Monday, February 9, 2015

Adjustments

A question for boomers: Have you kept up with technology?  If you’re reading this, you’ve heard of the internet.  Smirk.  Are you on Facebook?  Twitter?  Instagram?  Snapchat?  How do you hear your music?  Movies?  Where do you get your news?

Adjusting to technology is a daily thing for me because I edit and produce audio for a living.  By my observation, I am ahead of the curve in boomer circles but barely keeping up when compared to Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials.  How about you?

This topic hit me as I was making a playlist on iTunes.  This particular 12-song list includes everything from Frankie Valli to Blake Shelton to Bruno Mars, a very small representation of my diverse music tastes.  What hit me, however, are the adjustments I’ve made in how I hear recorded music.  Thanks to my sister, who is even more of a pack rat than I am, I still own the very first record I ever had.  It’s a kid song on red vinyl and if I had a 50-year old turntable with the 78 rpm speed option, I could play it.  I don’t. 

Vinyl was the only form of recorded music in my youth and the most popular format was the 45 rpm single, that seven inch diameter record with the large hole in it, requiring an adapter to play it on a typical turntables of the era that could play that speed and 33 1/3.  If you know what those numbers mean, you’re probably a boomer or a history major; if you don’t, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

During my college years and at the beginning of my 40-year radio career, I amassed a vinyl record collection numbering several hundred albums and a few hundred 45s.  The heavy duty shelves on which these gems were displayed covered an entire wall of the living room of every place I lived.  I moved many times, which meant transporting this collection was more challenging than moving my furniture.  At some point I began buying music on cassettes, mostly skipping the 8-track years.  Switching to cassettes resulted in re-buying many albums and the corresponding technology on which to play them, but the portability was worth it.  And I kept the albums and turntables.
Then came CDs, those wonderful, allegedly indestructible discs with perfect sound.  No more pops and scratches, no more wearing out albums, no tangled tape.  Of course, that meant buying some albums for the third time, or 4th or 5th in the case of those I wore out, like Carol King’s “Tapestry,” the Fleetwood Mac album and the Rolling Stones Greatest Hits.  My CD collection grew to more than 500.

Fast forward to 2015.  Do you know the derivation of the term ‘fast forward’?  Just wondering.  My vinyl collection went from 600 or more in the late 70s to 10 today, my cassette collection shrunk from 200 to 0 and my CD collection is probably down to 200.  But I still have plenty of music.  And the music I listen to the most fits in my pocket!  How’s that for an adjustment?  My iTunes library currently contains 1337 songs.  They are all on my phone and also on the laptop computer I’m using to write this post.
If the average album contains twelve songs, a 500-CD library has about 6000 songs.  The average hit album of most popular genres spawns two or three ‘good’ songs and many impulsively purchases albums end up with one good song that you tire of listening to within a few months.  Hence the trend back to the ‘single’.  I think most music bought online these days is done one song at a time.  “Uptown Funk” is this month’s most popular pop song; can you name another song on that album?  All of this means that the 1337 songs on my phone are nearly all the songs I want from my 200 CDs anyway.  Time to ditch those too.  All but 150 of the 1337 songs were imported from those CDs.  By the way, I think I regularly listen to fewer than 250 of those songs, but sometimes I really am in the mood for Mozart … or Van Halen… and those songs are there when I want them, without an exhaustive search for a CD.

I recently reconnected with an old high school friend, asking him for an update on retired life.  In my email correspondence I also asked him if he was on Facebook and if he was aware of the iHeart Radio or Pandora apps.  He said he heard of al that but didn’t have any interest in any of it and the only reason he even has a cell phone (an old flip phone, by the way) is so his wife wouldn’t worry about him when he was out on long bicycle rides.  His adjustment to technology is to stay away from most of it.  I will not criticize his choices because simplifying life can be a very positive was to age.  I could learn something from that.  I’m glad he has email, otherwise we’d never be in touch; I don’t remember the last time I wrote and mailed a letter.  Do you?
Facebook has been a remarkable method of finding old friends and relatives and I am grateful for that aspect of it.  I have Twitter and Instagram accounts so I know what my coworkers are talking about, but they are not especially useful to me.  I love the potential of technology but I am not compelled to have the latest and greatest.  My iPhone 4 is fine for now and I can’t quite justify spending hundreds of dollars on a tablet.  Yet.  And what the hell was wrong with Windows 7?  This laptop has 8.1, which has numerous features I don’t like or use; and it seems they were hell bent on fixing problems that didn’t exist.

I have adjusted to technology just fine.  It is the speed and sometimes uselessness of ‘technological advances’ I am having trouble adjusting to.

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