Tuesday, September 9, 2014

9 September 2014 obsolete music media

Music, specifically genres of music, cycle in and out of popularity.  The mechanism to store and replay music have their own histories. 
          The earliest storage media I have seen/heard, was the cylinders that brought voice to Edison’s phonograph.  They had very limited capacity and were prone to damage. 
          Next, in my awareness at least, were the wax 78 RPM discs, widely recalled as “platters,” “discs,” and records.  These also had limited storage capacity.  They would shatter if dropped or otherwise allowed to contact hard surfaces.  They would deform if they were allowed to become to warm.  They reinforced the 3.0 minute playback format and gave rise to the term “disc jockey.”  We have about 15 “78’s”
          Spin-offs from the 78 RPM format gave us the 45 RPM single and the 33 & 1/3 RPM album.  These two products were made of a vinyl compound, less likely to shatter but still prone to heat damage.  We still have about 200 of these “33’s” in the house.  We programmed a two hour live broadcast using only “33’s” for WMNF radio in Tampa some year back.  We currently have a turntable that can play all of our old wax and vinyl records
          Reel-to-reel magnetic tape, residing on large reels attracted some tech weenies.  Mag tape is limited in durability, easily damaged by heat, dust, and other insults.  Storage requires a narrow temperature range and low humidity.  Tape aficionados quickly learned how to splice tapes.  The tapes became larger in width, allowing more channels per tape.  Thousands of VietNam veterans bought large reel-to-reel systems at PACEX, only to discover that the heat and humidity of VietNam, allied with the dust of the dry season, could eat tapes and decks in a very short time.  Many of these systems were handed down to troops rotating in. 
          About this time, cassette storage began to worm it’s way into the storage market.  Automobile audio offerings were the 4 and 8 track cassettes.  There is no viable market for these leftovers.  They may still be seen at the random flea market booth and at some estate auctions.  Prone to heat damage, irreparable if broken, We have none.
          The 8 tracks were replaced by the 2 track cassette recording capable of holding up to 90 minutes of music/cassette.  These were easy to produce cheap to buy at the lower ends of quality, and were favorites of concert tapers who used them by the thousands. Somewhat easily spliced if broken, heat sensitive, the automobile dashboard soon became a home away from home for commercial record label offerings as well as what came to be called bootlegs.  We have quite a few of these in the house.  Audio quality could be very high for analog storage.  It could also be dirty and next to unlistenable.  There was a great variance in soundboard feeds and audience tape quality. We have two tape decks that will work if cleaned and tied into an amplifier and receiver.  Neither vehicle will play these.
          The CD, CD-r. DVD storage formats appeared next.  Cheap to manufacture,  heat sensitive, originally thought to be a cleaner form of digital storage and replay compared to analog sources, the CD’s were later discovered to degrade with time.  Again, we have many around the house.  The recently traded Pathfinder contained both a cassette deck and a multi-disc CD player.  The Tucson has a single CD player, as does the Xterra. 
          This brings us to the point of flash drives, small devices holding immense amounts of data.  The audiophiles prefer a lossless digital storage system such as “FLAC.”  Most younger people, non-boomers, prefer an MP3 format.  It allows more data compression – greater numbers of stored items per unit.  They may not be able to discern the difference in a lossless and lossey playback.  Certainly, their lifelong exposure to high volume life has degraded their hearing; most of them have yet to discover this as they continue to boost the volume pots on all sources of audio input. 
          The Xterra has a USB connection that allows me to feed audio into the dashboard player. This replaces the 10 cd’s I had stacked and permanently resident in the Pathfinder.
           Currently, I have about 40 GB resident on two flash drives to use in those instances when the local FM public station is not proving my preferred content.  The player is satellite capable but the buy in and maintenance fees are more than I care to assume right now.  The process now requires ripping CD’s and cross-decking them to the USB for the Xterra.  I don’t want to pay to stream of download music that I already own in a usable format.  Nor do I care to have the music I prefer lost in some “service” that will form a new string of popular singles and albums such as is currently marketed to younger generations.  I’ve earned my right to be cantankerous and complain about “modern music.”



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