Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Technophile: Music


I am a technophile and I love the evolution of technology. My one regret is that I won’t be able to enjoy the technological advances of the next two hundred years, unless I can come back as a ghost (which I fully intend to do to haunt every one of you, dear readers).

I thought I would write a couple of posts about how technology has changed in my lifetime just to impress upon you how wonderful technology is.

I will start with music.

When I was a kid, my parents owned a contraption called a radiogram, which looked something like this:


Basically it was a cupboard containing a radio, a record player and space to store LP’s and singles. If you are under 30 then I think I need to explain what an LP is; basically it is a vinyl record that you played at 33⅓ revolutions per minute on the record player and music came out of the speakers. It stood for Long Play and there was music on both sides. 
The alternative was a single that you played at 45 revolutions per minute but in this case there was only one song per side.
My grandparents lived next door and they actually owned records that you played at 78 revolutions per minute, on a wind up contraption like this:

Over the next ten or so years, these contraptions were replaced by music centres with Dolby Stereo. My dad, also a technophile, had absolutely no idea what Dolby Stereo meant, but he wanted it. He ended up with something like this:


And as technology improved, he upgraded, allowing me to have his cast offs. Music centres had one thing that made life far more enjoyable – cassette tape players. You could record off the radio onto cassette tapes or borrow LP’s off your mates to tape them for yourself at a fraction of the price.
This was good for many reasons. First of all, I hated vinyl records. Many people, even today, are fans of vinyl and my theory is that they are simply purists – or people who do not understand or trust modern technology. I for one am glad that vinyl is on its way out. 
Why?
First, vinyl records are easy to scratch, effectively ruining them. Second, if you put them near to a source of heat, they warp. In both cases, they become unplayable:



If you lent them to a mate, they would invariably come back in a far worse state.
Although tapes were better and more robust, even they could be damaged. I have had many a machine, be it a music centre or Walkman that has spontaneously decided to become a cannibal and eat my tape:

For me, the greatest invention was the Compact Disc and they were invented at exactly the right time in the 1980’s. Back then, I was just beginning to be able to save money – and was therefore able to spend lots of money on music. 
So I did. 
I bought loads of CD’s and over the years my collection has exploded. I currently own hundreds of them. and they are in all stashed away in a cupboard in our spare room, banished by Mrs PM, who thinks I am a hoarder and is desperate for me to get rid of them.
No bloody chance!
CD’s were indestructible, although people claim they degrade over time. My CDs from the 1980’s still sound as clear as they always did. 
But now, just like vinyl, they are an endangered species. All of my music is stored on a tiny little device that you may have heard of, called an iPod, which can store an obscene amount of music. If I trebled my CD collection I would still be able to accommodate it on this tiny little device. 


Even better, all of my music is backed up to my desk top computer and I am able to play my entire collection randomly through a couple of tiny speakers with the same quality (if not better) than the hi-fi I had in the 1980’s.
Better still I can compile statistics about my listening habits, genres, song lengths, album ratings etc. 
I am not really a statistics geek but if I were I could tell you that:
The longest song I own is Octavarium by Dream Theater which comes in at a magnificent 24 minutes.
The shortest song is Convict by Queensÿrche at 9 seconds.
In recent weeks the song I have played most is Drive Home by Steven Wilson.
I have 6546 songs which would take me 20.6 days to listen to if I were to play them consecutively.
Now while I have embraced the latest technology, I have stopped short of walking right to the edge. You see, I still share something with my old dad who like to store his LP’s in a cupboard in his radiogram; I want to physically own my CDs. I want the actual CD with the booklet, with the lyrics, the album cover and all of the other bumph that comes with it. 
I know I can download any song I want  from the internet and copy it to my iPod, my desktop computer, my phone, my laptop, my tablet and my memory stick as well as backing it up on my backup disk stowed safely away upstairs.
But I can also rip my CD and do exactly the same – and I have a physical disc to tell me that this is mine – this is my album and you can’t have it.
In that way, I am a little old fashioned.

Over to you, dear reader:

Are you a lover of vinyl?

Do you prefer CD’s? 

Are you riding the tide of technology and downloading everything?

8 comments:

Jackie K said...

Records always felt so special when you got a new one, more than tapes or CDs. It was so great to take it (carefully!) out of the sleeve, and I used to really like carefully placing the needle on, it made me feel very grown up (probably because I virtually was grown up before my parents let me do it). But as a teenager I quickly converted to tapes and as an adult converted to CDs. I have recently gifted a whole lot of my CDs to my kids and they love them and play them all the time. I finding one disadvantage though, while the CDs are pretty hardy their cheap kmart CD players are not. I'm sick of replacing them so we're moving their music to our old iPod Nanos which they also use.
I download all my music these days and love it - so easy. The only thing I think is interesting is how before downloads the album as a whole was important - how the songs fit together, the overarching theme, etc. funny how that's just not a thing anymore. I can't even decide if it's a loss or doesn't matter.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

While downloading seems a good idea (and it IS for some people), I find that buying CDs or albums presents you with some classic "album" tracks that you may not get to hear if you just buy the big selling singles. Most of my favourite songs are album only tracks.

:-)

Cheers

PM

Jackie K said...

Yes that's true. Also you're quite right, downloading songs you don't "own" them, you're paying to use them.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

- as Bruce Willis recently discovered when he talked about leaving his iTunes collection to his kids.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Kath Lockett said...

LOVED getting records as a kid in the 1970s because the sleeves were so big, but agree re the scratching and popping sounds.

Tapes - and double tape-to-tape recording occupied most of my teenage years and my 21st birthday money was not spent on a party but on a massive black stereo system that played CDs.

However, since 2006, I have never bought a CD. It's now all on iPod/computer and the hundreds upon hundreds of CDs I bought from 1989 to 2006 are in a storage shed.

If i want lyrics or notes, they're always easily found via Mr Google.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Kath,

Yes - Mr Google can help with lyrics, sleeve notes etc.

I just still like to have the CD so I have something tangible. If its downloaded it just doesn't seem to be mine.

:-)

Cheers

PM

River said...

I prefer CDs, but don't have very many. I have a couple of dozen compilations that hold songs I've copied from Ks CDs via the rip to i-tunes then burn method and about the same number of bought CDs, but most of the music on my i-pods has been bought via I-tunes. CDs weren't known to me until the late 90s and here in Australia they cost about three times as much as the rest of the world, so buying through I-tunes is cheaper for me.
I remember radiograms from when I was young and before that an even older machine that stood quite tall and you lifted the lid to expose a record player with a little dial you could turn to choose between 78rpm and 33 1/3 rpm. Underneath in the belly of the machine was a radio.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

CD's used to be quite expensive here too but these days you can get them relatively cheaply if you know where to look.

:-)

Cheers

PM