Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Back in the old days...

Recently I got a new phone, my first smartphone. Which brought up the question, Am I smart enough for a smartphone? One of the first things I did with it was accidentally set a password without realizing what I was doing, so of course I didn't know the password to unlock the phone, which led to having to do a complete factory re-set less than an hour after I opened the box. And it took me a month to figure out how to answer calls on it :-P What can I say; no one ever calls me. Actually, the number is for family and emergencies only, and most of my family members text or IM me. Anyway, once I figured out how the thing works, I put the Kindle reading app on it, so now I can read books on my phone. No matter where I am, I'm never without a book - a lifelong bookworm's dream!

I was reading on my phone in bed one night (I also use the alarm on it to wake up, and this way I only have one device on the nightstand), and remarked to my husband that back in the old days, when we were in high school (in the mid-late 70s), if someone had talked about "reading on your phone" we wouldn't have had a clue what that meant. What, you call a phone number and someone reads out loud from a book to you? It reminded us of the old info lines they used to have (maybe still do, though it seems awfully archaic now) where you call a number (a 900 number that you have to pay to call?) and put in one extension number to get your horoscope, and another one for the latest celebrity news, and another one for health tips. So maybe reading on your phone would have been you dial the number and put in the extension for the book you want to hear, a new chapter every week.

Reading an ebook on Kindle (or whatever your reading device of choice) is so much cooler than that. As is this whole Interwebs thing we have now :-) But back then, we never would have believed this was possible.

Another thing I like to think about is how the music from a whole cardboard carton's worth of LPs will now fit on something the size of my fingernail. If you're old enough, you remember hauling cardboard cartons from the grocery store filled with LPs every time you moved in or out of your dorm room or apartment. Those things were HEAVY. I met my husband in college, and every semester when he moved in and out, I would help him carry the cartons filled with LPs, and also his speakers, each of which was about the size of a kindergartner. But now we've gone from this:
to this:
(Yes, that's my real hand, with a 16 GB micro SD card.)

That would have completely blown my mind way back when.

And another thing: back in the old days, if you liked a song, you could buy the single (with a bonus song on the back, the B side, which would never get played on the radio except on the very coolest stations) or you could buy the whole album, maybe paying a lot of money for only a few songs you ended up liking. If you wanted to hear your favorite song over and over again, you had to lift the needle or rewind the tape (if you were really high-tech and listening to cassette tapes), and each time you risked dropping the needle and scratching the record, or tangling up the tape, and over time that favorite song would get worn out. Plus you were also stuck listening to the songs you didn't like, unless you wanted to lift the needle and move it or skip ahead on the tape. If you had a cassette recorder, you could put it by the radio speaker and record your favorite songs off the radio :-D You had to be fast, to push the record button as soon as the song came on, and half the time the DJ kept talking over the start of the song. >:( The really cool people had a stereo with a tape deck built in so they could make mix tapes of their favorite songs from their albums, but then you were still stuck with always hearing the songs in the same order.

This is why I love MP3s. I can buy a whole album or just a few songs, and if there's a song I don't like I can delete it, never to have to hear it again. I can make playlists (I almost always make playlists for my writing projects) and add to them whenever I want, and listen to the songs in different orders, or listen to my favorite song over and over and over and over again (I'm like a 2-year-old that way, I'll obsessively listen to my favorite song or album a zillion times in a row), or just put all 10 gigabytes of music on my MP3 player on a massive random shuffle. Like having my own personal radio station except without commercials, songs I don't like, and inane chatter. Like I've always been a bookworm, I've also always been a music lover, and this would have been absolute heaven back in the old days.

To a lot of people a lot younger than me, this is all just how things are. It's hugely different from the world I knew when I was younger. But in a way it's cool that I remember when things were different, because I have so much more appreciation for how amazing all this stuff is.

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