COMPASS 3.15.06 al
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One of the neatest technological advancements in modern society, in my humble estimation, remains the eight-track cassette.
I recall being impressed with the notion such clever gadgets would allow you to listen to your favorite music without having to change a record, flip a tape, or do any of that other stuff audiophiles had to do in times past.
An eight-track tape machine was one of the first things we bought after marriage. That way, we didn’t have to sit in Anna’s land yacht (a 1972 Chevrolet Impala, blue and white, with monstrous engine that sucked gasoline, but gave a beautiful ride and chilled you with air conditioning) to listen to the crooning of Charlie Pride “Behind Closed Doors” or Loretta Lynn belting out, “I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter.”
Computers had not yet invaded the home front. Elvis Presley was still a living attraction, putting on more weight than was healthy. We never thought we’d live to pay off a 20-year mortgage at a laughable rate per month. The paycheck was less, but seemed to buy more.
Such things are in the past. Gone are the low mortgage payments, the gas guzzling Impala, and, sadly, the eight track tapes.
Somewhere in a distant house cleaning frenzy, reality must have set in, and the wisdom of that day dictated nobody wanted to listen to Charlie or Loretta any more, so out went the eight-track tape machine and, presumably, those ingenious tapes that could play forever.
On Saturday mornings, when the daily paper has inserts of electronics stores from Atlantic County, I try to read through them to remain somewhat current on what the “now” generation is buying to listen to music or otherwise fritter away its time.
Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I find it more difficult with each passing month to understand what’s being advertised, especially when it comes to formerly simple things, like machines that produce pleasing sound in a room.
My old pile of LP records eats at my heart. Within it there are wonderful recordings I would love to hear again. Unfortunately, the turntable needed to produce sound is no longer functional; thus the likes of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Sousa’s marches are lost to the ages, locked in black plastic grooves.
The ear phones people wear today are not the same ear phones I remember wearing to listen to those recordings in private. Those were big Mickey Mouse-like black appendages that connected the listener to the record machine.
Today, these are smaller and people seem to wear them all the time. Amazing.
Another puzzlement is satellite radio. With Star Wars-like technology, people like my barber, Sam, can pay to listen to any kind of music they want all day long with no ads.
But, the concept of paying to listen to radio is as foreign as paying to ride a bicycle or breathing. Radio is, and should ever be, free. It’s one of the few things left that we can enjoy for nothing, like the Herald.
They spoiled free television, so radio is one of the last bastions of free entertainment. Who will pay for all day jazz, classical music, rock and roll or country and western? Lots of people might, but not me.
The ads also tout WiFi. Every time I see it, all I can think about is WFIL, radio and television stations of Wiffle Ball. There are pictures of all sorts of little devices that enable WiFi throughout one’s entire house.
Will it chase away termites or prevent mildew? Only the younger, savvy generation of “computerists” knows the answer.
Saturday morning’s reading is like standing at the station watching a train travel down the tracks. In a way, you’d love to be on that train, but you’re really not sure you want to go where it’s taking passengers. Do I really want to go there?
When we had a good thing going, like eight-track cassettes that played on and on, why did we shun them to go for more modern paraphernalia? Eight tracks I could understand, wires and all.
As oldsters are wont to say, “It’s a generational thing.
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