Remember when people listened to their music on compact discs?
The compact disc, called a “CD” for convenience purposes, was actually an improvement from an older technology, called tapes. The tapes were, well, a bunch of tape spooled inside a little plastic cartridge. If you did not like what you were listening to, the tape had to be fastfowarded or rewinded to the desired location. CDs offered something new: you could skip directly to the place, called a “track,” where the desired song resided.
I bought my first CDs with money I’d earned from painting my aunt’s deck furniture. I bought the Use Your Illusion double-disc album by Guns ‘n’ Roses. With giddiness I skipped right to the songs that had the most vulgar lyrics. What liberty I felt at not being burdened with fastforwarding a tape.
The things was, you could also fast-forward the CD if you wanted to. By holding in the button that was used to skip to the next track, I could play the music at double-time, and with the voices sounding like the Chipmunks.
The only catch to the CDs was the sensitive surface that held the music. I would gaze at my reflection on the magical underside. How did such a smooth surface hold music? It must have all been with lasers. Lasers explained everything. With utmost deliberation and care I would take the CD out of its case and convey it to the top of the boom box, snap it in, and close the cover. At once the CD would come to life, spinning and spinning, awaiting my command. I was a hominid discovering fire.
Then one day in college my friend told me about an “mp3”. He said it was the greatest. He emailed me a link to an mp3 file – the file itself was too big to email. I downloaded and listened and the world was never the same again. But going from CDs to mp3’s was somehow just not the same as going from tapes to CDs. I had become jaded by technological change.
And now even children have devices the size of a stamp which hold four million songs. Those children probably don’t even know what a stamp is, either.