Monday, June 29, 2009

In Odder News: A What-Man?...

Today I stumbled across an article from the BBC News about a young boy of thirteen who traded his iPod for a week to listen to his favorite tunes on the nostalgic Walkman. He had a lot to say about his experience (and I was pleasantly surprised to find his article extremely thoughtful and well-written...which I don't think would have been the case if it was drafted by some tween in LA or NY!), but the one thing that struck me the most was how he was so baffled by the big chunky buttons and taken aback by the sheer simplicity of it that some of the cooler "tricks" we used to perform with Walkmen were completely lost on him (at least for just a few days). For example, he didn't realize cassette tapes had two sides!

Le sigh; kids today.

I remember carting a Walkman to school when I was around 8 or 9 and we would take bus trips to whatever museum our class was visiting that week. I'd bring two or three tapes in my backpack because there was no such thing as a playlist. I wanted to have my favorite music at my disposal at all times even back then-- because I just never quite knew if I would be in the mood to hear "Dreamlover" for the thousandth time or "As Long As You Love Me" for the seven-hundredth. Of course, if you had a home stereo or boombox that had side by side cassette players, you could make a mixtape...but then it was often hard to skip around within that mixtape, as there was no "skip to the next track" option and only the scan of fast-forward/rewind. And yes, I admit I had to buy quite a few duplicates of tapes I either wore out or who were "eaten" by the machinery.

Then in junior high, I dragged a portable CD player (cleverly called a Discman) around, and if you thought the Walkman was cumbersome, this was worse! Though it was thinner, it was round and did not come with a handy belt-clip. If you ran or even walked too fast, the bumping sensation often caused the CD to skip. And more often that not, I was still carting around more than one CD, even though making mixed albums was much easier if you had an upgraded computer with a read/write drive.

I find it quite funny that today's youth have never seen these "archaic" players, and I wonder if any of them have ever seen the handheld TV sets of the eighties and early nineties. Yes, we can all agree that technology has come leaps and bounds from where it once was (and it should!), but for every wonderful discovery we've made, we shouldn't get too comfortable because there is still quite a bit that can be achieved. I mean, sure, the iPod is great for viewing pre-purchased video, but those silver and gray boxes that often only picked up UHF signals actually allowed you to watch live television from outside your own home. Why can't Steve Jobs do that???

Ironically, though, when visiting my mother last week, I found a whole drawer full of not only my old cassette tapes (in addition to Mariah and BSB there was Shania Twain and the Olsen twins-- oh yeah, I was cool!) but also a collection of old (and probably broken) Walkmen and you think I could get anything for them on eBay?

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