Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Technological Anniversary

I really don't know what got me thinking about this topic — music players in my lifetime. Maybe it was reading something about the thirtieth anniversary of the Walkman; maybe it was simply down to the odd shuffle that is always randomizing inside my head. I never know what thoughts and images are going to pop up on my invisible-to-others screen, and I really don't seem to have much control over the playlist. Maybe it was reading about the anniversary of the Walkman. Maybe not.

Yes, it is now just over thirty years since Sony introduced this little miracle. I don't think any of us would have or could have predicted where this technology would end up (and maybe we still can't). We didn't even have computers back then for goodness sakes (although we were getting close to the revolution). From the way things have worked (i.e. Sony's diminished market share), it's more than probable that Sony's vision wasn't exactly prescient either. For just as they and their Beta format lost the VCR wars, Sony also seems to have become a minor player in personal digital players. However, I don't think we need to feel to sorry for this particular corporate giant.

On the BBC site, there's an article about a present-day kid familiarizing himself with the original, cassette-playing Walkman. He found it large and cumbersome and frustratingly limited as it could only hold about twelve songs per side. In fact it took him a while to realize that there could be another twelve songs on the other side of the tape. He also found the lack of a shuffle function rather disappointing. For awhile he'd hit fast-forward in an attempt to simulate a shuffle — until he was told of the fragility of tapes. He reported other problems as well: such as background hissing of the tape, a really short battery life, and the pant-pulling-down mass of the object.

I did own a Walkman, you know, pretty much like the one shown to the left, but it was not thirty years ago. In fact it was less than ten, sometime in the early part of this decade. It was a mini disc player. I guess I was talked into buying it when mp3 players were pretty new. I went to the local Future Shop to inquire about these newfangled things, but the salesperson who was a former student of mine steered me to the mini disc player. Although he may have been correct at the time, and it certainly sounded good in my ear, it was still limited as to the number of songs it could hold at any one time. While it wasn't a puny twelve per disc as in the early cassette player, it certainly wasn't the many, many hundreds of the iPod either. When my daughter left on a trip across the globe a few years later, she took my mini disc player rather than her iPod. and I don't know what happened to it, and it doesn't matter because I had my own iPod by then.

But the bulky, cassette playing Walkamn did start something, didn't it? Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that portable iPod or iPod-like devices have become the de facto norm for music listening for the majority of us the majority of the time: perhaps not the majority of the ancient types who tend to click into this old blogger's site, but still ...

Alright then, as I indicated at the outset, I was going to get into my own personal memories a little or music playing devices beyond my Walkman, but the reader's patience must not be tested too severely, so I'll save the rest for another day.

8 comments:

thailandchani said...

I still have a Walkman or two around the house. And some cassette tapes. At the time Joseph Campbell came out with his series on tape, I needed one. Now I need it to continue playing those.

iPod, etc., I just have no interest in buying one.



~*

Queenmothermamaw said...

I still have a walkman too. No interest in iPod.
QMM

Mara said...

I used to own a walkman, but I threw it out years ago. I never got the hang of the mini-disc player and the I-pod dissapears in the bin if I find one on board (unlike cameras).
I've never been able to get used to the feeling of those thingymebobs in my ears. I prefer the music to come from all around me.
Besides that, wearing those thingymebobs in your ears while walking, cycling or driving is extremely dangerous: you tend not to hear other road users.

Mara said...

And I just realised I write I-pod the wrong way: iPod! What a way to write a word...

Queenmothermamaw said...

A/C, you know I have been away from the blog a few days trying to come to terms with my daughters illness. I just needed to reflect and see my place in her life differently. I am not sure how you feel about awards, but I received one that was new to me and I had a chance to read some of your older post. You are truly an artist. An artist with word. Please come to my post. Give me a little time to get it up. I humbly present this to you and you may do as your see fit.
Your blog is a great experience.
QMM
Peggy at WOW

Kila said...

I still have a walkman. Don't own an MP3 player/ipod/whatever.

Ginnie said...

My daughter has an iPod and she loves it. I don't understand it but she's been able to put bird songs on it that help her identify birds on her walks. Amazing!

simplycol said...

I can still remember the first time I walked down the street listening to my new walkman. :-)