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April 15, 2014 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Watch the youth of today grapple with the unspeakable mystery of the Walkman (SLkfso)
posted by Sebmojo (108 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
At first glance, I was fully expecting this to be about The Walkmen.
posted by bstreep at 10:04 PM on April 15


fantastic
posted by spacediver at 10:38 PM on April 15


Jesus, walkmans were huge.
posted by fshgrl at 10:42 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


*My* walkman had its own speaker, with a MEGABASS button for extra awesomeness.
posted by meehawl at 10:47 PM on April 15 [16 favorites]


This kids aren't doing so badly. I was born in '82 and I couldn't operate an 8-track player to save my life.
posted by bbuda at 10:52 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


It's unfair to the kids that they didn't give them a walkman, a cassette or two, and a pair of headphones. I bet a lot of them could have figured it out and gotten it to play, but it would have made a boring video.
posted by nangar at 11:08 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


a walkman, a cassette or two, and a pair of headphones

...and a sleeve of AA batteries. Kids today aren't prepared for that first step: scavenging fresh batteries from the TV remote, VCR remote, cable remote, handheld video games, flashlights, cameras, clock radios, or anything else that takes AAs and hasn't been locked out of reach of the battery monster.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:39 PM on April 15 [57 favorites]


I have some mini (non-transforming) Transformer figures at work, and a co-worker had her son over once. I let him play with some of them, one of which was Soundwave, who changes into a tape player. It slowly dawned on me that he probably didn't even know what one was.

Oh, and I worked at an audio-video library in college. Students for a particular class had to view a laserdisc on their own time. Instead of one of the TVs, one student supposedly played it one of our record players before wondering where the picture was supposed to come from.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:45 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


God, kids are stupid.
posted by bongo_x at 11:59 PM on April 15 [12 favorites]


That was gold.

...and a sleeve of AA batteries.

Yes! Of all the innovations, rechargeable batteries were the best. I recall loving my Walkman - I had the megabass Sports Walkman, the massive yellow brick, and the non-sports one afterwards to have a smaller one, and I think it had AMS (where the FF would stop at song gaps! Holy shit!). Then, a Discman! I loved loved loved the Discman. It had an LCD! Auto track selection! It felt like the future. Everyone still bought CDs, and had those booklets of CDs that you guarded with your life on roadtrips. Then, ones that didn't skip when the car hit a bump. A brief foray into minidiscs which seemed both amazing and frustrating all at the same time, before the iPod. God, Sony dropped the ball on that one.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:02 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


...it had AMS (where the FF would stop at song gaps!)...

...much of the time!

I was disappointed that the kids couldn't figure out you needed headphones. There are still audio devices that don't have built-in speakers (like the 6th-gen iPod Nano I have at my elbow), and that Walkman has a brightly-colored hole that takes the same headphone jack used today.
posted by The Tensor at 12:34 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


A look back at the Sony Walkman [via]
posted by timelord at 12:54 AM on April 16


I had a Sony WM-10 which was kind of amazing because it's actually smaller than the cassette tapes it plays. (And it came with the first earbud headphones I'd ever seen - they seemed astonishingly better than the standard ones with the speakers that just sat there on top of your earholes.)
posted by straight at 1:12 AM on April 16 [7 favorites]


The original Walkman is somehow a perfect snapshot of the 80s, even though it was built in '79.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:16 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


They should have loaded it up with pop music from the 1980s too. A cassette full of Madonna, REM, U2, Flock of Seagulls, Duran, Duran on one side and 45 minutes of Money for Nothing repeated back to back on the flip side. That's what killed the Walkman - lack of content - and Sony's purchase of EMI was a big contributing factor.
posted by three blind mice at 1:31 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Now that I've seen videos from this group before, I can't help but feel annoyed. The kids feel handpicked for maximum hamminess and just the right blend of aptitude so that half of us get to feel "get off my lawn" and the other half "the kids are all right". I understand they'd probably know what it was if they had the headphones and cassette from the get-go, but not giving that to them after the initial questioning is a bit silly. And they dinged a kid for saying it's a recorder, but I'm pretty sure some Walkmen had that ability, if not from a mic, from radio.

I get that this is what creates views, but that doesn't mean I have to love it.
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:48 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


My car's old enough to have a cassette player. I love listening to tapes I made a quarter century ago. I messed up my Starlight Express London Cast tape by leaving it in the sun. :(
posted by luckynerd at 1:50 AM on April 16


That's what killed the Walkman - lack of content

Remember how these things take cassettes? And that you can record all sorts of things onto a cassette? Like your LPs, your singles, hell, your reel to reel stuff and whatever else you have?

Ludicrous assertion.
posted by Wolof at 1:52 AM on April 16 [34 favorites]


They should have given these kids one of the super-cheapo no-brand imitation Walkmans I ended up with in the 80s, instead of a beautifully designed Sony. Then the headphones could have broken in their hands on first use and they would at some point have heard the unmistakeable slowdown of a treasured tape being chewed to death.

In London during the 80s it was quite common to see, randomly, hundreds of metres of cassette tape wrapped around a tree or lamp post, marking the site of a previous cassette/Walkman/human conflagration.
posted by colie at 2:13 AM on April 16 [26 favorites]


That's what killed the Walkman - lack of content

Say what now?

Cassette tapes were commercially available for basically EVERY album release by every artist for many many years during the 80s. They even released singles on cassette as well as on 7" vinyl. Street artists who couldn't afford actual record pressings would sell cassettes of their material out of their guitar cases on the street corners. And blank cassettes were available basically anywhere (even at some gas stations!) and you could record any sound your stereo could capture onto them.

Lack of content is not what killed the Walkman. The rise of the CD (and subsequent rise of the Diskman), and then the emergence of the mp3 player is what killed the Walkman.
posted by hippybear at 2:34 AM on April 16 [15 favorites]


That's what killed the Walkman - lack of content

You are kidding, right? Almost 90% of the cassettes played (in a Walkman or otherwise) by twelve-year-old me were dubbed off the radio (never really could do that on CD) or copied/mixed from friends. There was considerably more widely available content on tape rather than on CD or mp3 form up until the mid-nineties at least.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:51 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


It was in fact so infamously easy to get audio onto a cassette that the mixtape is a cultural icon.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:55 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


It was in fact so infamously easy to get audio onto a cassette that the mixtape is a cultural icon.

And it killed the music industry!
posted by Harald74 at 3:04 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


> That's what killed the Walkman - lack of content - and Sony's purchase of EMI was a big contributing factor.

Sony manufactured the Walkman from 1979 through 2010.

So few audio products have suffered such brief, miserable lives of thirty years.
posted by ardgedee at 3:12 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Let's see them try to rewind the tape into the cartridge with a pencil.
posted by thelonius at 3:28 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]


I guess The Kidz take the "skip" button for granted now. In Ye Olden Days it went something like "I want to get to another song. Fast forward...no too far...back a bit...crap I've gone too far back..I'll press FF again for a milisecond...a bit more...a bit more...aw fuck it, I'll settle for halfway through La Isla Bonita."
posted by billiebee at 3:32 AM on April 16 [18 favorites]


...and a sleeve of AA batteries. Kids today aren't prepared for that first step: scavenging fresh batteries from the TV remote, VCR remote, cable remote, handheld video games, flashlights, cameras, clock radios, or anything else that takes AAs and hasn't been locked out of reach of the battery monster.

Don't forget the freezer trick, which totally works I don't care what you say
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:33 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Also I think lack of content means at one time, i.e. getting stuck on a roadtrip with one cassette, and either you really, really got to enjoy the soundtrack to I'm Gonna Git You Sucka or you were miserable


Luckily it rocked
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:41 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


That's cute, but why are the kids astonished that something needs headphones to make a sound? I can forgive them missing the headphone jack, because compared to contemporary electronic devices, walkmen look like they're designed by Jack Kirby himself...
posted by pseudocode at 3:51 AM on April 16


aw fuck it, I'll settle for halfway through La Isla Bonita

Oh damn, you just made me recall that as a kid, my favourite cassette I used to play on my Walkman, badly taped off the radio, included Red Hot Chilli Pepper's Give It Away, followed by La Isla Bonita. To this day I can't hear the end of Give It Away without expecting it to suddenly cut out and be replaced by the start of that song.
posted by Jimbob at 3:52 AM on April 16 [8 favorites]


I'll press FF again for a milisecond [...] aw fuck it, I'll settle for halfway through La Isla Bonita.

As Performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:53 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I had the dubious pleasure of explaining the Walkman to my 10 year old when we saw one displayed at the National Museum of American History. Oh my God, did it make me feel ancient.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:07 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I grapple with the unspeakable mystery of the Walkman every day.
posted by pracowity at 4:13 AM on April 16


I saw angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:14 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Hah. Those kids feel so smug and safe, but Revenge is coming. Revenge is currently lying back and sucking milk, being only four months old, but one day he will be old enough to talk, and handle strange objects with clumsy curiosity, and be videoed, and I think Revenge will have some things to say about these quaint old "Eye Pads" and "Eye Phones".
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:27 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


"I feel like I'm Indiana Jones or something!"

Wait, what's Indiana Jones. Oh right, the Shia LaBeouf vehicle. (Some of these kids were 1 or 2 years old when Crystal Skull came out, christ.)
posted by naju at 5:52 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


P.S., seconding the "hamming it up." These kids are well aware of what they need to do to make an entertaining video and are prepared (or have been coached) to act dumb. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but don't mistake this as anything other than something calculated to go viral...
posted by naju at 5:59 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I let a friend borrow my Sport Walkman, and her little brother threw it down the stairs. Weren't those like $200 at the time? That had been my birthday PLUS Christmas present. I was devastated. I suppose I should forgive her.
posted by desjardins at 6:24 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


They should have given them one of those defective tapes you got occasionally with only the leader and no actual tape. Then they'd have to ride their bikes back to the mall to return it.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:25 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I read that these kids go to a performing arts school or something (at least the older ones) and that's why they're all hams. They're not random kids picked off the street.
posted by desjardins at 6:28 AM on April 16


My wife and I were in Rite Aid the other day and she pointed out, amused, that they still sell discmans (discmen?). So I looked over and, sure enough, right next to it was a brand new walkman for sale.
I spend a lot of time feeling like we live in the future, so it's good to know the past is right there on the corner of Smith and Warren if I need it.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 6:29 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


That makes sense, @desjardins. My first reaction was "oh, a room full of annoying aspiring child actors."
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:29 AM on April 16


They're not random kids picked off the street.

Come on, they're cute and they play up to the camera. It's entertainment. Apparently actors in the movies are better looking than ordinary people.

If you just pointed a camera at random kids for this, you'd have to shoot 100 times more material in order to get the little bits that everyone actually wants to see.
posted by colie at 6:35 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


True story: I was asked why a certain computer would not boot, with a no operating system found error. Looking for a floppy I completely glossed over the Zip! disc...

...and a sleeve of AA batteries. Kids today aren't prepared for that first step: scavenging fresh batteries from the TV remote, VCR remote

With long lasting CFL and LED lightbulbs they will also never know the joys of stealing a bulb from another lamp because your bulb just blew.
posted by Gungho at 6:40 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


It just feels so manufactured. Between this and the "job interview" for parenting I'm getting the urge to go sniff the Gowanus just to experience something completely free of sweetness and aww.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:43 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


These kids are well aware of what they need to do to make an entertaining video and are prepared (or have been coached) to act dumb.

That would explain why they couldn't even open it up until 2:45 and seemed to have little concept of what headphones are. Those parts stretched the limits of believability for me.
posted by deanc at 6:56 AM on April 16


I think I've said this before, but cassette+walkman is my favourite mode of music consumption specifically because skipping tracks and carrying a large library of albums are difficult. It meant having to spend time with a tape. You could spend weeks listening to the same tape over and over and over and over until every nuance was seared into your brain for eternity. You would form a real connection with the music. It would be a significant part of your life, and, in hindsight, a handy way to index memories.

I miss that.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:04 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


I can't hate on these kids, because yesterday I was reading an actual paper book and found myself doing a finger swipe down the page before I remembered to turn it.

I had to wait years to get an off-brand Walkman because my parents thought it was frivolous. They were astonishingly expensive, and they still broke all the time, burned through batteries like crazy, and sometimes ate tapes. But were handy in college when I didn't want to subject roommates to my musical tastes.

The CD Walkmans were worse; you couldn't move swiftly or roughly with them or they'd skip, and they were even more expensive. I think we still have an off-brand version around the house somewhere.
posted by emjaybee at 7:05 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


"oh, a room full of annoying aspiring child actors."

I have a hard time believing that one blinky kid (the one who apparently was given some lines beforehand because they sound memorized) is an aspiring actor. I get twitchy just watching him.

Jesus, walkmans were huge.

They eventually got much smaller. I have one that had a local TV band on it too and you could listen to over-the-air TV broadcasts as they were airing. (A function which of course is useless since the switch to digital.) I have a palm-sized Walkman AM/FM radio that I still use. Oddly though I never had the Sony cassette player. For some reason I went with Panasonic's version.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:07 AM on April 16


The whole idea that every iteration of consumer gadgets makes life radically different is pretty ridiculous.
posted by thelonius at 7:09 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


GAhhhhhhhH. No I do NOT know how messed up it is to use headphones to listen to music. Your big brother does it ALL THE TIME.

*I will now direct my rage in a more appropriate direction*
posted by aesop at 7:17 AM on April 16


They used to let us listen to Walkman's at work when I was in the typing pool. Typing things. On a typewriter.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:21 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


"Imagine how many tapes you would need!"

Yes, child. Just imagine.
posted by aught at 7:27 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


With long lasting CFL and LED lightbulbs they will also never know the joys of stealing a bulb from another lamp because your bulb just blew.

Well, maybe they will. I just had a CFL (at least a decade old) in the lamp I was reading beside flicker a few times and go out the other day, and had to hunt for another one from a seldom-used lamp. So, less frequent, but it will still happen. And in some ways more likely to need stealing from another lamp since, because of the long life of new bulbs, I'm less likely to have a pack of them in the hall closet.

...and a sleeve of AA batteries.

Gah, yes. I am so thankful for my Eneloops.

That's cute, but why are the kids astonished that something needs headphones to make a sound?

This sealed my feeling that these kids were trying waaaay too hard to be disingenuous and shocked by everything the interviewing dude handed them or said to them. Some of the kids were truly over-the-top about it.

because yesterday I was reading an actual paper book and found myself doing a finger swipe down the page before I remembered to turn it.

If you're not pulling our legs then, wow, I think you might need a few weeks in a log cabin in the woods with no power or cell reception.
posted by aught at 7:38 AM on April 16


I used to travel with two wooden Bolla wine cases full of tapes whenever I went on school trips. That eventually evolved into bringing battery-powered speakers as well. Good times.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:39 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed a couple of these, but this one crosses the line into "way too obviously faked to be enjoyable," starting with the one kid pretending to be unfamiliar with the concept of buttons -- holding the device at arms length and stabbing randomly at it with her finger -- and going downhill from there.

If you just pointed a camera at random kids for this, you'd have to shoot 100 times more material in order to get the little bits that everyone actually wants to see.

Maybe, but those little bits would probably look a lot less rehearsed and hammed-up than this does.
posted by ook at 8:02 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


If you're not pulling our legs then, wow, I think you might need a few weeks in a log cabin in the woods with no power or cell reception.

Totally on the level. I had been on my phone all day prior to that. Paper-book reading is a luxury these days.
posted by emjaybee at 8:08 AM on April 16


I like how the kids are mystified by the device being mechanical. It has a door, and hinges, motors, capstan, possibly hundreds of moving parts. There were tape head cleaners and capstan cleaners, you had to maintain it to keep it working. It wasn't disposable.
posted by alfanut at 8:09 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I was fixing my mom's computer last night and she said "back in MY day, we used typewriters blah blah blah." I looked at her and said, "do you want to go back to that? Well, stop opening zip files from strange email addresses."
posted by desjardins at 8:13 AM on April 16 [7 favorites]


because yesterday I was reading an actual paper book and found myself doing a finger swipe down the page before I remembered to turn it.

Whereas I keep catching myself trying to unlock the front door with the remote on my car keys.
posted by straight at 8:20 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I stuffed mailboxes with fliers for a small stereo store here (which eventually became Best Buy) and was paid enough to buy a radio-only "Walkman". It was awesome. The tape Walkman became a huge part of my life and is so ingrained that I still occasionally think I hear the music on my iPod slowing down and figure the batteries are dying.

Ok, now let's talk about the BonePhone. I know it's going to make a comeback!
posted by misterpatrick at 8:22 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the freezer trick, which totally works I don't care what you say

Freezing your CDs is only really effective if you color the edges first with one of those special green highlighter pens.
posted by straight at 8:27 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


For far too long, I referred to my ipod as a walkman. Small & plays music? Must be a walkman!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 AM on April 16


Looking back on it, why the hell did I insist on owning a water resistant "sports" walkman? Did I think I was gonna go for a swim while jamming some Guns n Roses underwater? Actually that doesn't sound like a bad idea. Good call, younger me. SPORTS
posted by naju at 8:30 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


Let's see them try to rewind the tape into the cartridge with a pencil.

HAHAHA ONLY OLD PEOPLE WILL UNDERSTAND THIS!
posted by straight at 8:31 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Good call, younger me. SPORTS

There, I put in the link for you that you left out.
posted by straight at 8:34 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


You could spend weeks listening to the same tape album CD mp3 ANYTHING over and over and over and over until every nuance was seared into your brain for eternity. You would form a real connection with the music. It would be a significant part of your life, and, in hindsight, a handy way to index memories.
posted by Fizz at 9:29 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Man, I was so proud of my WM-10, the fruit of a whole summer of odd jobs and a paper route. It was red and, yes, mysteriously smaller than the tapes it played. One of the best things I've ever purchased, for dollars per hour enjoyed. Good times.
posted by bonehead at 9:48 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Jesus, walkmans were huge.

In 1984 or so, my first impression of the my new WM-10 was that nothing that played music could ever be smaller than this! The crazy thing was that remained more or less true until '98 or '99 and the first mp3 players. Fifteen years ain't such a bad run.
posted by bonehead at 9:54 AM on April 16


Man. I bought and absorbed Tinderbox, Love's Easy Tears, and The Queen Is Dead each for the first time on cassettes. For a long I didn't have a turntable but could only obtain things on vinyl; I would have my friend's older brother record things from my records onto tape. First heard Lonely Is An Eyesore in that manner.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:54 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Walkman museum.
posted by Kabanos at 9:54 AM on April 16


Whereas I keep catching myself trying to unlock the front door with the remote on my car keys.

I honestly don't know why this isn't a thing yet. Clearly the technology exists to do it.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:59 AM on April 16


I honestly don't know why this isn't a thing yet. Clearly the technology exists to do it.

I have this one. It's pretty awesome. I'm also pretty sure it's made by Raytheon Defense Industries Home Products Division or something close to that.

It is weird to have to change the batteries in your door lock though. (Clearly I should just use the batteries I'm not chewing through in walkmans and CD players anymore.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:05 AM on April 16


That's cute, but why are the kids astonished that something needs headphones to make a sound? I can forgive them missing the headphone jack, because compared to contemporary electronic devices, walkmen look like they're designed by Jack Kirby himself...

I assumed it was because the kids are the kind of people who listen to music on their phones around other people without headphones, and are therefore the devil.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:07 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


"Man, I was so proud of my WM-10, the fruit of a whole summer of odd jobs and a paper route. It was red and, yes, mysteriously smaller than the tapes it played. One of the best things I've ever purchased, for dollars per hour enjoyed. Good times."

I do not understand this. Are we dealing with a TARDIS-type situation? Doesn't the tape go inside the player? What the heck?
posted by joelhunt at 10:10 AM on April 16


I've never swiped at a paper book page, but I do find myself in supermarkets feeling a kind of annoying tingle and realising that I want to type whatever it is I'm looking for into a search box.
posted by colie at 10:10 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I've never swiped at a paper book page, but I do find myself in supermarkets feeling a kind of annoying tingle and realising that I want to type whatever it is I'm looking for into a search box.


You can do this at Home Depot. Go to the Home Depot website on your phone, set the store you're in to "Your Store" and then if you look up any product on the site, it tells you what aisle it's on. It's great.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:14 AM on April 16


Are we dealing with a TARDIS-type situation? Doesn't the tape go inside the player? What the heck?

Sadly, Time Lord technology is just another development that Sony failed to market correctly. Right up there with DAT.

The serious answer is that the player collapses when there isn't a tape inserted, and sort of slides / uncollapses when you have one inserted. So without a tape inside, it's actually smaller by a little bit than a cassette tape inside a case, at least in terms of width. I always coveted them but they were too expensive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:30 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


joelhunt, it expanded to hold the tape (you can see the action in the two pictures on this page, linked above.) It was not just a Walkman, it was a Transformer Walkman. So cool.
posted by bonehead at 10:31 AM on April 16


I honestly don't know why this isn't a thing yet. Clearly the technology exists to do it.

Yeah but if it goes wrong, someone could just drive off with your house!
posted by Lanark at 10:37 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Ok, now let's talk about the BonePhone. I know it's going to make a comeback!

I was disappointed with mine; the ads made it sound like only the wearer could hear it, and that just wasn't true.

Really though, the worst part about it was Portland radio circa 1981. So much Scorpions and Molly Hatchet, virtually no Germs or the Damned. Ugh.
posted by malocchio at 10:46 AM on April 16


So without a tape inside, it's actually smaller by a little bit than a cassette tape inside a case

And the big advantage of this is that you could actually store it right in one of the slots of the tray in the carrier you used to haul around your cassettes.
posted by straight at 11:06 AM on April 16


Are we dealing with a TARDIS-type situation? Doesn't the tape go inside the player? What the heck?

I have a distinct memory of a mini cassette player that sort of clipped onto the business end of the cassette and extended just far enough up to turn the turny bits. Can find no evidence of it now, though.

Did that actually exist or did teenage me just really really want it to?
posted by ook at 11:15 AM on April 16


Ah, memories. All of the extra dollars spent on fancy FeCr tapes for my mixes that my cheapo knockoff walkman couldn't give a f**k about.
posted by calamari kid at 11:31 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


My boss is an academic researcher and his office walls are literally lined with bookshelves. We had to temporarily move out of our offices due to construction, and only moved back in a couple weeks ago. Last week I hired some college freshman to unload, alphabetize, and reshelve his books. My office is adjacent to my boss's, so I was able to hear the three girls' commentary -- and had to stifle audible laughter. Most of their awe had to do with the fact that he has so many books, and that he reads them and continues to buy more books. One girl asked me, "Why doesn't he just a Kindle?"

But then, THEN, they came a cross an actual Merriam-Webster dictionary in one of the boxes. I heard one of them squeal "Oh my god, he has a DICTIONARY???" And it hit me that these girls were probably born around 1995 or 1996, and by the time they were old enough to start using dictionaries, dictionaries were online. The actual dictionary book was a total relic to them. I am seriously wondering if it's the first one they'd ever seen, outside of the occasional library copy.

After they left that day, I unpacked a few more boxes. In one of them, I unearthed a 5-1/4" floppy disk. In another, a sleeve containing microfiche.

They're coming back tomorrow and I can't fucking wait.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:15 PM on April 16 [13 favorites]


I have a distinct memory of a mini cassette player that sort of clipped onto the business end of the cassette and extended just far enough up to turn the turny bits. Can find no evidence of it now, though.

Did that actually exist or did teenage me just really really want it to?


This sort of tickles a place in my brain but I can't place it. Was it maybe from a movie, like a "cassette tape in the future" kind of thing?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:38 PM on April 16


As a kid-haver none of this rang particularly false, though some of them are more used to hamming it up than others. The magic of editing. Cf: the Conchords' kid-interviews

Also cf, I was reading a book to my 5 yo daughter last night and she was deeply puzzled by the cords on the phones.

"Is that so people don't steal them", she asked.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:38 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I have a distinct memory of a mini cassette player that sort of clipped onto the business end of the cassette and extended just far enough up to turn the turny bits. Can find no evidence of it now, though.

No, that was deffo a thing.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:40 PM on April 16


American children are very dramatic. When I see things like this I can never tell if trashy American television scripts are art imitating life or vice versa.

Now I've typed that, I hope that if this was filmed with English children, they'd wave their arms around far less
posted by 13twelve at 2:55 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Nobody screams at American children if they don't eat their meat
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:02 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I still vividly remember taking shitty dubs of mid '80s rap music cassettes we copied from our inner city high school's music loving brethren out to our friends' parties in the suburbs and absolutely blowing people's minds. Think Whodini, BDP, old Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim, Beastie Boys, that type of stuff.

mudpuppie: "They're coming back tomorrow and I can't fucking wait."

Gonna need a trip report on this one.

13twelve: "American children are very dramatic."

How do you think we become American adults?
posted by Sphinx at 3:08 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't classrooms still have dictionaries? Or was it just weird that a grown adult would have one? I dunno, I'm still trying to figure out how to get rid of my circa '89 encyclopedias.

A favorite "sign you're getting old" is how floppies are still used as the "save" icon. At least file folders won't be obsolete just yet.

I sorta brought this up in the Nick at Nite thread, as far as what us 80s kids thought about life in the 50s. Even if B&W made the generation gap seem bigger, it seems like most of the obsolete stuff we saw was still fairly comprehensible. The phones without dialing was kinda weird I guess.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:47 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Gonna need a trip report on this one.

I'll do my best.

Incidentally, I forgot to mention that the boss also had a stack of VHS cassettes that he's been moving from office to office for ages, and one of the girls kept calling them DVDs.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:15 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


"Imagine how many tapes you would need!"

Yes, child. Just imagine.


Oh, my sweet summer child. What do you know of tapes?
posted by The Tensor at 4:31 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


You could spend weeks listening to the same tape album CD mp3 ANYTHING over and over and over and over until every nuance was seared into your brain for eternity. You would form a real connection with the music. It would be a significant part of your life, and, in hindsight, a handy way to index memories.

Sure. It's certainly possible to reproduce the experience with other technology (though I can't say I've seen many people listening to LPs on the bus), but my point was that with cassettes, that was the only way. You couldn't just default to putting all 120GB on shuffle.

(Also, Discmans sucked. There's a reason they took "Walk" out of the name.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:16 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


You would form a real connection with the music. It would be a significant part of your life, and, in hindsight, a handy way to index memories.

I miss that.


You don't need to miss it - there is nothing stopping you continuing to listen to cassette.
Except, y'know, compared to modern technology, it just sucks. :)
posted by anonymisc at 5:51 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Whereas I keep catching myself trying to unlock the front door with the remote on my car keys.

I honestly don't know why this isn't a thing yet. Clearly the technology exists to do it.


That technology is already obsolete. I'm not quite sure why they still make car keys. (My car is simply unlocked and operational if I'm standing near it, and locked and non-operational if I'm not nearby. It's habit forming - when I use a car that requires keys, it's apparently as comical as giving these kids a walkman. I know how to use keys, but I never remember that I need them...)
I doubt that this car security approach costs all that much more than old-fashioned key-fobs that you have to operate, I suspect it's a case of using feature sets to create a broader product range, much like how some mid-range cameras are actually top-range cameras with some of their features locked out.

Anyway, yeah, your house should be the same, in that you shouldn't have to unlock it at all.
posted by anonymisc at 6:01 PM on April 16


I honestly don't know why this isn't a thing yet. Clearly the technology exists to do it.

Because what we have now works well enough, has been refined through several hundred years of practice and also has a ton of supporting infrastructure in place.

For example, I routinely carry a keychain with 10-15 keys in my pocket (2-3 each for home, work, my parents' place, some desk drawers etc). I definitely would not want to carry 15 remote fobs, or keep them all stocked with batteries, replace malfunctioning ones etc. You could try to solve this with a multi-purpose fob, or some smartphone app thingy, but to do this you need to coordinate competing lock manufacturers, plus you easily get into enough complexity on the user side of things that many people can't handle conveniently. Not to mention the inevitable hassle of electronic lock makers putting you on the upgrade treadmill and making you replace "obsolete" fobs and management systems every few years to keep their support costs low and their revenue stream going.

It works with cars because people cannot drive more than one car at a time, and cars are much more rigidly managed than houses: you never put a new door with a different kind of lock in your car, or lock part of the inside of your car. Use cases for building keys are many more than those for car keys.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:46 PM on April 16


Once I heard that they stopped manufacturing Walkmans I went to rescue mine. It's damaged (batteries left there too long) but I'm not letting go until someone pays me a zillion dollars for it, then maybe.

Cassettes were half the price of CDs growing up in the late 90s/early 2000s in Malaysia, so that was our music delivery mechanism of choice. I won an MP3 player from a Singapore radio station in 2000, before iPods were a thing, but my computer was too old to really make use of it. I don't know if I have that player still but apparently i was ahead of the curve.

My dad has a ridiculous amount of mixtapes, many would be about 40-50 years old now. I wonder if he still has them, they would be a musical treasure that I hope I can inherit. There's this one mixtape in particular that he would play in the car ALL THE TIME, which then became a CD that would play ALL THE TIME, and now when I hear the songs from it (all 80s soft rock) I get really nostalgic.
posted by divabat at 9:56 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Whereas I keep catching myself trying to unlock the front door with the remote on my car keys.

I honestly don't know why this isn't a thing yet. Clearly the technology exists to do it.


There are deadbolts that open from your smart phone, and you can give temporary and unique key codes to different people. I’m not getting one because keys work just fine, and that shit will break and be obsolete in the blink of an eye.
posted by bongo_x at 1:17 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I have a distinct memory of a mini cassette player that sort of clipped onto the business end of the cassette and extended just far enough up to turn the turny bits. Can find no evidence of it now, though.

It was a Sony walkman, late 80’s, it may have been called the Super Kick Ass Walkman, but I might be remembering that wrong.
posted by bongo_x at 1:18 AM on April 17


Once I heard that they stopped manufacturing Walkmans I went to rescue mine. It's damaged (batteries left there too long) but I'm not letting go until someone pays me a zillion dollars for it, then maybe.

Hm. I have four or five of them (merging of my and my gfs belongings, etc.; and a couple that record) and a dreaded Discman as well, in a box of ancient electronics in the basement. I'm pretty sure they all work even.

...A zillion dollars each, you say?
posted by aught at 9:21 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Another thing we've lost - as noticed by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, all cassette tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums.

Back in the day, it didn't matter whose car you were in, if you fished an old tape out from under the seat or deep in the glovebox, and put it in the tape player, it didn't matter what the tape was labelled or claimed to have on it, what would actually come out of the speakers would be Queen's Greatest Hits.
posted by anonymisc at 9:40 AM on April 17


what we have now works well enough

No, it doesn't. Many of us said the same thing about our candybar phones to smartphones, but we said it because we hadn't experienced smartphones.

For example, I routinely carry a keychain with 10-15 keys in my pocket

Exactly. Ugh. All day, dragging your pants down. And you have to fish it out of your pocket before you can open anything, scratching up anything else in the pocket, and you need an arm free to do it, which means putting down the groceries, and if you forget them, you can't open anything at all, and the inconvenience and awkwardness of it all doesn't stop there. There is so much wrong with having to drag around half a pound of keys always, that never having experienced an alternative is the only reason it seems like a good idea.
posted by anonymisc at 9:52 AM on April 17


Whereas I keep catching myself trying to unlock the front door with the remote on my car keys.

I honestly don't know why this isn't a thing yet. Clearly the technology exists to do it.


This thing will automatically unlock your door when you approach it via a bluetooth signal from your phone. You can also unlock it remotely from anywhere you have an internet connection.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:12 AM on April 17


I don't see anything in the website descriptions about it being able to sense whether you're on the inside or outside of the door, which sort of makes a big difference in whether you want the door to automatically unlock when you approach it.
posted by straight at 12:50 PM on April 17


Decent, fully-functional electric locks are much more expensive than most homeowners are willing to pay, I suspect. A reasonable quality electric strike is a couple or few hundred, with install extra. Installing an industrial electric strike system can run in the thousands---it needs power and control circuitry too.

The electric deadbolts like the kevo or keypads are still a bit new. We have one (Slage keypad), but I don't trust the 9v battery it runs on enough to take the front door key off of my keychain. If they could figure out how to power these things better, without a major electrical job, I think they'd be more popular.
posted by bonehead at 1:32 PM on April 17


Here's a review of the Kevo. They talk about how Kwickset has tried to solve the indoor/outdoor problem. Apparently though a major concern with this device is that it can be cracked open pretty easily.
posted by bonehead at 1:36 PM on April 17


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