Dream Machines weren’t historic works of art, nor were they the stuff of business school case studies, but they were…everywhere. My sister and my mom both had white ‘digicubes’ and those sounds (my sister’s radio tuned to 89X, my mom’s buzzer) woke up our house every single day until I went to college. I eventually got my first in middle school, probably around 1990, although I rarely set the alarm. Nearly all of my friends had one and practically every guest bedroom I slept in had one. They just existed — the helvetica of clock radios.
Sony’s 8FC-59 was the icon that started it all — the first breakout digital clock radio, with flip-over numbers and eventually a 7-segment display. Before that time our bedside tables lit with the dull glow of actual clock dials, forcing us to make sense of hour hands in the ungodly hours of the morning. The “Dream Machine” (as my friend Sam pointed out, a curious name for a product that wakes you up) innovation proved to be the palm-width snooze bar called the Dream Bar, right up front on top, exactly where you want to smash it with your fist. It worked.
In no particular order, here is a litany of old Dream Machines dating back some 30 years. Tomorrow morning when you wake, think of all the mornings they faithfully broke you from your slobbery lullabys and helped you start your day, your life.
ICF-C3W (special Pink edition)