PAT TAYLOR: My iPod Beats Those Old 45 Records
When it comes to gadgets, I let other people get the newest version first and pay the premium, while the manufacturer figures out how to deal with any kinks and glitches.
I'm usually a pragmatic, middle-to-late adapter on most technology breakthroughs. Ten years after CDs came out, I broke down and bought a player, mainly because tapes were getting rare in music stores. (Remember record stores?) Finally, a decade after digital song-swapping became a national moral crisis, there's an iPod in my pocket with about 1,500 songs on it. Songs from every CD I own are loaded on it, like a giant play list of my all-time favorite music.
Like most Baby Boomers, I've bought at least six forms of music over the years. First were 45s, which held one song on each side and were played mostly on cheap portable turntables with built-in speakers. You dug them out of a pile in the corner and put on a few when a party broke out. Back then, they cost about a dollar each.
Then came 33 1/3 albums. Much better fidelity overall, extremely good fidelity on some. There were about a dozen songs per disk, priced roughly five bucks when they first got popular. Some of the great music of our time was first released in album form. Think of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" and "White Album," the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers" and "Led Zeppelin IV" as examples.
Then came eight-track tapes, a relatively short-lived but technically advanced and more portable medium than albums. You could now actually play "albums" in your car, even if they were bulky and the tapes got eaten regularly.
Cassette tapes followed that, which downsized the tape media and allowed listeners to have a whole collection of "albums" in their cars. That's also when car sound systems started getting very high-quality.
About the time my entire album collection had been repurchased as cassettes, along came CD technology, which I resisted as long as possible. Finally I broke down and started replacing tapes with CDs, as well as buying new music along the way.
Now an option exists to shop a vast catalog of music -- virtually anything you had or wanted -- and buy albums, individual songs, movies, and more over the Web. There are several versions of this site, but perhaps the most popular is iTunes, which was created to serve the iPod.
For a music lover, no matter what type of music you like, this is the ultimate candy store. And the sound quality has never been clearer or better on any medium, particularly with high-quality headphones. To put a cherry on this, you can put the player in a "boom box" device and -- voila! -- you have the 21st century version of the 45 record player ready to party.
For example, I went on iTunes on a recent morning and bought an old Rod Stewart album. Actually it was one song Stewart sang on an album by The Faces, called "Ooh La La." Haven't heard it for years, but it's as good as ever. I ended up buying a different album by them, one of the best rock albums ever. Ron Wood was never better, nor was Stewart.
That's what's great about iPod and MP3 players. My entire collection of favorite tunes of all time, with the exception of The Beatles, all in one place, searchable by song, artist or album. All reasonably priced at about $1. Considering inflation, that's a bargain, since 45s were a buck back in the 1960s.
Without question, there will likely be some other new version of digital music unveiled in the next few years, and we'll be faced with the prospect of buying yet another medium to play our favorite tunes. In all probability, I'll be a late adapter on that, too.
But for the time being, the iPod will always do what it did when it was bought -- i.e., hold and play a vast array of old friends and memories. To borrow a phrase, they'll probably have to pry it from my cold, lifeless hands if it lasts that long.
In the meantime, I hope I never have to buy another copy of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."
Pat Taylor is advertising director for The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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