Coloring books have entertained kids for decades, but it wasn’t until around 2015 that coloring books for adults became big business. Like their child-targeting equivalents, adult coloring books offer a relatively mindless pastime with a certain zen quality – and allow those, like the author of this piece, who lack natural artistic talent, to nevertheless produce a vaguely aesthetically pleasing result.
The adult books – comedy versions with legitimately ‘adult’ themes aside – are typically composed of more complex imagery, mandala-style patterns and other more detailed shapes.
The Retro Computer Colouring Book: Version 1 takes a different approach. As the name implies, the book focuses on vintage computing devices – 15 in total, though they’re spread across more than twice as many pages in a thin print-on-demand paperback tome.
The brainchild of the pseudonymous ‘Old Bald Guy’ of development service Quick Web Ltd, the book took reference photographs of classic computers and – with an iPad featuring a drawing stylus Guy suggests may have ‘more [processing] power … than all of the computers in this book combined’ – traced them to produce clean line art illustrations printed on white paper, ready for coloring.
This is, of course, where the situation gets a little tricky. With a few notable exceptions, such as the Sol Terminal and the Ferrari-red Sony HIT-BIT HB-101, neither of which are represented in the book, the home computers of the 1970s and 1980s were produced primarily in shades of black, beige and the same white as the underlying paper behind each image.
Guy is well aware, of course. ‘Most of them were beige,’ he admits in the book’s bumph. ‘You probably won’t need many other colors. Except silver, maybe – there’s a couple of [Tandy RadioShack] TRS-80s within. You’ll need silver for those. We’re not sure how you can color the [Sinclair] ZX80, however. It’s white. So is the paper. Be creative!’
It’s clear that the book’s premise is tongue-in-cheek. That said, creativity is still an option. Sure, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, its rainbow decal aside, may have been primarily black, but the Retro Computer Coloring Book gives you a chance to wonder what life might have been like if Sir Clive had been a little more permissive with the color palette that made up the Sinclair brand. Or perhaps you’re up for the challenge of creating the world’s first tie-dye IMSAI 8080 illustration?
It’s also refreshing to see a print-on-demand coloring book that has a little effort behind it, after years of buying children-themed titles that turn out to collect stolen – and often low-quality – imagery from around the web, and then publish it for as long as possible before the underlying rightsholders notice and get it removed with a swift cease-and-desist order.
Retro Computer Colouring Book price
Price: Expect to pay $5.99 / £5.50
Retro Computer Colouring Book conclusion
If you go into the purchase understanding that there are only 15 images to color, and you’re willing to overlook the annoyance of having the name of each machine printed on the rear of the corresponding page, meaning that the label you see while coloring is the label of the machine you’ve just finished rather than the one you’re working on now, there’s entertainment here – and a little shot of nostalgia to boot.
A disappointingly small number of pages, but there’s fun to be had with this coloring book, and some nostalgia too.