Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gadgety, Gadgety, Gadgety

Today, a friend stopped by to show off his new Kindle Fire.

I'm probably a moderate gadgetista...I waited a generation and a price drop to get the Kindle 2, although the Fire has a certain appeal. Yesterday, too, Daily Finance reported the impending obsolescence of music CDs by the close of 2012. It takes me back to my precious Sony Walkman cassette player, one of the few really cool things I owned growing up.

The Walkman came as quite a shock. Often as not, my parents would realize after the fact that our lack of certain things made us social pariahs, but my father's obsession with music and different kinds of music-related electronics led to the quick purchase of a Walkman (a real one, not a generic, or 'buddy' as we said back then) for each of us. Our legendary travel fights in the car were probably the source of this windfall, much as many parents give each child a portable DVD player now, with a set of headphones, to stave off those horrid little wars of attrition.


For several months, my Walkman was the talk of the school. I was pretty guardy about it because I didn't get a lot of "stuff". If I let you borrow it, well, you were certainly among my closest and most trusted friends. Dr. X once got to take it on a school trip in which I was not involved, and expressed his gratitude by returning it with new Duracell batteries- now that's a gentleman, when you're a fifteen year-old geekette.

There's a sweet little courtship ritual that's evolved parallel to technology of sharing your music with someone- not e-mailing them a YouTube link or a URL to a band website, but actually, physically sharing the device's headphones so you can listen to the music together. That was kind of hard with the old Walkman, because you had to hold the headphones inverted between you, each with an ear pressed to them. The same ritual persisted with portable CD players, although nowadays, earbuds typically have enough slack for each half of the couple to share a bit more easily. It's kind of intimate, sitting there with your heads together...I'm a little old for that these days, but I remember sitting huddled in the bus seat next to Hopkins on various school trips, listening to the Walkman. Don't get me wrong; couples have listened to music in many mediums across centuries. It's just that the advent of portable devices meant you could do it anywhere, closing yourself off from everyone and everything around you by creating a temporary oasis inhabited by two people.

I guess I'm not so much married to the technology; in my line of work, we adapt to the whatever delivery method comes over the horizon, proforma. Music is a highly personal thing; we can point to examples and use them to express things that we may be too emotionally stifled to do otherwise. In a way, I suppose what I really miss is the intimacy...






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