Vintage tech is part of our shared cultural heritage, but in the commercial world, it often gets overshadowed by pop culture mementos. Go to a retail clothing store and you’ll find 1984 He-Man T-shirts, but where are the products that celebrate 1984 computers? Enter Throwboy, a Seattle-based company that produces throw pillows and blankets based on old tech.
Although Throwboy has been in business since 2007, it’s still coming up with new designs. Targeting 68K Mac nostalgia, Throwboy just released a 50×60-inch knit throw blanket based on a modified Mac OS desktop screenshot in all of its 1-bit color glory. (It looks like System 7 to us, based on the presence of the Balloon Help icon.)
We haven’t seen the $185 blanket in person—and this is not a review or an endorsement (although others seem to like their pillows)—but the cultural history woven into Throwboy’s products over the years made us want to reach out to its founder and CEO, Roberto Hoyos, to ask him about the retro tech inspirations behind his business.
From screens to seams
Browsing the Throwboy website, we couldn’t help but notice a theme: lots of love for Apple products, including pillows shaped like vintage Macs or iPhones, and blankets covered with iPods or Command-key symbols. So we asked Hoyos: When was the first time you used a Mac?
“I first started using them when I was in elementary school. I remember vividly someone coming to our class and teaching us how a mouse worked and how cut, copy and paste worked,” he told us over email. That was many years ago, and he has used many Macs since. Of all the Mac models, the iMac G4 is his favorite. “The design is so out there but still beautiful. I’d be happy to see a comeback of that swivel neck display.”
While some of the blankets on the Throwboy site appear to be printed designs on flat fleece, the Classic Desktop Knit Cotton Blanket caught our eye because the design is actually woven into the material, which serves the Mac desktop’s low-res pixel art well. Apparently that similarity is intentional: “I got this idea to create a knit blanket that embraced the pixelated look that knit patterns inherently have,” says Hoyos. “We had been making heirloom-quality knit blankets for over a year… I thought, ‘How cool would it be to make one from the classic GUI with as much detail as possible?'”
To create the Classic Desktop Knit Cotton Blanket, Hoyos says he teamed up with New York-based Mineola Knitting Co. “They use recycled cotton and poly materials to create the knitted patterns you see in the Classic Desktop Knit Blanket. The result is a soft, durable blanket that has a nice weight and quality feel,” he says.
We asked him about the throw’s relatively steep price, which stands out in today’s world full of cheap, mass-produced (but often low-quality) goods. He says the production technique makes a difference: “[Our knit blankets] are knitted in New York, have finely sewn detailed edge finish (not a sloppy frayed edge like some mass-produced knit blankets) and are of heirloom quality that will last. We stand behind these like our other products, and it’s always our goal to make products that people want to keep for life.”
According to Hoyos, Throwboy’s best-selling product in his store is Icon Pillow, which is based on the MacOS Finder icon. “That’s a classic staple in our Throwboy pillow line of plush throw pillows since 2007,” he says. When asked about the risk of trademark complications (since the design isn’t licensed), Hoyos says, “It’s important to me our products are inspired by the tech design we love, but not one-to-one exact.”
Potential trademark issues aside, apparently Throwboy is doing well enough as a business that Hoyos is currently working on building a “pillow factory” in Seattle. “I started the company by sewing all the pillows myself, but later I turned to outsourcing overseas. It’s been my dream to bring production back to the US and to my backyard in the Pacific Northwest where Throwboy started, and the time is finally right,” he says. “I will be launching a Kickstarter campaign later this summer to raise funds for the machinery needed to make pillows in-house.”
After making pillows for 16 years with many different designs, Hoyos credits his skill with textiles to an important family connection. “I learned to sew when I was 5 from my grandma, Delia Cano,” Hoyos says. “I started by making clothes for my teddy bears. My grandma immigrated from Peru in the 1950s, and she was a clothing designer who owned her own business and sewing factory in Seattle. Up until her passing last year, she was an advisor to everything I did at Throwboy.”
Looking ahead, Hoyos says his future fabric plans involve plenty of odes to old tech: “More pillows, more blankets, more fun stuff is always in the pipeline for our beloved tech community.” We hope he does a 16-color Windows 3.1 desktop blanket next.