“Record what??” Some of you remember the old people talking about record players with an almost reverent tone — and then you saw one (what WERE they thinking??)! And some of you remember when the record player collecting dust in the basement was brand new and playing top ten songs. Me, I remember the day one of our albums fell on the floor and my nine-year-old niece said, “This CD fell out of the case.”
Wherever you fall in age, we are all sentimental creatures. We hang onto the old, cherished Teddy Bear well into our school years even though his eyes are falling out, even though he’s lost an ear to the dog, even though he’s lost 20 % of his stuffing out of the hole in his big toe, and even though he still smells like our kid brother who barfed on him. That is our beloved Teddy!
That old Record Player… or the Sony Cassette Tape Walkman… or the 5 CD Changer from 1995 with its worn-out wiring making the sound flicker like a strobe light is just like the Teddy Bear. The reasons we cling to these things vary — “Nothing sounds as good as vinyl!” “I don’t want to spend all that money buying all my music again!” “The new CD player won’t work with my old system!” In spite of the technological advances and advantages we cling to our old ways with the same blind devotion as the child does to her Teddy Bear. Bordering on irrational, but somehow understandable to all.
My father is my favorite example of this puzzling aspect of human nature. Back in the ’80s my father fell in love with the Beta VCR format while everyone else was buying and using VHS. He had no idea when he bought his first VCR in K-Mart at a 50% discount that the technology was rapidly dying. During the 80s and into the 90s my father stubbornly bought all the Beta tapes he could get (and what a bargain he got!) and recorded all his favorite TV shows on them. No amount of pleading, rationalization or just plain common sense could ever get through to him. He was getting a great deal!! All us kids gave up in despair, shook our heads, and lived with the fact that Dad was just a little nuts. Dad still has Beta tapes of his favorite TV shows and an old VCR that needs repairing – the skeletal remains of a man-made “survival of the fittest”.
My father is not alone. Jayne Cravens wrote an entire blog in tribute to her Lime iBook which was outdated in 2008 “I don’t know how to say in techno-jargon why this computer is so great. I just know that it is.” What is it that creates this kind of almost-insane devotion to old technology well past its prime? In my father’s case it was his desire for a great bargain combined with his stubbornness to refuse defeat. In the case of the old record player it could be the memories triggered by the unique combination of hissing and popping that reminds you of your favorite song from your teenage years. In Jane’s case, she tells the story of that indefinable quality that her machine had, “People came up in airports and hotel lobbies to ask me about it. The guy at the Macintosh store in Cologne was in love with it on first sight. For more than seven years, it was reliable and powerful, and it never stopped having SASS!”
Perhaps in a few years there will be online forums, support groups, and conventions for lovers of antiquated technology. People may collect at MeetUps to reminisce about what their iGadget meant to them in High School when it came out 25 years ago and to exchange the apps that are no longer made. Maybe the next generation of High School students will form new cliques depending on who has the fastest and best technology or the smartest technology. Instead of “band geeks” there will be PC Geeks. The iMAC users will be the cool kids. I wonder what technological gizmos that are an invaluable part of my life today will eventually become my treasured relics tomorrow? My laptop? My cell phone? Perhaps something I haven’t bought yet. Perhaps the next time I’m in K-Mart and there’s a sale….?