Kraftwerk: Pocket Calculator

I spent two nights last week wearing 3D glasses in a dark theatre, watching four German men in reflective Spandex bodysuits sing about computers, transit, and architecture.

The electro-pop godfathers Kraftwerk played an incredible sold-out residency at Disney Concert Hall here in L.A. with eight shows across four nights as part of their Catalogue 12345678 tour. Each show was different: Gloriously throwback graphics flashing behind four silhouettes that tapped their feet almost imperceptibly behind glowing kiosks, singing lyrics like “We are the robots.” Kraftwerk was the original Daft Punk.

I’ve always loved the band for its celebration of European transportation institutions — Trans-Europe Express, Autobahn, and Tour de France Soundtracks are a few of my favourite albums. But during these shows, I rediscovered the quirky Computer World. Released in 1981, the album was said to explore our new relationship with personal tech, including a song named “Home Computer” that was released when many people didn’t really understand what something like that was supposed to look like.

The album is eerily prescient. The song “Pocket Calculator” was, of course about this brand-new technology at the time, which allowed us to add and subtract with the touch of a button. But listening to it last week, I thought the ode to “controlling and composing” with a “special key” that “plays a little melody” perfectly describes our love for another piece of technology that rarely leaves our pockets today.