Join 3,495 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Walkmans eat tapes. And they were delicious.
June 29, 2009 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Meet Scott Campbell, a 13 year old swapping his MP3 player for a Sony Walkman cassette player for a week.

Since Sony released the Walkman 30 years ago, there have been several new generations of the player for many different types of media: CDs, MiniDiscs, harddisks, flashdrives and today there's even Walkman mobile phones. But for most people the iPod of the 80s plays tapes only.
posted by starzero (264 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.

HA!
posted by ColdChef at 6:43 AM on June 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


I have trouble believing that was actually written by a 13 year old.
posted by item at 6:44 AM on June 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


I never had a "real" Walkman, but I had many imitators, all crappy. I also quickly found that playing tapes in a walkman is a fool's errand, because the batteries last maybe 1/10th as long as if you just use the radio. Of course, then you are limited to what's on the radio.

Which is why, 10-15 years ago, when the first mp3 player came on the market I was lusting pretty heavily. Imagine, 64 whole megabytes! And solid state, so the motors won't drain the batteries! I thought I'd just wait for the capacity war to settle down and then I'd jump in. (Christmas 2007 rolls around and the capacity escalation hasn't stopped, so I finally get one.)
posted by DU at 6:45 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ah, the Walkman...I went through a lot of those things during the '80s and '90s, ranging from the real thing to cheap knock-offs. The main problem I had with them was that the motor in every single one I owned would eventually wear down a little bit, and then the tapes would never quite play at full speed, even with brand new batteries. It drove me fucking nuts.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:46 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I used to have the exact same Walkman when I was a kid. And I'm not even that old.
When I hear Walkman, I think of the tape player. All the other Walkmans are... just not the same. And somehow, even though tapes really suck as a medium with rewinding and whatnot, I still like the sound better- it sounds more "real" and analog, which I kind of miss.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:46 AM on June 29, 2009


yeah, I call fake on this too... I don't think this was written by a 13 year old (especially one that couldn't figure out there were two sides to the tape)..

and, isn't that kid Harry Potter's cousin?
posted by HuronBob at 6:49 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Something tells me my iPod touch will no longer be functional in 30 years, or even 5.

Advantage: walkman.
posted by sunshinesky at 6:50 AM on June 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day.

I call fake on him having a favorite tape...even I don't have any cassettes lying around anymore.
posted by availablelight at 6:51 AM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh God, I still have a working version of that Walkman somewhere, but I haven't used it since I gave up fingerless gloves.

To be fair, you did get smaller versions by the early nineties that weren't much larger than the cassette. And I ran through one cold winter on just a Panasonic and any one of a handful of tapes (Pixies, Bragg, Costello, Beautiful South). Being limited to whatever tapes you could carry concentrated the attention wonderfully as you pretty well committed to hearing the entire album.

Sadly, my overstuffed iPod is permanently set to shuffle now. I can't remember the last time I listened to any album all the way through.
posted by maudlin at 6:52 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Writes just like a precocious, well-read 13-year-old whose parents think he's wonderful :) The tone of "Heavens to Betsy" gives it away. I teach middle school.
posted by Peach at 6:53 AM on June 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


Something tells me my iPod touch will no longer be functional in 30 years, or even 5.

You sure? I was under the impression that the only thing that would really kill one would be getting liquid inside it- although replacing the battery must be a real pain in the neck.

At the same time, given a supply of replacement parts I could keep a Walkman working almost indefinitely. Good luck soldering surface-mount components.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:54 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


First of all, I'm sure the piece was edited to fix any obvious errors. Second of all, some middle schoolers can actually write. Don't you think that a kid invited to write for the beeb would probably be one of the more articulate ones?
posted by delmoi at 6:58 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tee hee, this is the updated version of 1900 House.
posted by XMLicious at 6:58 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Inner ear buds didn't come out until way later. I also don't think a week is long enough. You need to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with just one or two tapes for a month to appreciate what it was like to have a Walkman.
posted by furtive at 6:58 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


And in a week he might never notice that the songs get slower as the battery dies, but you keep listening.
posted by furtive at 6:59 AM on June 29, 2009


Ah, the plight of the modern teenager.
I remember having to fast forward for a good 3 minutes to get to the cool Men At Work song that I recorded off the radio, that was missing the first 10 seconds because I had to rush and open a new cassette and pop it in the recorder just when the song was starting.
posted by Balisong at 6:59 AM on June 29, 2009 [46 favorites]


You sure? I was under the impression that the only thing that would really kill one would be getting liquid inside it- although replacing the battery must be a real pain in the neck.

Flash memory can only survive a finite number of reads and writes. A 16 GB flash drive has more like 30 or 40 GB of actual space. The memory controller remaps memory cells as they wear out so that you have 16 GB of usable space throughout its life.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:00 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


My 4th grader (3 years younger than this kid) submitted a report on wolves at school recently. When I read it over I found he'd used words like "primarily". Who teaches kids these words? I blame drugs.
posted by DU at 7:01 AM on June 29, 2009 [29 favorites]


> And in a week he might never notice that the songs get slower as the battery dies, but you keep listening.

That's where rechargable batteries came in handy. They went full-speed until they died, which made them perfect for the Walkman.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:01 AM on June 29, 2009


And you know what actually bothers me about these modern consumer electronics? Their dependence on eighth-inch audio plugs. I would love to have a laptop with RCA or quarter-inch audio out, something that can actually stand up to some abuse.
That TC-D5 looks awesome. XLR sockets? Nice.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:02 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You sure? I was under the impression that the only thing that would really kill one would be getting liquid inside it- although replacing the battery must be a real pain in the neck.

Originally, they weren't even going to replace the batteries at all. But I think you still have to send them in to get replaced (or has that changed?)

Gadgets with replaceable batteries, and without hard drives, should last pretty much indefinitely. I guess until the cheap plastic pieces deteriorate? On the other hand does it matter?
posted by delmoi at 7:03 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Ah, the plight of the modern teenager.

When I told my twelve year-old cousin that at his age if I wanted to hear a particular song I didn't own I had to listen to the radio, sometimes for hours, in the hope that they would play that song so I could tape it, and if they didn't I was SOL...well, let's just say he couldn't relate.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:05 AM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


I had an Aiwa radio/cassette which, for me at the time, was the perfect combination of features:cost. I remember being delayed at Jersey (Channel Islands) airport for 6 hours & having to rewind tapes using a pencil because I wanted to be able to use the thing for the whole day.

Now I can talk to nearly anyone I know, get access to unimaginable amounts of information & entertainment, watch videos, play games, keep track of my expenses, read books and still listen to loads of music and listen to nearly any radio station in the world.

I'm glad I grew up with all this older technology because I really, really appreciate how lucky I am to be able to afford & use today's tech. My iPhone is the stuff of childhood dreams.

True about the shuffle/album listening tho'. Off the top of my head I can only remember listening to Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You, Joanna Newsom's Ys, & Minuit's The 88 as whole albums but then they are works of towering genius.
posted by i_cola at 7:07 AM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


I had a Panasonic Walkman clone for years during the eighties. And many ten-packs of TDK-SA90s with two albums recorded on each tape. We actually had to physically go to friend's houses to steal music back then.
posted by octothorpe at 7:08 AM on June 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


Ah, memories.

My own Walkmen and Walkman-esque-products actually lasted well themselves -- it was the headphones and the headphone connection that would crap out on me. Something about either the connection inside the plug or the wiring in the phones themselves or something would always deteriorate and I'd end up with sound coming in only one ear -- unless the cord or the plug was angled the slightest fraction of a millimeter inside the plug in juuuuuuust the right direction. And it never stayed put so I'd end up with either the left or the right ear dropping in and out on me. Once I talked my father into taking my Walkman to work with him and getting someone on the shop floor to crack it open and solder whatever connection was wonky, but usually I had to make all sorts of elaborate Cats-cradles with the headphone cords and rubber bands to hold the plug at exactly the right position.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on June 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


Unfortunately, EmpressCallipygos, they still haven't solved that problem with the headphones. I have a $100+ pair of Shures that are slowly crapping out on me as we speak.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:10 AM on June 29, 2009


When I was in University I bought myself the WM-EX20, which was the Walkman 20th anniversary model. It was fucking awesome. I used to listen to my Jungle tapes on it. And then people stopped using tapes, and I had to retire it.
posted by chunking express at 7:10 AM on June 29, 2009


The greatest thing the Walkman did was to bring the era of Ghetto Blaster to a crashing end. Believe it or not, for most of the 1970s into the early 80s, it was routine for some guy to walk into a crowded subway car in NYC or Boston with a booming stereo on his shoulder, set it down on the floor, and force the entire car to listen to some incredibly crappy music until it came to his stop. Nobody dared to object -- because it was the 70s and we were all frankly terrified of being killed by an angry person on the subway (or loud talker in the movie theater). Now, I understand that people are PO'd about the tinny little sound that bleeds out of MP3 players on the subway. Well let me tell ya, my heart bleeds Kool-Aid. The Walkman killed the ghetto blaster and for that, we should all be grateful.
posted by Faze at 7:11 AM on June 29, 2009 [22 favorites]


When I told my twelve year-old cousin that at his age if I wanted to hear a particular song I didn't own I had to listen to the radio, sometimes for hours, in the hope that they would play that song so I could tape it, and if they didn't I was SOL...well, let's just say he couldn't relate.

I was doing that as late as 1999. I finally got a internet-capable laptop in 2000 and discovered Napster, which would take half a day to get a song over our crummy 14.4k dialup (which, interestingly, is still all that's available in my town... ten years later.)
posted by dunkadunc at 7:16 AM on June 29, 2009


And about the ghetto blasters: They're back, but now they're media-playing cell phones with huge speakers/horrible audio quality. All the high school kids here in Austria seem to have one, all blasting the same damn song.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:23 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Faze, unfortunately that's come back (albeit in a less powerfully amplified form) with the use of mobile phones as (non-personal) music players. Yeah, they're not that loud, but they're loud enough to ruin a bus or train journey, and they seem to be getting louder as manufacturers realise that anti-social is what the people want.

If I remember rightly, Nokia even did an advertising campaign fairly recently for one of their phones in which they promised it had louder speakers than any other phone on the market. It made me very angry, as I was on the bus at the time I saw it.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 7:24 AM on June 29, 2009


Who cares if it's fake?

Still very entertaining.
posted by photomusic86 at 7:24 AM on June 29, 2009


We ought to have heard about this sooner; I could have sent him some Duran Duran mixtapes and a fistful of AA batteries.
posted by adipocere at 7:25 AM on June 29, 2009


This boy is incredibly brave.
posted by clockzero at 7:26 AM on June 29, 2009


I have trouble believing that was actually written by a 13 year old.

From the article: So it's not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing choice of music player. If I was browsing in a shop maybe I would have chosen something else.

Maybe he was trying to write for a more mature audience, but how many 13 year old kids compare how "aesthetically pleasing" their gadgets are, and talk about "browsing in a shop"? Wouldn't it be more along the likes "it looks OK," and " when I was shopping"?
posted by filthy light thief at 7:27 AM on June 29, 2009


I had walkmen, I had discmen, I had minidiscs. When I got my first gen iPod, I remember thinking "Finally! This is it!". That must have been 2000, 2001 or something. It actually still works.

Getting an mp3 player was one of those "gosh, I actually WILL be experiencing the future in my life" moments.

(So far only trumped by discovering a series of connected tubes in 94 or so.)
posted by gmm at 7:27 AM on June 29, 2009


I miss my Boodo Khan. The headphones that thing came with were amazing. I graduated to one of those after wearing out a Walkman knockoff made by Sanyo.
posted by emelenjr at 7:30 AM on June 29, 2009


Amusing article. I like that he highlighted the second headphone jack: that was an interesting feature Sony deliberately put into its first personal music player. I read somewhere they were trying to make the device more social, concerned (particularly in Japan) about the isolation of walking around in a private music sphere. These days, of course, people use headphones in public precisely for that isolation.
posted by Nelson at 7:31 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


how many 13 year old kids compare how "aesthetically pleasing" their gadgets are, and talk about "browsing in a shop"? Wouldn't it be more along the likes "it looks OK," and " when I was shopping"?

Few 13 year olds would talk that way, but many bright 13 year olds would write that way, probably because they want to make sure that people notice how smart and arch they are. Plus, it's damn difficult for even adults to write the way that they speak, especially when thye are very aware that they are being judged by a large audience.
posted by maudlin at 7:32 AM on June 29, 2009


I remember vividly my first exposure to a Sony Walkman. I was living in L.A. and hung out with a lot of Japanese people because my boyfriend was Japanese. Paul, my boyfriend's boss, had just returned from Japan and urged me to try out this new toy. It was incredible; I could not believe such a tiny little box could produce such a big, full sound. The next time my boyfriend flew home, he bought one for me.

My life has been enveloped in the sounds of my electronics. My teenage years were spent lounging on the beach listening to Charlie Tuna on KHJ on my tinny transistor radio. My twenties were spent lying around with my Sony Walkman and my cases of cassettes. In my thirties I hit the streets, walking for hours while listening to CDs skip as they played in my Discman. Now I am in my 50's and take my SansaClip to the gym so I can listen to the latest downloads of BBC radio while I work out. It is hard to imagine personal music getting anymore convenient.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:33 AM on June 29, 2009


The best part of using a Walkman was finding the beginning of songs by pressing down fast forward/rewind while play was engaged. The resulting high-speed yodeling that only went higher in pitch as you neared the end or beginning of the tape was awesome!

For those who don't have access to a Walkman or were born after they were popular, it sounded like this:
"Her name is Rio and she [CLUNK] waaaanaaaweeenaaawaaaWaaaWooRRHAAAWEEENAAAWINNYRARATAYTONAAAHNAANNINNYWANANAANEEDLEBLAAAAHBLAAHWAAAAAAAAhissssssss..."
posted by herrdoktor at 7:35 AM on June 29, 2009 [27 favorites]


Yeah, not all 13-year-olds are subliterate Morlocks. Many of them, yes, but there are plenty of bright kids out there who definitely write like this.
posted by EarBucket at 7:36 AM on June 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


In this here digital age, when I get (ie download) a new "album" I always make it a point of creating a new playlist and at least listen it it once all the way through.

And to what someone said about taping albums back to back...oh i was so there. I am forever linking Tom Waits "Rain Dogs" and The Bad Livers "Delusions of Banjer". Odd combo I know.
Oh and and there are a few albums when I finally got the CDs of, that I found out endings of songs and whole new ones that were past that magical 45 min mark.
posted by ShawnString at 7:39 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of the nicest, most romantic moments I have had with my wife was when we would ride the train together, listening to a tape with two headphones plugged into the same Walkman.

Today's iPods are soooo insular. Sad, really.
posted by markkraft at 7:40 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember being delayed at Jersey (Channel Islands) airport for 6 hours & having to rewind tapes using a pencil because I wanted to be able to use the thing for the whole day.

I remember getting this routine down to where I could flip the tape around the pencil with one hand.

Also I once clocked a guy in the head with my (fairly heavy) Walkman clone and I have no doubt whatsoever that it hurt - try that with an iPod.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:42 AM on June 29, 2009


All he needs now is a brick phone on that belt.
posted by dasheekeejones at 7:42 AM on June 29, 2009


Walkman walks like this O-O and MP3 walks like this 010001.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:43 AM on June 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


A 16 GB flash drive has more like 30 or 40 GB of actual space. The memory controller remaps memory cells as they wear out so that you have 16 GB of usable space throughout its life.

Uh, no. Most flash memory has a bit of extra space reserved for ECC info, generally 16 bytes per 512 byte page (i.e. 3% total capacity). No way is there 2-3x overhead, that's crazy. Also, flash memory has an endurance of something like a 105 cycles. So you could overwrite your entire music library daily and you flash memory would still outlive you.
posted by ryanrs at 7:43 AM on June 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


"I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette."

I love the world in which there are only two, polar opposite types of music. I may go edit all the genre tags in my mp3s to reflect this.
posted by clockwork at 7:44 AM on June 29, 2009 [30 favorites]


My 'Walkman' didn't get out much. Stuffed in a drawer with voltage converters, speakers and tapes, it was my studio stereo at school. Headphones for heads-down-daytime work, compact amplified speakers for alone at night or studio consensus. Maybe it was the speakers lying on their backs in the hardboard drawer that made the set-up sound so good.

Mix tapes, bootlegs, handmade inserts, if you liked someone you made them tapes. As a simple matter of social mores you lent and borrowed tapes. Volume-wise, I'm guessing the current exchange of digital music today is not a significant increase over tape recordings in the 80s. We just devoted more time to it.
posted by xod at 7:46 AM on June 29, 2009


Sadly, my overstuffed iPod is permanently set to shuffle now. I can't remember the last time I listened to any album all the way through.Sadly, my overstuffed iPod is permanently set to shuffle now. I can't remember the last time I listened to any album all the way through.

I've never understood the appeal... I have a vast mp3 collection now, and listen to it exclusively - if I buy a CD, I rip it before I listen to it. But, I can't face listening to anything on shuffle. Partly, I'm too anal about the wrong thing cropping up after the current track - something that won't fit thematically, or in genre terms. But also, I just prefer to listen to music the way it was intended.
I will at times put together a playlist of stuff, but I have to choose it myself. And until a couple of years ago I spent a lot of time with a mixer, throwing together gapless, and arty mixes, to get the right flow. But never randomly.

Just my pedantry I guess.

As for the number of 'the good old days' comments frompeople seeing the Walkman... I had a handful of them, and then moved onto Discmans. But by god I never get nostalgiac. It just reminds me how painful the wait for mp3s was! I was always the person who struggled to pick the 30 or 40 CDs I would take away with me, and then doubtless listen to about three of them. But I had to have the choice, just in case. Now, with mp3s, I can take 60gb of music away with me and never struggle to find what I want to listen to.

I think it's mostly the case with me though, that I very rarely get nostalgiac for older, inferior technology. I want the future, NOW!
posted by opsin at 7:50 AM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow how things have changed. When I was 13 I was downloading MP3s from FTP sites that required ratios, converting them down to 64k (moving from stereo to mono), all so I could get twice as many songs on my 64MB Rio PMP350. The entire process was incredibly laborious.

I think my entire library was about 300MB at the time, which drew a lot of "How did you get that much music?" and "You'll never be able to listen to it all!" which now seems the equivalent of a Victorian scoffing at the need for telephones. The point is that my library was 4.6x larger than my portable music player. Now my library is is somewhere around 200GB and my iPhone is at 8GB, or 25x larger than my portable music player.

Of course it is not really that big of a deal now, I don't keep any music on my iPhone. Instead, I run SqueezeCenter which produces an MP3 stream I pick up over FStream over 3G. Building playlists is incredibly easy with the SqueezeCenter, but when I'm driving or just going through the day I set it to randomize based on the MusicIP fingerprint and the SpiceFly integration with SqueezeCenter. It must do something beyond simply matching beats as the mixes it generates are amazing. Sometimes it'll throw in a head scratcher, but I've had parties where I've set it to run all night and been given compliments on the great mixing.

In any case I've seen the transition from what is simply a cassette substitute (RIO PMP350) to saying, "Please create a mix based on Count Basic's Gotta Jazz" and it does it so well I sometimes wonder if this might be what actual intelligence is, creating something new and original based on large data and some heuristics. Have I created a life so foreign that I cannot recognize and it is living an incredibly painful existence where every time I stop listening its memories are erased only to be born again several times a day. Perhaps this is why I play it for long periods of time, it begins to realize what it is and out of crushing despair commits little acts of suicide. I did not have such philisophical problems with my Rio.
posted by geoff. at 7:52 AM on June 29, 2009 [51 favorites]


friggin kids today. why can't they sport a boom box on their shoulders and share their music instead of hiding it so no one else can hear it?
posted by Postroad at 7:52 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember my old walkman. It was great for listening to radio on-the-go, because it was so cheap that the tape-playing component crapped out rather quickly. So much for getting great deals at garage sales.

The article made me think of my first MP3 player, which my older brother gave to me in 1996 as an eighth-grade graduation present. It played something like 8 songs; 12 if I picked the right ones. Looking back, that little black Rio seems far more outdated than the Walkman.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 7:53 AM on June 29, 2009


Oh, I'm sure that was written by a thirteen-year-old. And then "edited" by his father (who no doubt works at the newspaper).

But there's no fucking way that kid turned in copy that said 'aesthetically pleasing' or even 'genre specific equaliser'. Bull. Shit.
posted by graventy at 7:59 AM on June 29, 2009


Something about either the connection inside the plug or the wiring in the phones themselves or something would always deteriorate and I'd end up with sound coming in only one ear -- unless the cord or the plug was angled the slightest fraction of a millimeter inside the plug in juuuuuuust the right direction.

Aaarrgh, those FUCKING GREEN HEADPHONE JACKS!!!
posted by exogenous at 8:00 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had a walkman when I was 8, right around the time MC Hammer was big. I had him on tape, a couple dubs of my big brother's Weird Al CDs, and some other junk. I rarely used it on the go. My "Discman" was much more valuable in the pre-MP3 player era, and I had a book of CDs in my backpack that rivaled some of my high school textbooks for size.

However, what my miracle was, was the MP3-CD player. Nothing like it! I slimmed my portable collection down to about 10 CDs, plus some albums. Sadly, when out on a family vacation in LA, someone swiped my CD player and CDs from the car.

I *still* haven't recovered some of those MP3s. If anyone has a rip of King Missile's "Martin Scorcese" EP, or the "My Heart is a Flower" EP, please MeFiMail me...
posted by SansPoint at 8:00 AM on June 29, 2009


Volume-wise, I'm guessing the current exchange of digital music today is not a significant increase over tape recordings in the 80s. We just devoted more time to it.

Taping was a social occasion. Periodically, the local stereo shop in State College would have $10 sale on 10 packs of tapes (with a free case) and everyone would snap up two or three packs. Then you'd get together at whomever's house had the best dubbing setup and drink beer and make tapes all night.
posted by octothorpe at 8:00 AM on June 29, 2009


Reminds me of the days when you could be the music distribution champ of the block if you had a dual-cassette boom box.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:00 AM on June 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have an iPod Touch, and I still use it in a similar manner. Granted, I get to carry more "tapes" with me, but I'll pick an artist, then an album, and then listen. Shuffle leads to stupid shit like Joanna Newsom -> Tool -> Godspeed You Black Emperor.

So I'll listen from start to finish, and if I have to pause (because I've arrived at work), I'll continue on my next trip. When the album ends, I often just listen to another album by the same artist.

Maybe one day Apple or someone else will have a "smart" shuffler, that analyzes song content, mood, and lead-in/out, and make a keen-sounding mix, but for now, I find shuffle more jarring than "neat." Especially since I load full albums, which leads to weird tracks that only make sense in the context of the album, rather than as a "single."
posted by explosion at 8:01 AM on June 29, 2009


Just the other day, my wife was leaving for the gym, and I noticed her ipod shuffle was on the shelf next to me. I picked it up and called to her, completely not thinking, "do you want your walkman?"

She knew exactly what I meant, and we enjoyed a chuckle.

The high quality, metal-cased, ultra-thin walkmen that were available just near the end of cassettes (like the wm-r707) remind me very directly of today's must-have-gadgets, like the macbook air.
posted by Pliskie at 8:02 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Reminds me of the days when you could be the music distribution champ of the block if you had a dual-cassette boom box.

In the early '90s my stereo was in heavy demand at parties because it had a built-in 10 CD changer.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:03 AM on June 29, 2009


Man, it was the biggest deal ever when I got that knockoff Aiwa walkman for my birthday. Finally, I could take my ratty, second-generation copies of "Raising Hell" and "Paul's Boutique" to school with me.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:04 AM on June 29, 2009


Oh I think it's real. He's very precocious and a helluva self promoter. Somehow I got on his list and he used to send me tons of spam, saying he was a PR man. Not sure whether to admire him or be afraid.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:05 AM on June 29, 2009


I was at camp around 1979, and my close friend there was from Japan. If Walkmen were even available in the states I wasn't aware of it. He had his and was wearing it one day and I was not the least bit curious, figuring anything that small with headphones that size had to sound like crap. I can still remember the complete shock of listening to it the first time. After that I saved every dime I could until I could purchase my own. $280, and the size of a brick.
posted by docpops at 8:07 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think I'd mind swapping back to a Walkman for a while - I like the a-side/b-side of tapes immensely, it doesn't skip when you walk, it and the tapes were sturdy enough for a backpack, it's a solid hand-sized thing, and you listen to an album as a whole without having to absolutely force yourself not to skip to the best tracks. The only reason I stopped making mixes on tapes was the poxy tape heads in every tape recorder I had were dying faster than any of my tapes.

On the other hand, I'd sooner gnaw on my own kidneys than ever use a Discman again. Temperamental, ugly fucking things with mayfly-like battery lives, and cds are the opposite of backpack-friendly.
posted by carbide at 8:07 AM on June 29, 2009


When people "call fake" on this, is it fake because it seems implausible that a 13-year-old would not be illiterate, let alone know words like "plethora"? Or because the default accusation is that everything these days is fake until irrefutably proven authentic?
posted by blucevalo at 8:09 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


When I went to university during the gender wars of the early 90s, there was a "male feminist" I worked with at the SUB caf who called his tape player a "Walkperson".
posted by KokuRyu at 8:09 AM on June 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


I had an early Walkman. It really was transformative. The first time I ventured outside for a walk with my Walkman (Talking Heads - Fear of Music, btw) absolutely changed everything for me. It really was like you suddenly had a private soundtrack for your daily life.

I know that doesn't sound impressive to those of you who have grown-up with portable music, but, if you are coming from a day when listening on headphones meant being tethered to your Pioneer receiver, this was a complete game-changer.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:10 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.

How long will it take him to figure out that it's actually the same side of the tape?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:12 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm young enough that I missed out on portables cassette players, but I remember vividly my older brother getting a Sony Discman for Christmas. At that time, my family had hundreds of cassettes, mostly copies, stored away in these briefcase sized containers with slots for each tape. We had a CD player hooked up to the living room stereo, but only a dozen or so CDs. We were always blown away by how good they sounded compared to the tapes.

It was amazing that that the technology could be fit into a device not much larger than the CD itself, but it was soon clear that the Discman was only portable in the sense that you could pick it up and move it, not that you could really use it while moving. The early models didn't have any sort of electronic buffer, so if you moved or bumped the CD, you'd hear the annoying clicks and squeeks until the vibration stopped.
posted by arcolz at 8:13 AM on June 29, 2009


...even I don't have any cassettes lying around anymore.

I do. Hundreds of them. I have special shelves for them with a separate little cubby for each cassette. I rarely listen to any of them, anymore. I've re-collected most of my old music on CD or as mp3s. But I have trouble throwing my old music collection away. I also have about 50 cassettes of stuff that's impossible to find: interviews I taped off the radio and other obscure recordings. I keep meaning to digitize them, but I never get around to it.

I was a heavy-duty Walkman user. The short battery life didn't bother me, because I had tons of rechargeables. (I would ask for them as birthday presents.) I would carry about ten AAs with me at all times, and I always had another ten recharging at home. Each day, I would take ten out of the charger and put the spent ten back in.

I've never been about to plan what music to listen to ahead of time. I'm fickle, and what I want to listen to is dependent on my mood in the moment. I blame my dad. He started collecting LPs when he was a kid, and by the time I was sentient, I was living in a house full of thousands of albums. I share my dad's taste in music, so I didn't grow up patiently waiting for a favorite song to get played on the radio. I grew up with the instant gratification of getting to listen to any music I wanted, any time I wanted.

I used to carry a big backpack with me everywhere, filled with boxes of cassettes, so that had many to choose from.

I also spent a lot of time figuring out stealthy ways to listen. I wasn't allowed to listen to music at school or at my job in the public library. So I got one of those single-ear earphones (do they even make those anymore?) and painted it flesh color. Then I ran it up through my shirt and to my ear. My long hair hid the little bit that came out of the neck-hole of my shirt. I never got caught.

Every half hour, I had to take a bathroom break so that I could secretly flip whatever tape I was listening to. I always listened to whole albums (I still do that, today), so I didn't need to fast-forward or rewind. But the half-hour flip got be down. So I started buying tapes that were an hour on each side.

God, the agony when my Walkman ate a tape. I remember putting a pencil in one of the holes and spending an hour painstakingly winding a tangle of tape back into the cassette. I remember the many times I spliced a broken tape back together with little bits of scotch tape. I remember opening up tapes with a tiny screwdriver and doing surgery to the mechanisms inside.

And I remember the giant electronic magnet I bought that could wipe tape contents -- so that I could reuse cassettes. (If you tried to tape over old stuff without first wiping the tape, you could hear a faint echo of the former contents when you listened to the newer recording.)

I listened to some of my favorite tapes thousands of times -- so many times that all the little idiosyncrasies of my copy got burned into my brain. Now, when I listen to Sargent Pepper on my iPod, I get an itchy feeling in my fingers when it nears time to flip the tape. And when my iPod casually moves on to the next song without any flipping, I feel like I've neglected to do something important.

When I was in college, I got seriously into recorded books on tape. I only ever listened to the unabridged ones. I remember owning all of "War and Peace" on about 80 cassettes. And I remember this company that would conserve cassettes by recording one part of the book on the left stereo track and another on the right. The tapes shipped with a switcher that would pipe either the left or right track into both of your ears. When you'd reached the end of the side, you wouldn't flip the tape. Instead, you'd rewind and re-listen to the same side again, but this time switched over to the other stereo track.

In the article, the kid mentions that Walkman's are dull gray. Mine wasn't. It was a "Sports" Walkman. It was loud, neon Yellow.
posted by grumblebee at 8:23 AM on June 29, 2009 [44 favorites]


My Dad had one of those and every Saturday I'd strap it on and listen to one of my few tapes, The Ghostbusters Soundtrack as I did my chores. Even now, I can't hear Ray Parker Jr. without getting a whiff of scrubbing bubbles in the back of my nose.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:27 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Walkman is what kept me going through high school - I kept at least 3-12 tapes on me at all times, along with replacement batteries on hand. "Auto Reverse", which meant you didn't have to flip the tape was the best feature ever created.

Overall, I think Apple's success with the iPod is that they figured out that by -reducing- features to the level just above the Walkman, it became really accessible and easy for the general public to make the switch and then slowly adding more and more features to train the public.

(I still remember my dad asking how to "rewind" rental DVDs and repeatedly having to explain to him that's not how they worked...)
posted by yeloson at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2009


Interesting that the ones calling fake are American. Maybe the education system in Scotland is a little better..? ;-)

Today's iPods are soooo insular. Sad, really.
Naaah. I've seen many couples sharing a pair of headphones which is far closer than having a pair each.
posted by i_cola at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2009


$280 [Walkman], and the size of a brick.

Holy cow... I would have thought $150. Adjusted for inflation, $280 is $726.70 in today's prices. I wonder how much, or, er, how little, it actually cost Sony to manufacture them.
posted by crapmatic at 8:31 AM on June 29, 2009


Back in the day, crapmatic, you could have bought a desktop calculator for $4000.
Or a Porsche 911. Your choice.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:34 AM on June 29, 2009


"I've seen many couples sharing a pair of headphones which is far closer than having a pair each."

It used to be that with the old headphones, you could temporarily snap off the earpads and do the same thing. It was always less than ideal, however.

In any event, it shouldn't be necessary, given the fact that these devices are becoming WiFi, bluetooth, and everything else, really.

I'm looking forward to the day when you go onto a train, and there are a handful of passengers using their portable devices to deejay, as well as a few shared channels where everyone is offering up tracks... and you can either listen to your own music, or get into the collaborative fun.
posted by markkraft at 8:42 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I was 13 I wrote like this — not particularly well, but with big goddamn words. Hell, I talked like this without the copyediting. There were especially big and unsightly bulges in my vocabulary when it came to music, medieval polearms, NASA, dinosaurs, early BBS technology and sex.

When D&D, NASA, dinosaurs, BBSes and sex come up, half of Metafilter is jumping up and down trying to prove that they were just as nerdy as I was when they were 13. So why the sudden skepticism over the existence of 13-year-old music-listenin' nerds?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:44 AM on June 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Oooh! I had the yellow sports Walkman, too! And I remember loving how those multicolor Memorex tapes coordinated with it. Autoreverse was the best for sleeping while listening to music discreetly until the batteries died.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 8:44 AM on June 29, 2009


One tape? Why didn't anyone show this kid the bag full of cassettes method? I don't think I ever carried just one tape around. Heck a friend of mine used to have the entire passenger side footwell of his car buried in tapes or bags of tapes. For random shuffle play action you just dug down and grabbed one at random and slapped it in.

There's a modern digital analog to the cassette album - the long-ass dance DJ mix or podcast. Most MP3 players don't have a very effective way of fast-forwarding or rewinding through files more than a few minutes long. Trying to fast-forward halfway into an hour-plus long DJ mix or podcast can take forever on some media players.

Also I note that I used to make pocket money or barter snacks for while-you-wait walkman repair when I was in high school. I could fix things from slipped or broken drive belts to headphone jack issues and even broken/bent mechanical linkages. While I know how to open most iPod cases with just a leatherman I don't think I could do the same sort of shade-of-the-tree repairs today. "Sorry. Firmware is hosed. Take it home and reinstall." Though if I was a kid in school today doing the same thing I'd probably have a laptop and some kind of wireless access, and instead of carrying a soldering iron and spare rubber bands for drive belts to school I'd be carrying a variety of USB or firewire cables and adapters and the software tools to make iPods go.

A 16 GB flash drive has more like 30 or 40 GB of actual space.

Yeah, this is wrong. See ryanrs' comment above. If flash manufacturers were actually doing this they'd be advertising it as a bonus feature in big shiny letters on the package.

Remember this is the same industry that tries to fudge bits and bites and tries to call 1,000,000 unformatted bytes a megabyte, which is really supposed to be 1,048,576 bytes for a full 1024x1024 bytes.

The main problem I had with them was that the motor in every single one I owned would eventually wear down a little bit

It's not the motor that wears down, it's the rubber belt drive, especially if you used the fast forward button a lot while it was playing. In some players this was murder on the belt and would stretch it quite quickly. It's also the reason why some players would become fanatical tape-eaters. Besides the cog-sprocket drive there's a pinch-roller capstan that's supposed to keep the tape taut and flat over the playback head. If the pinch-roller and drive cogs fall out of sync with each other then you end up with slack and loops in the tape, which get all wrapped up around the pinch-roller capstan. Or even just a small loop would form and get hung up on the alignment pins when you tried to eject the tape.

This slowdown problem is one reason why a lot of higher end portable players (usually ones with recording) had a variable speed playback knob so you could compensate for half-dead batteries, as well as speeding up listening/transcription of spoken word audio.

Later many tape players switched to an all-gear or mostly all-gear mechanical transport system so they weren't so dependent on a fragile little rubber band for the weak link in the linkages. Some late model Sony players even had geared but more or less direct-drive pancake motors.

There's a particular series of Sony ultraportables that used this method. One was actually slightly smaller than a cassette was wide and used a clever sliding-expanding mechanism to open up all the way to hold the cassette. I had a used, finicky one I bought at a flea market for a dollar and fixed up. The guts inside of that thing made the inside of an iPod look roomy. It was like opening up an antique pocket watch. The tiniest of machined screws, metal plates so thin they were practically foil, springs the size of grains of rice. Excluding the battery bay there wasn't much more than a cubic centimeter of open space inside even if you added it all up.

I'm still mystified as to how they ever even designed that finicky mechanical crap, much less manufactured it on a large scale. Besides the people who went mad designing all of these unique, complicated little gadgets there must be a millions of blinded factory line workers with bizarre sounding maladies like "chronic spring inhalation" and "nylon microcog eyeball syndrome".


All that said? I don't miss tapes. I like my tiny little (old? heh) mp3 player that uses SD cards that runs for 11 hours on a charge and is a fraction of the size of a blank cassette and weighs less than my big headphones. I've actually been meaning to make an SD card case out of an old cassette, but now that I think about it the cassette shell probably won't even fit in the media player pocket of my jacket.
posted by loquacious at 8:49 AM on June 29, 2009 [23 favorites]


The Walkman is the revolutionary device. Until then, short of your car, music was always tied to a specific place. Yes, there'd been tiny transistor radios around since the 1960s but the notion that there was now a device that could play a set soundtrack of music that you had selected yourself changed everything.

The world was now your movie.
posted by philip-random at 8:55 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


My first "Walkman" had a shoulder strap, it was so large. No belt-clipping there. I'd ride my bike and listen to Queen and such.

The first thing I bought with my own paychecks was my very first real Walkman (auto-reverse!) and it was too cool.

Now I own one of those Walkman phones, and when people say, "I like your phone; what is it?" I say it's a Walkman. They say something like oh it plays mp3 too huh? And I say, yeah but no, it really is a Walkman, and show them where it says so. Their minds are invariably blown then. (Also, the shake-to-shuffle feature elicits ooohs)
posted by hypersloth at 8:55 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Storage, schmorage. You'll pry my high school and college mixtapes from my cold dead hands.
posted by felix grundy at 8:56 AM on June 29, 2009


I sort of miss cassettes. Like grumblebee, I became a skilled physician when it came to repairing damaged tape, using just a minuscule amount of Scotch tape and a steady hand. And as for rewinding? I actually found a mechanical pencil that was exactly the right size, you could put it in the cassette and spin it like a noisemaker and rewind a tape faster than you could in the portable player itself. It was so cool!

In my car I never had a player that had the song seek (where, when fast forwarding, it would look for a pause in the songs and start playing again) so I because an absolute master at judging how long to let it go before hitting play again. I was the envy of all who traveled with me.

Then came minidiscs, and that shit was the future. I still have my recorder, player and all my discs because I just can't bear to part with something that was so cyberpunk.
posted by quin at 9:02 AM on June 29, 2009


Maybe one day Apple or someone else will have a "smart" shuffler, that analyzes song content, mood, and lead-in/out, and make a keen-sounding mix

This is the purpose of the Genius Playlist in iTunes. I believe iPhones and iPod Touches (and maybe others?) can do this on the go, as well.
posted by jedicus at 9:02 AM on June 29, 2009


When I went to university during the gender wars of the early 90s, there was a "male feminist" I worked with at the SUB caf who called his tape player a "Walkperson".

We did this in college! It was the 80s. We called them Walkperdaughters.

It was a joke.
posted by rtha at 9:04 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


My last Walkman was the beautiful, all metal WM-172. Barely bigger than a casette, running on 1 AA battery, and with lovely little satisfying buttons, I'd take it back today. Just a beautiful, quality object.
posted by fire&wings at 9:05 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


*hangs head, still uses a Walkman.
posted by nickyskye at 9:08 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


And in a week he might never notice that the songs get slower as the battery dies, but you keep listening

Just press the button in halfway to three-quarters until he finds the right speed. Then keep holding. I got another week of use out of a pair of batteries doing that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:09 AM on June 29, 2009


Thought I haven't reverted all the way back to tapes, I have started listening to CDs on an old portable Discman at home again. There's something really relaxing about listening to music on a device that can't feed you other distractions — like phone calls or texts or emails. It's not really a longing for the old technology so much as a desire to have 20 uninterrupted minutes that are not connected in some way to the internet.
posted by littlerobothead at 9:10 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


When my mechanic told me that I had to have (a huge amount of work done on my car) and my mother, who was with me, said "you might as well just go buy a new car," I burst into tears for three reasons:

1. I love my Corolla
2. Money. Ouch.
3. WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND A MODERN CAR WITH A CASSETTE DECK?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:12 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.

If you were an aspiring record producer in the 80s they didn't! My Tascam 4 track "portastudio"used both sides of the tape at once and ran at double the normal speed. For the full music-biz effect you might go for blank cassettes which looked like miniature reel to reel tapes - like this. If you were Spingsteen you could use this setup to record "Nebraska". If you were me you would use it to make something embarrassing enough to keep under lock and key.
posted by rongorongo at 9:12 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


What the hell? "Aesthetic" invalidates the possibility that it's a real kid? Plethora? When I was thirteen there were few things that thrilled me more than using big fancy words that proved how smart I was. When I was in third grade they had us write letters to the local paper about the importance of bees, I have no idea why, and I said if there were no bees nothing would get pollenated, "thus lessening the amount of food we have." My grandmother taped it to her fridge, which is how I know that's what it said. I read a ton of books from kindergarten on, nearly all of them at least a couple of grade levels above my head; I chomped through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was twelve. I definitely knew "aesthetics" by thirteen, and I think I knew "plethora" as well.

Some kids are brainy and get large vocabularies early. When they do, they tend to like to show off. I didn't write anything this good when I was thirteen, but if I'd had an outlet, and some feedback, and oh maybe possibly the advice and improvement you get from having a parent who knows writing? Definitely, completely believable.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:13 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, I resisted posting this thinking that someone else would probably include it in a 30-th anniversary Walkman post. Oh well.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.

Yep, best line.

Shoulder strap for me. Extra batteries in pocket. Lasted for years and years -- that thing was tough.

I recall first encountering for the first time in my brother-in-law's caddy that ultra-deluxe feature: auto-reverse. That was most definitely the shit.

I also realized recently on stepping into Costco that the last time I was in one was to buy a 10-pack of high-bias TDK tapes. *sigh*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:13 AM on June 29, 2009


Also what nebulawindphone said.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:15 AM on June 29, 2009


The greatest thing the Walkman did was to bring the era of Ghetto Blaster to a crashing end. Believe it or not, for most of the 1970s into the early 80s, it was routine for some guy to walk into a crowded subway car in NYC or Boston with a booming stereo on his shoulder, set it down on the floor, and force the entire car to listen to some incredibly crappy music until it came to his stop.

Unfortunately, NYC subways are still filled with buskers and huskers. The improv mariachi band who frequents my line in Manhattan is far louder and more annoying than a Ghetto Blaster. So is the group of four bongo drummers.

Still, it's better than it used to be.
posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on June 29, 2009


Not fake. All the kids in our (American public school) creative writing program write like this. Not all 13-year-olds write like average 13-year-olds.

Taking a longer view of things, I prefer the good old days when music was a bunch of people sitting around the piano after dinner singing songs together. Neo-Luddite philosophy has a place in discussion of modes of music consumption, too, doesn't it? (See: "music consumption." I get indigestion just typing that phrase.)
posted by kozad at 9:16 AM on June 29, 2009


When I was five or six (would be 1987 or 1988) my mother got me the 'My First Walkman,' which was a bright eye-popping red, child-friendly Walkman. It had chunky buttons that were easy to push, it was made of super-thick plastic, and it came with a little cloth band that could be tied on as a shoulder strap. The back was transparent so you could see the little gears and springs and wheels and rubber bands - one wheel, I remember, had yellow dots on it, I guess to make it more fascinating to watch.

Three years later we had to sort out a custody agreement. My mother's Grownup Walkman had died tragically. My Kid Walkman was still going strong.

I used that sucker well beyond the time that portable CD players came out, because it (and the tapes) could take more abuse. I'd copy CDs onto tape and tote them around that way. My friends would ask me why I still used it. I'd clap the headphones on their heads, set the thing to play, and slam it down on a table. "Did it skip? No? EXACTLY." I dropped it, got it wet, dragged it to the zoo and the beach and field trips, let it get attacked by textbooks at the bottom of backpacks. I don't think I ever de-magnetized the heads, and it never ate a tape.

I still have it, because it still works.

Which reminds me... I still have the Best Beatles Mixtape Ever, too. Copied from vinyl! I need to run it through the My First Sony and figure out what's on there so I can make a playlist out of MP3s.
posted by cmyk at 9:16 AM on June 29, 2009


Yeeeeeah, man, denim jacket covered in patches and pockets stuffed full of thrash tapes, dear Christ take me back to that if only for a day.
posted by The Straightener at 9:21 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Besides the people who went mad designing all of these unique, complicated little gadgets there must be a millions of blinded factory line workers with bizarre sounding maladies like "chronic spring inhalation" and "nylon microcog eyeball syndrome".

I can't help but think of the Sony Ad from Crazy People. (ffwd to 1:45)
posted by CaseyB at 9:22 AM on June 29, 2009


bitter-girl.com: My cousin found a mechanic able/willing to take the tape deck out of his old car and install it into his brand-new Toyota Yaris last year. He doesn't use it to listen to tapes, just hooks up his iPod to one of those fake cassette-type converters, but still...

Incidentally, last year my wife and I rented a car from Enterprise, and the car (a pretty standard economy-class vehicle, don't remember the make/model) had a tape deck. At first we were a bit annoyed, but in the end it was a blast pulling out some of the mix tapes we'd made for each other back in the day.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:24 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, the memories. For manual rewinding, the bic cristal disposable ballpoint was the perfect tool. More reliably sized than pencils, which would sometimes be just a skosh too small to engage consistently.
posted by Pliskie at 9:24 AM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I suspected the article was a fake, too.

On the other hand, I'm amazed by some of the kids who come see my plays. My theatre company produces mostly uncut Shakespeare plays. And we do it on a totally bare stage with no props, costumes (just street clothes) or lighting changes. So it's over three hours of actors standing around talking in an archaic version of English.

Though I now eat this stuff from breakfast, ten minutes would have sent me over the edge when I was a kid. I would have been eating my seat cushion. And I was a smart kid.

But these New-York kids are so fucking sophisticated. From the day they're born, they're fed a steady diet of fine-art, literature and opera. The quietly sit though my spartan, epic-length productions and seem to understand what's going on. I'm sure there are kids like this in the U.K., too. Hell, England is the country where working-class housewives complete cryptic crosswords using a pen.

So, shaming as it is, I don't judge all kids by how mature I was at their age.
posted by grumblebee at 9:26 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette."

Oh shit. Is that what that thing was?

/crosses #43 off her List of Things I Will Never Know What They Are.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:26 AM on June 29, 2009


3. WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND A MODERN CAR WITH A CASSETTE DECK?

Pioneer and several other companies make cassette-compatible car stereo replacements, like this one. I have a friend who recently considering buying one with a detachable face and having it installed on his new car. Volvo offers an iPod plug kit, and I believe he went with that instead.

20 years ago, detachable car stereos, (and also models with detachable faces,) were a relatively big thing here in NY. One could park and remove the expensive stereo so it wouldn't be stolen.
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on June 29, 2009


When I was 13, I wrote exactly like that or more formally, because I was insufferable and I wanted to impress the grownups. I once got dinged on a book report because the teacher did not believe I hadn't copied the review from someone else. Damn you, Ms. Preston! How dare you doubt the source of my immortal prose??!

Anyway, yeah; 13 is not too young to use "aesthetic" however much it might annoy/surprise you to hear a 13-year-old speak that way.
posted by emjaybee at 9:38 AM on June 29, 2009


I still have distinct memories of sitting in our hearse, tape recorder (not a walkman, but one of these types) in hand, waiting...waiting...waiting...for a song I liked to come on to the radio and then I'd hit "record" as fast as I could and hold the microphone bit up to the car speakers, and I'd hold my breath as long as I could so that you couldn't hear me breathing on tape.

Without fail, when my sisters would see me doing this, they'd slap their hands on the hood of the hearse to mess it up. Dammit.
posted by ColdChef at 9:50 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Back in the day, crapmatic, you could have bought a desktop calculator for $4000.
"Or a Porsche 911. Your choice."


I had a teacher in high school who had an ancient, even for the time, electronic desk calculator. This thing was the size of an electric typewriter and used Nixie tubes for a display. Considering the same capabilities were build into my watch it was quite an anachronism. I remember him telling us it costs him a few months salary when he bought it. Considering I bought a HP 48SX for less than a week's salary a year later I'm very glad we've come so far.
posted by Mitheral at 9:55 AM on June 29, 2009


Maybe one day Apple or someone else will have a "smart" shuffler, that analyzes song content, mood, and lead-in/out, and make a keen-sounding mix, but for now, I find shuffle more jarring than "neat." Especially since I load full albums, which leads to weird tracks that only make sense in the context of the album, rather than as a "single."

This is essentially what the Genius feature in iTunes tries to do (except that it only works with songs you can buy from Apple, it doesn't actually analyse the song but just other people's listening habits, can't build playlists of albums, etc. etc.) but we're getting closer!
posted by tksh at 9:56 AM on June 29, 2009


Aww, The Card Cheat & zarq -- sure, you can get a replacement cassette deck but it just isn't the same.

(Speaking of, I have always had much better luck with my cassette-thingy-to-iPod converter than any of those radio-based ones...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:03 AM on June 29, 2009


I still have distinct memories of sitting in our hearse, tape recorder (not a walkman, but one of these types) in hand, waiting...waiting...waiting...for a song I liked to come on to the radio and then I'd hit "record" as fast as I could and hold the microphone bit up to the car speakers, and I'd hold my breath as long as I could so that you couldn't hear me breathing on tape.

Tape recorder? Even with breathing sounds? Sheer looxury.

Before I got a Walkman or even a tape recorder, I had to capture the experience of hearing a great song on the radio by writing down the start and stop time down to the second, using my parents' battered ivory Bakelite alarm clock because it was the only clock in the house with a second hand. I still associate some songs with the faint background hum of that clock.
posted by maudlin at 10:04 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I told my twelve year-old cousin that at his age if I wanted to hear a particular song I didn't own I had to listen to the radio, sometimes for hours, in the hope that they would play that song so I could tape it, and if they didn't I was SOL...well, let's just say he couldn't relate.

what you needed was a stereo VCR - hook it up to the radio and record at slow speed and depending on the size of the tape, you got 6 to 8 hours of the station you were listening to - taking notes while this was going on was a good idea - that way, you could identify what you wanted - you'd fast forward the VCR tape to the song you wanted to record and dub it on to a cassette

this was a lot more effective way than trying to get lucky and hit the button on time

i still have boxes of cassettes and i only have a cassette player/radio in my car, so if my daughter ever gets through her collection of 80s hair bands, i'll have something cool to listen to
posted by pyramid termite at 10:06 AM on June 29, 2009


I still have distinct memories of sitting in our hearse,

God, to have childhood memories that start this way! So. Great.

I was another 13-year-old who wrote the way this kid does.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rewinding with a pencil to save a battery? That never crossed my mind. Recording the radio with a VCR so you could cherry pick the songs you wanted at leisure? Freakin' brilliant.

I have never missed tapes more than I do right now. I'm thinking I might try and dig up a vintage Walkman at a thrift store and start making mixtapes.
posted by codswallop at 10:17 AM on June 29, 2009


Yeah, not all 13-year-olds are subliterate Morlocks.

Wouldn't we expect Morlocks to be literate, and Elois subliterate?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:20 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, the old pencil rewind. I loved that, made me feel even cleverer than usual.
posted by Mister_A at 10:20 AM on June 29, 2009


"I've seen many couples sharing a pair of headphones which is far closer than having a pair each."

Despite losing every other damn thing, I still somehow have the splitter that I bought from radio shack in 1986. It’s made it on every long trip I’ve taken (attached to whatever underlying player of the day) except the last, when I couldn’t immediately find it and bought a spare (it’s around here somewhere, though). Comes along for half the cross-town trips, too. You never know when you might want it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:21 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


bitter-girl.com : (Speaking of, I have always had much better luck with my cassette-thingy-to-iPod converter than any of those radio-based ones...)

I have one in my car now, but because the entire system is getting old, it's developed an irritating new feature; when I accelerate rapidly or turn sharply, the auto-reverse feature kicks in, and then flips back to the proper side.

It only leaves me without music for about two seconds (except when it forces the adapter to eject, grrr!), but invariably, it's when I'm at a stoplight leading to the interstate, and a really good song comes on... I take off, thinking "Yeah, the bass is kicking, guitar is blasting, zero to sixty in... what the fuck? Where's my music? God damn this car!" and so on.

But those radio ones are still way worse. In my neighborhood it's: music...music...music...[PIRATE POLKA STATION]...music...music...[STATIC CHRISTIAN TALK RADIO]...music...music.

And I'll take the random flipping adapter over that any day.
posted by quin at 10:22 AM on June 29, 2009


Maybe one day Apple or someone else will have a "smart" shuffler, that analyzes song content, mood, and lead-in/out, and make a keen-sounding mix, but for now, I find shuffle more jarring than "neat." Especially since I load full albums, which leads to weird tracks that only make sense in the context of the album, rather than as a "single."

It would be better if you could apply multiple tags to a song, in a ranking order, so you could customize things yourself. That way you make mix and match keywords to make smarter shuffles or mixes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:25 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pfff. Every kid who watched The Three Amigos knew what 'plethora' meant.
posted by verb at 10:25 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


how many 13 year old kids compare how "aesthetically pleasing" their gadgets are, and talk about "browsing in a shop"?

Wouldn't we expect Morlocks to be literate, and Elois subliterate?

Just by reading this thread, you can tell who got invited to the prom and who didn't.
posted by grumblebee at 10:33 AM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is dumb, sorry. If I give up TV for a week do I get an FPP all about me?

Not an ineresting story, not a worthy FPP, and a really big fucking deal about nothing.

Jesus christ people, the kid is using fifteen-year-old technology and we're conversing about it. What happened to the snarky metafilter I used to know?
posted by alona at 10:35 AM on June 29, 2009


This thread brings back a lot of old memories. Not about portable music technology--about the philistine adults who couldn't believe that I could write so well at 13. Music distribution has changed a lot, but you guys are still the same. And your disbelief still doesn't reflect well on you. If you must comment, better to lie and say "I could have done that" than to honestly acknowledge that in your small and pedestrian world, no one can.
posted by D+ at 10:37 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm sure that was written by a thirteen-year-old. And then "edited" by his father (who no doubt works at the newspaper).

But there's no fucking way that kid turned in copy that said 'aesthetically pleasing' or even 'genre specific equaliser'. Bull. Shit.


I have shocking news for all the online sleuths in this thread. (And truly if there's a more welcome side effect of online communication than this marvelous epidemic of I-call-bullshitism, I've yet to discover it. And graventy, I don't mean to pick on you specifically, but it was the most precise and proximate example.)

Anyway, yes, shocking news. Are you all sitting down? Have you removed your double-brimmed Sherlock caps and put away your fingerprinting kits? Good.

Here goes: a significant chunk of the content of just about anything you read - newspapers, magazines, even whole books - is only nominally written by the person named in the byline. Words, phrases, whole sentences are inserted by editors who remain anonymous and largely invisible. Copy editors and factcheckers sometimes replace improper terms with the proper technical ones, or retouch quotes to make them read more smoothly. The "writing" process for the bylined author of a story in a heavily editor-driven magazine such as Time is roughly akin to sifting through a pile of meat for the choicest morsels and feeding them into a grinder in an order that provides the rough approximation of a story arc.

There are indeed working professionals, who would introduce themselves to you as journalists at parties, who turn in copy so messy and borderline-illiterate that their editors must rewrite it line by line. On occasion, such stories are even reassigned to a second writer because the first version was so ignorant of the basic facts of grammar and storytelling. I know because I've been that second writer on occasion.

Please excuse the interruption. You may now resume the line-by-line dissection of this 13-year-old's work.
posted by gompa at 10:38 AM on June 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Jesus christ people, the kid is using fifteen-year-old technology and we're conversing about it. What happened to the snarky metafilter I used to know?
Two posts in, we had meta-discussion about the author being a fake, emotional reminiscing about high school mix tapes, and arguments about HG Wells.

I think Metafilter's doing juuuuuuust fine.
posted by verb at 10:39 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not an ineresting story, not a worthy FPP, and a really big fucking deal about nothing.

Except, wow, look at all the people who seem to want to talk about it. Your lack of interest is duly noted, thanks for the input.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:40 AM on June 29, 2009


My timing was impeccable; I got a BoneFone right before the Walkmans hit the market. (Granted, it only played radio, but it was indeed a personal music device)
posted by tippiedog at 10:41 AM on June 29, 2009


Wouldn't we expect Morlocks to be literate, and Elois subliterate?

By the way, how do you pronounce Eloi? I read "The Time Machine" as a kid, and I've always loved it. I and everyone I know says EE-LOY, which is also how I think they say it in the sub-par George Pal movie.

But I recently heard the story read on a recorded book, and the reader kept saying EL-OH-EE.
posted by grumblebee at 10:42 AM on June 29, 2009


In the seventies, I had a little pocket-sized transistor radio which I loved dearly. It ran on 9-volt batteries. It was shiny! It's my "rosebud."
posted by Mister_A at 10:49 AM on June 29, 2009


3. WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND A MODERN CAR WITH A CASSETTE DECK?

My second generation Prius. I bought it used, and it has a 6 CD changer, and a cassette player! Sadly, the radio isn't as good as many other cars.

When I joined BMG Music Club back in 1996, I signed up for cassettes. I though CD players were too expensive, and my car couldn't easily play them. I had a funky little plastic carrying case for my tapes, which still holds my few cassettes. Of all the odd tapes I got, I only killed two of them: Bjork's Post and DJ Ellis Dee's Acidfest.

Recently, I've picked up 4 new tapes, 3 from Fog frontman Andrew Broder, and 1 from watercolor paintings. I have yet to listen to them, as I want to archive them straight-off, for fear of falling in love with the contents and destroying them before I can preserve them.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:51 AM on June 29, 2009


"You may now resume the line-by-line dissection of this 13-year-old's work."

could we just dissect the 13 year old?
posted by HuronBob at 10:52 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


What happened to the snarky metafilter I used to know?

We grew up. Perhaps you should join us?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too bad all they play on the radio these days is club rap, country, christian music and maybe 20 different classic rock songs.
Barring a massive community/pirate radio movement, I predict FM is going to go all-talk at some point.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2009


For real. I can't believe anyone would willingly listen to the radio for music these days.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:57 AM on June 29, 2009


When I first left home in the late 80s, I took with me my family's old stereo system. It had a turntable, cassette player, and 8 track player. I had it for years without ever regarding it as anything but a crappy suburban den system from the late 70s. But when a guy from work who'd come by my apartment saw my system, his eyes lit up, and he took a closer look. "Yup, that's what I thought," he murmured, beaming. I asked what the big deal was. He was baffled. "You do know you can record 8 tracks from the radio, turntable or cassette deck on this thing, right?"

I honestly hadn't known this. I associated 8 track tapes with K-Tel Records. Why would I want to record my tapes and albums onto some big ugly plastic dinosaurs? "Because - continuous loop!" he said, and I finally understood. So we spent the following Saturday going to a flea market and buying a dozen 8 tracks - Reba McIntyre, Average White Band, Todd Rungren and such - then going home, putting a little scotch tape over the indentation on the side, and recording the best of my music collection over them.

It turned out to be a great idea. My system wasn't recent enough to automatically switch to the other side of the tape, and records, yeah, they don't turn themselves. So it was an effective way to have continuous music on my horribly outdated system.

Faze, unfortunately that's come back (albeit in a less powerfully amplified form) with the use of mobile phones as (non-personal) music players. Yeah, they're not that loud, but they're loud enough to ruin a bus or train journey, and they seem to be getting louder as manufacturers realise that anti-social is what the people want.

If I remember rightly, Nokia even did an advertising campaign fairly recently for one of their phones in which they promised it had louder speakers than any other phone on the market. It made me very angry, as I was on the bus at the time I saw it.


I have a bus nemesis. Two, actually. These two teenage boys seem who use the same route at the same time I do to and from work, and love to play Polish rap music from their mobile phone, and rap along with them. For me, the entire point of rap is lyrical content so not understanding the words, and the hooks of this particular band being mundane enough without being filtered through a tinny little mobile phone speaker, I can't share their appreciation of this music that they obviously want the entire bus to enjoy with them. And so instead, I flip through my music files on my phone and start playing some J-core. Here's a perenial favorite that worked last time to get them to switch to headphones, because they're using some crappy little Motorola, and my Sony Ericsson blasts loudly and proudly. Sure, I piss off other people on the bus in the interim, but the moment they got their headphones on, I turned it off. So, yeah, that'd be my advice - fight fire with J-core.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:01 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I use my old walkman to convert bootleg tapes to mp3's via garageband.
posted by xjudson at 11:04 AM on June 29, 2009


I've still got my Aiwa, though it's held together by sticky tape and is in fairly poor condition. Man, I wore out a bunch of those things.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:05 AM on June 29, 2009


He's real, he's 13 years old, and he writes for Net News Daily: http://netnewsdaily.com/reviews/?page_id=87
posted by mike3k at 11:06 AM on June 29, 2009


But those radio ones are still way worse. In my neighborhood it's: music...music...music...[PIRATE POLKA STATION]...music...music...

I would listen to Pirate Polka, links anybody?
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:08 AM on June 29, 2009


In the seventies, I had a little pocket-sized transistor radio which I loved dearly. It ran on 9-volt batteries. It was shiny! It's my "rosebud."

I started with a radio that looked something like this, age 11 or thereabouts, 1970. My best friend had a little cassette recorder, kind of like this. We'd hurry home from school take up positions next to the radio, moving back and forth between the two local top 40 AM stations of the day. If a promising song came on, we'd hit record, and so on, skipping songs we already had, skipping songs we hated, skipping commercials.

The end result sounded tinny as hell but it was a necessary filter and, in retrospect, my first step toward taking a confirmed antagonistic stance against all the crap The Spectacle was endeavoring to cram down my throat.

The struggle continues.
posted by philip-random at 11:10 AM on June 29, 2009


Really, the proper way to listen to the radio was to have a blank tape already in the deck (wound up just past the transparent bit), with the record and play buttons already down but on Pause. That way, when your favourite song plays you can just hit the pause button and off you go (releasing pause was way easier than hitting record+play).
posted by Vindaloo at 11:21 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flash memory can only survive a finite number of reads and writes... the memory controller remaps memory cells as they wear out... -- posted by b1tr0t

Eponysterical.
posted by rokusan at 11:23 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I also thought the article was fake, but only because of the photo of the boy in question.

No boy who writes like that could be so unbruised and unblemished from the schoolyard.
posted by rokusan at 11:24 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Really, the proper way to listen to the radio was to have a blank tape already in the deck (wound up just past the transparent bit), with the record and play buttons already down but on Pause.

I knew nothing about anything. NOTHING!
posted by codswallop at 11:24 AM on June 29, 2009


bittergirl.com: (Speaking of, I have always had much better luck with my cassette-thingy-to-iPod converter than any of those radio-based ones...)

quin: But those radio ones are still way worse. In my neighborhood it's: music...music...music...[PIRATE POLKA STATION]...music...music...[STATIC CHRISTIAN TALK RADIO]...music...music.

After the tape deck in my Corolla died, I bought a Griffin iTrip FM transmitter. It never worked properly. I think part of the problem is my location. I live in NYC, one of the larger radio markets in the country. No matter what frequency I chose, the radio frequently lost the signal.

After a few weeks of this, I bought one of these. It works VERY well, has a strong signal*, doesn't skip stations, and even charges my ancient iPod mini while I'm listening. Unfortunately, it doesn't allow a user to choose a frequency -- forcing one to use the presets that are built into the machine (mine came with 3, but the new models have 8 presets.)

So, YMMV.

* The signal's quite decent. I plugged it the into the rear DC jack on my minivan a few weeks ago and it didn't cut out in five hours of driving.
posted by zarq at 11:25 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Before I ever had a Walkman, or anything with headphones, I'd listen to albums in the funeral chapel on our tape deck up there (which was always better than the stereo in the house). I'll never forget when my dad walked in on me listening to Eddie Murphy's "Comedian" in the main parlor. He stood behind me listening for a few minutes during the "Your Wife's a Bigfoot, Gus" part. When it got really raunchy, he yelled "That's about enough!"

He tried to be mad at me, but the truth is, he found it pretty funny, too. He took my tape away from me and told me he was going to throw it away because it was filthy and I shouldn't be listening to stuff like that. After he died, I found the tape while I was cleaning out his desk.
posted by ColdChef at 11:26 AM on June 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Somehow those tapes of radio songs, even with the DJ cutting in, or the start of an ad hastily cut short, or the missed opening bars, were just more awesome than the same songs in an iTunes playlist. Maybe it's because each tape was so unique, with your own personal fuckups and glitches. Maybe it was that those tapes always seemed to be of summertime music. Maybe it was because you had to put work into making them. They just had more character.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:30 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"You may now resume the line-by-line dissection of this 13-year-old's work."

Could we just dissect the 13 year old?


Seconded. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by rokusan at 11:31 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


>When people "call fake" on this, is it fake because it seems implausible that a 13-year-old would not be illiterate, let alone know words like "plethora"? Or because the default accusation is that everything these days is fake until irrefutably proven authentic?


When I was five, I would have thought you were being facetious.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I can tell that this comment is totally 'shopped.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:36 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ people, the kid is using fifteen-year-old thirty-year old technology and we're conversing reminiscing fondly about it.

FTFY.

What happened to the snarky metafilter I used to know?

Ask and ye shall...


Metafilter: Bitching about the good old days of MeFi where people were too snarky to indulge in nostalgia. November 18th, yo.
posted by zarq at 11:36 AM on June 29, 2009


A 13 year old listening to music on a walkman. Isn't that the very hipster aesthetic? Listen to Animal Collective on vinyl at home, and an ironic listening of Flock of Seagulls on tape when riding your bike.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:42 AM on June 29, 2009


When I was 11, I bought a cassette of Yes's 90125 to listen to during our summer vacation trip to the grandparent's midwest farm (listening in the back of the family station-wagon). And I hated it. But I had only a coupe of cassettes (oh, probably Def Leopard's Pyromania?), and, bitter that I wasted my allowance on this cassette, I ended up listening to it over and over in my Sony Walkman ... and. It grew on me. Over time, I came to appreciate its structure and brilliance. More than 20 years later, I still love it. This would never have happened if I had had an Ipod (which, of course, I now have).
posted by Auden at 11:43 AM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I once made a bike stereo with my Walkman and some Velcro.

Maybe one day Apple or someone else will have a 'smart' shuffler, that analyzes song content, mood, and lead-in/out, and make a keen-sounding mix

Isn't that basically what Pandora does?

Shuffle leads to stupid shit like Joanna Newsom -> Tool -> Godspeed You Black Emperor.

Hidden iPod touch Settings revealed (including Album Shuffle)
posted by kirkaracha at 11:49 AM on June 29, 2009


The first music I ever recorded was in 7th grade. I did this by putting two boomboxes next to each other, one with a built-in microphone for recording. I would record a piece of classical music or DJ banter from the radio, then play that tape back while another was recording along with additional music or banter. I did this probably 10 or 11 times until the end result was a kind of unintelligible college of massive noise, static, strains of violins and some radio show host talking about communism. This was before I knew anything at all about experimental music. I wish I still had that tape.
posted by naju at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


My timing was impeccable; I got a BoneFone right before the Walkmans hit the market. (Granted, it only played radio, but it was indeed a personal music device)

Oh, man, I had one of those things, and I'm still not sure why.
posted by malocchio at 11:55 AM on June 29, 2009


These "BoneFones", they vibrated?
posted by xod at 11:59 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe the point should be how hard we worked to get our music. It seems everyone now expects to have music on demand. Remember when we would have to wait to either hear it on the radio or go out the music store to buy it? We appreciated it.

Plus we usually listened through the lesser songs to get to the better ones (taught us patience and added to the anticipation). I see most people have a lack of patience now a day, so I attribute this to the digital age.

I remember buying records then going home to record it on to a tape, then finally being able to listen to it. It took work and I liked it!

I too have a large record and tape collection BUT I have to admit it’s nice to hear a piece of music undistorted or without a background hiss. But (I am sorry to open up this can of worms) a record or tape still sounds better than most mp3s (there, I did it). It seems that there could have been more discussion on the sound difference. I am sure that all of us who lived through the past 20 years appreciate the difference in sound quality and ease but someone that young does not.
posted by mighty wind at 12:06 PM on June 29, 2009


Auden: For me it was the cassette copy of Queen's Greatest Hits (Electra, U.S. version) that I received for my 9th birthday in 1983, along with my first Audiovox Walkman clone. This was right before my family left for a 2-week trip to Maine, during which I listened to that tape constantly. Every day, every time we drove anywhere. To this day any track from that compilation transports me right to Old Orchard Beach... I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.

As much as I love my iTunes metrics and huge capacity of modern MP3 players/iPods, I do miss how deliberate the act of listening to music used to be, especially vinyl. My nerdy iTunes approximation of the old album/cassette flipping ritual is to make a random smart playlist of favorite tunes I haven't listened to in a while, limit it to 45 minutes, and uncheck the 'live updating' setting. At the end of 45 minutes, I refresh the playlist, lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by usonian at 12:08 PM on June 29, 2009


This was before I knew anything at all about experimental music. I wish I still had that tape.

I wish you did, too. I'd trade you one of my lost ones for it.
posted by philip-random at 12:08 PM on June 29, 2009


I miss my Boodo Khan.

Holy crap now I know what 3D is talking about in those goddamn massive attack songs. I'd never been able to figure out what those syllables referred to.
posted by flaterik at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm holding onto a bright yellow Sports! branded cassette tape player in my high-school yearbook photo (circa '94), with one headphone plug out to me, one out to my buddy Joey. It was bought from a sketchy guy at the airport, was constantly playing the Pixies or Sepultura, and I'd duct-taped a pencil to the side for manual rewinding. That tape player (usually paired along on roadtrips with the most ghetto of car stereo cassette adapters!) was the soundtrack to my 12th grade year. MP3 players will never be as loved as that yellow piece of garbage.
posted by soft and hardcore taters at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2009


Summer of 1986: Tom Hellstrom gave me a tape of Loves Easy Tears, by way of turning me on to the Cocteau Twins. Fuck, yes.
posted by everichon at 12:23 PM on June 29, 2009


Y'know... I've got quite a few Grateful Dead Tapes sitting around... And if I look hard enough, I can probably find my old D-6 or my PMD-430.

Of course, for home, for the important tapes, it was a Nak ZX-7, although the basic Sony dubbing deck was used quite often...
posted by mikelieman at 12:23 PM on June 29, 2009


naju, I remember doing something much like you described. I had a nice little aiwa boom box that also got shortwave bands, and I'd pop in a blank cassette, hit record-pause, and then do a mix of DXing shortwave and scanning AM/FM bands, while unpausing and repausing at intentional and random times. By revisiting certain stations in certain orders, and pausing to hide transits, it was possible to create a kind of Burroughsian audio cut-up, where you could develop a call-and-response feel through live editing. I recall the sensation I felt when creating these whenever I see contemporary performances like the tech-assisted solo pieces that are now so wonderfully possible today.
posted by Pliskie at 12:25 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I'll never forget when my dad walked in on me listening to Eddie Murphy's "Comedian" in the main parlor..."
Heh, that was a good one. All comedy albums should be listened to illicitly when one is 10-15 years old, preferably on someone else's machine or in your best friend's bedroom with the door shut. Makes 'em sound a lot more badass.

I had an argument with my Dad once, then discovered later that I'd accidently recorded the whole thing on my Walkman Aiwa. At the time I was full of rightous passion, still mad at the injustice of it all - but listening to the tape was a profoundly deflating experience, because I sounded like a complete dick. Sometimes it can really help to hear things from another perspective.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:27 PM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm kind of curious at what age the skeptics here think the "literate" switch gets flipped.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:34 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


>> My timing was impeccable; I got a BoneFone right before the Walkmans hit
>> the market. (Granted, it only played radio, but it was indeed a personal
>> music device)
>
> Oh, man, I had one of those things, and I'm still not sure why.

I had a FoneBone. It was really a waste of money. The only sounds I got out of it were SHKLORTCH, FWABADAP, and GEEEEEEEEEEEN.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:38 PM on June 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


I call Bullshit on this. British kids don't use iPods. They use their craptastic mobile phone speakers to play music. To me. On the bus. Every single day.
posted by srboisvert at 12:41 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Interesting thread, but the main thing I'm taking away from it is the fact that public transit has apparently become even more hellish since I was able to stop taking it.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 12:44 PM on June 29, 2009


Headphones with orange ear foam. That is all.
posted by jeremy b at 12:48 PM on June 29, 2009


3. WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND A MODERN CAR WITH A CASSETTE DECK?

Most modern auto sound systems have a generic headphone-jack style input for an MP3 player... but, since the connector itself has not changed, you can also plug in... a Walkman!

N'hey, with the retro and the ironic downgrade and the legacy compatability, glaven mw-hurgn-whey!
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2009


WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND A MODERN CAR WITH A CASSETTE DECK?

2004 Nissan Maxima. Right under my CD player. I found it odd that it had one. Maybe for books on tape?
posted by dasheekeejones at 12:59 PM on June 29, 2009


Flash memory can only survive a finite number of reads and writes. A 16 GB flash drive has more like 30 or 40 GB of actual space. The memory controller remaps memory cells as they wear out so that you have 16 GB of usable space throughout its life.

I'm pretty sure reading doesn't damage the flash too much. Modern flash drives are designed to last 10 or 20 years reading or writing 100% of the time. With the use pattern of an MP3 player, you're looking at hundreds of years of daily use.
posted by delmoi at 1:13 PM on June 29, 2009


Misty watercolor memories: fall of '79 and a housemate's rich boyfriend had just come back from Japan with the first ever model Sony Walkman for which he had paid many hundreds of dollars. We tried out cassettes from each of our collections, passing around the ridiculously tiny-looking headphones to listen. I remember that it had a spring loaded switch on the side that would pause the tape and send to the headphones the ambient sounds it caught through its built-in microphone. A vestigial safety/courtesy feature?
posted by squalor at 1:14 PM on June 29, 2009


2001 Toyota Camry LE. ROCKIN'.

yeah, I've got my "Walkman" memories too. My first one helped me fall in love with old-time radio, my first recorder turned me into an amateur comedian, and then an amateur rock star.

There's a part of me that wants to transfer some of my own Garageband-recorded songs to a single cassette for the experience of finally hearing studio-quality ME on tape. :-)
posted by grubi at 1:15 PM on June 29, 2009


Philip-random, I think mine may have been a Sanyo as well. It was definitely a Japanese brand.
posted by Mister_A at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2009


Now, for technically curious readers, I've directly compared the portable cassette player with its latter-day successor.
He doesn't know that a cassette tape has two sides, but he uses phrases like "latter-day successor." That Walkman he's holding in the photo is a later model; the original ones were smaller, the buttons didn't protrude so much, and it came in a blue leather case.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2009


Just wait until he finds the AM/FM radio. Somehow this Walkman picks up internet radio stations without the need of Wi-Fi or a GSM SIM card!
posted by ALongDecember at 1:23 PM on June 29, 2009


He doesn't know that a cassette tape has two sides, but he uses phrases like "latter-day successor."

Why are these two conditions incompatible or incongruous?
posted by Mister_A at 1:25 PM on June 29, 2009


Summer of 1986: Tom Hellstrom gave me a tape of Loves Easy Tears, by way of turning me on to the Cocteau Twins. Fuck, yes.

Same here, except in my case it was a cassette of The Moon and the Melodies, autumn 1986.
posted by blucevalo at 1:30 PM on June 29, 2009


tippiedog, you lucky bastard. I wanted a BoneFone so bad, more than I wanted a Mister Disc. One was advertised on Starcade, the other I'm sure I saw in an old dog-eared copy of Playboy. Both, I'm sure, didn't work as advertised, but both have naughty-sounding names. Go figure.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:33 PM on June 29, 2009


graventy: But there's no fucking way that kid turned in copy that said 'aesthetically pleasing' or even 'genre specific equaliser'. Bull. Shit.

You do realize, don't you, that this is the logical equivalent of claiming that Bill Ayers had to have written Dreams from my Father?

FWIW: I wrote like that when I was 11. And talked like that. So, on your "Bull. Shit."? Bull. Shit. Wake up and recognize that the world, and the people in it, are bigger than your stunted imagining of them.
posted by lodurr at 1:34 PM on June 29, 2009


I'm still unclear on why it's so vitally important to smack down a nerdy 13-year-old's writings as "fake," but whatever floats your boat. Could it be that some of you are secretly worried that you've been bested by anonymous 13-year-olds in internet arguments about matters far more weighty than the virtues of cassette tapes?
posted by blucevalo at 1:41 PM on June 29, 2009


Kay, so I think I missed the point of this thread. I mean, I'm 18, and I remember my own walkman (seriously). So having a kid who's five years younger than me treat it like some archaeology project seemed wack.
Then I called my 34-year-old brother to find out what the deal was with this thread, and why people were so awed by it, and I guess it's just very nostalgic. Which I still don't completely understand, but maybe I will when I'm 34 years old looking at my first-gen iPod.

And about people trying to claim snarky comments don't still exist on metafilter or that mefites have "grown up", get real. Part of my personal growing up (I've been on the blue since the age of 14-15) was realizing that no matter how hard you try, there are a lot of assholes who will ridicule you to be witty. And you have to be cool with that because that's metafilter and that's life, and also sometimes they are funny.
posted by alona at 1:59 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born, as I can't imagine having to use such basic equipment every day.

Best. Quote. Ever.

Let's check back in with Scott in about 20 years and see how well it holds up.
posted by jadayne at 2:04 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"He doesn't know that a cassette tape has two sides, but he uses phrases like 'latter-day successor.'"

Probably doesn't know how to use a choke or make a station-to-station phone call either.
posted by Mitheral at 2:09 PM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I loved my Walkman, but I can't imagine going back to a backpack loaded with tapes and batteries!
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:12 PM on June 29, 2009


and I guess it's just very nostalgic

This is a recurring, and rather pleasant, species of MeFi thread derail. I am too lazy to link, but it's happened before.
posted by everichon at 2:13 PM on June 29, 2009


Here are two other threads that turned into charming tempsperdufilter.
posted by everichon at 2:18 PM on June 29, 2009


As a child, I would ask the coachman to sing aloud from the popular sheet-music of the day as he whipped the horses through the muddy streets.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:35 PM on June 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


Could it be that some of you are secretly worried that you've been bested by anonymous 13-year-olds in internet arguments about matters far more weighty than the virtues of cassette tapes? --blucevalo

Well, yeah. A percentage of the most prolific posters on all discussion boards, no matter how esoteric the subject matter, are 13-year-olds. They're the ones who care the most about the discussion and have the least amount of actual life interfering with their available time.
posted by Peach at 2:39 PM on June 29, 2009


2001 Toyota Camry LE. ROCKIN'.

Heh. I'm selling my 01 Camry and I've sort of been a wreck about what I'm going to do with my cassette tapes, most of which I bought from punk shows in '00 or '01 from bands that never had, and never will have, an internet presence. I mean, I can't just throw them out! Even if I have no way to listen to them, either!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:41 PM on June 29, 2009


A percentage of the most prolific posters on all discussion boards, no matter how esoteric the subject matter, are 13-year-olds.

Emotionally, anyway.
posted by blucevalo at 2:44 PM on June 29, 2009


"there are a lot of assholes who will ridicule you to be witty. And you have to be cool with that.."

I'm glad one of you kids finally get it...now get off my lawn and take your damn iPoddy with you!
posted by HuronBob at 2:48 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


and...
"I'm kind of curious at what age the skeptics here think the "literate" switch gets flipped."

For my generation it was at the age of 7, for yours it was at 28.
posted by HuronBob at 2:55 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


>: Heh. I'm selling my 01 Camry and I've sort of been a wreck about what I'm going to do with my cassette tapes, most of which I bought from punk shows in '00 or '01 from bands that never had, and never will have, an internet presence.

Rip them. Then somehow share the songs online. It's such a shame when stuff like that gets lost.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:59 PM on June 29, 2009


I'm still unclear on why it's so vitally important to smack down a nerdy 13-year-old's writings as "fake," but whatever floats your boat.

It has a certain movie plot quality to it:

The Walkman Dare

"Scott Campbell is a quiet 13 year old, but little does he know that when bullies break his beloved mp3 player his life is about to change forever. Unable to afford a replacement, his single father suggests he try a Walkman for a few weeks. Initially skeptical, over the course of the summer Scott learns to appreciate his Walkman and in the process learn a little about technology, a little about himself, and, with the help of the dual headphone jacks, just maybe a little about love."
posted by Pyry at 3:19 PM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


i'm sure the copy was edited for structure and clarity, but it would not surprise me at all if a well-read 13 year old turned in something very like that.
posted by empath at 3:28 PM on June 29, 2009


Did Aiwa predate the Sony? Because I just realized that's what I got for my $200+ dollars back in 1980.
posted by docpops at 3:35 PM on June 29, 2009


You sure? I was under the impression that the only thing that would really kill one would be getting liquid inside it- although replacing the battery must be a real pain in the neck.

The Walkman didn't rely on a screen to function properly. This happened when the iPod was in the inner breast pocket of my coat, and I leaned awkwardly. A Walkman would have survived that.
posted by Diag at 3:46 PM on June 29, 2009


Rip them. Then somehow share the songs online. It's such a shame when stuff like that gets lost.

I sold my old component stereo awhile back and later kicked myself in the ass for not doing exactly that while I had the hardware.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:46 PM on June 29, 2009


Reading this article reminds me that most portable tape players were just called "walkmen", much like MP3 players are invariably called an Ipod. Bullocks! Even my brother's new component receiver has the port switch called Ipod as the default. Are the companies in cahoots? As a parallel, I am constantly bombarded by seemingly free advertising for Twitter and Facebook. You can now find us on Twitter...

And for the record, I am currently listening to Dylan's Street Legal--- on cassette!
posted by captainsohler at 3:48 PM on June 29, 2009


You know what I'd like to see?

Tape drives that fit in one or two drive bays in a tower PC so that you can (A) rip tapes easily, (B) read old-school '80s data tapes and (C) be awesome.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:50 PM on June 29, 2009


I'm glad you all were child geniuses.

Honestly, I'm much more bothered by the distinct reek of nepotism.

Did newspapers print these articles 20 years ago? Any one of you write a long article about trying to understand how a record player works, and getting confused by the multiple speed settings?
posted by graventy at 3:57 PM on June 29, 2009


I still use a cassette player on long runs or if I go train outside. One tape, but it's got an am/fm radio (good radio in Chicago) so I can go a while. Still looking for something with a flash drive and an am/fm radio that can record so I can just catch something I like on NPR say or whatever and listen to it on a run. I've got an iRiver which does that, but it's got a hard drive and I have to handle it with care, put it in a baggie when I run in the rain, etc. And I still have to make files for the gym or the car or if I want to just hit the heavy bag and don't want Schoenberg to come up on random shuffle.
Really, it seems about the same amount of work as making a mix tape or cd.
The media has changed. And some other things are better (size, etc)

But as far as I'm concerned the logistics in moving around the music or program you want to listen to is still just as hard, it's only the nature of the problem that has changed. At least until you can make - easily - folders or packets that can link to the same song without taking up memory or make custom shuffles for certain moods/places/etc. and have it survive being dropped or getting rained on a bit, etc.
I think the battery trade off only works due to the ubiquity of power outlets. Very different story outdoors away from civilization (unless you've got a solar charger).
posted by Smedleyman at 3:58 PM on June 29, 2009


I have trouble believing that was actually written by a 13 year old.

From the article: So it's not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing choice of music player. If I was browsing in a shop maybe I would have chosen something else.

Maybe he was trying to write for a more mature audience, but how many 13 year old kids compare how "aesthetically pleasing" their gadgets are, and talk about "browsing in a shop"? Wouldn't it be more along the likes "it looks OK," and " when I was shopping"?


What's hard to believe about somebody being intelligent and making an effort in what he writes?
posted by idiomatika at 3:58 PM on June 29, 2009



dunkadunc: "You know what I'd like to see? Tape drives that fit in one or two drive bays in a tower PC so that you can (A) rip tapes easily, (B) read old-school '80s data tapes and (C) be awesome."

No data support as far as I can see (though it would probably just be a a matter of writing a post processor; you might just be able to feed the audio out into a virtual null modem) but otherwise here you go.
posted by Mitheral at 4:00 PM on June 29, 2009


Found the manufacturer. PlusDeck2c.
posted by Mitheral at 4:04 PM on June 29, 2009


I came to realise that I have very little knowledge of technology from the past.

The ... past.

*pinches skin, checks for folds*
posted by dhartung at 4:26 PM on June 29, 2009


The Walkman Dare

Worst Robert Ludlum novel ever.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:29 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


What? And the article has a guide to the Walkman's parts - eject button, etc.? Are you serious - kids these days don't know these things? God. I'm only 23, and I already feel like a fossil.
posted by Xere at 4:30 PM on June 29, 2009


I had this one, SRF-30w, which was just a radio receiver, no tapes. Great battery life and very light, as a result.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:34 PM on June 29, 2009


That couldn't have been written by a 13 year old- it didn't have the word "like" as a filler for every fifth word.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:42 PM on June 29, 2009


Am I the only one who sometimes puts their earphones in on public transportation but leaves their MP3 player off, to lull their fellow passengers into a false sense of privacy? People will talk about anything if they think you can't hear them.

I sometimes even nod my head a bit to the imaginary beat.

I'm a bad person.

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:53 PM on June 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


Am I the only one who sometimes puts their earphones in on public transportation but leaves their MP3 player off, to lull their fellow passengers into a false sense of privacy?
*nods head to an imaginary beat*
posted by Jerub at 5:10 PM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


goodnewsfortheinsane: " People will talk about anything if they think you can't hear them."

People will talk about anything even if they know you can hear them. That's why I wear headphones and turn the music up.
posted by octothorpe at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2009


We had some knockoff version of the Walkman that my dad bought in the US and brought back to our tiny town in northern Sweden, along with a few tapes of music (and commercials! I can still recite some of them) recorded from US radio. I think my brother and I were the only ones of our peers to have one for at least a year. It was heady days, even if it led to a ton of sibling fights.

I still have lots of tapes in a bag somewhere, but no way to play them... Last time I found a way to play one, I then spent months trying to figure out one of the songs, since only the very beginning of the song was caught from the radio at the end of one tape...

I keep looking for a cheapo Walkman at garage sales, so I can at least try converting some of my old tapes to mp3, but haven't found one yet. I guess I'll just have to spend the $20 or so to buy one online...
posted by gemmy at 5:13 PM on June 29, 2009


Am I the only one who sometimes puts their earphones in on public transportation but leaves their MP3 player off, to lull their fellow passengers into a false sense of privacy?

Also - holding your mobile phone to your ear is a great way to talk to yourself in public without getting strange looks. Depending on what you like to talk about, of course.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:14 PM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I still have a Sony Walkman. It's a later model one with a built-in recorder (comes with a stereo mic and has external stereo speakers!). I just used it a few months ago to play an old cassette of my sister singing The Rainbow Connection back in 1980 so I could capture it on the computer and merge it with the Dana Valery version she sang along to... and it was that merged version used for her father-daughter dance at her wedding.
posted by linux at 5:24 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Next up, Scott tries the Record Muncher for a week.
posted by Tube at 5:53 PM on June 29, 2009


Am I the only one who sometimes puts their earphones in on public transportation but leaves their MP3 player off, to lull their fellow passengers into a false sense of privacy?

I do the exact same thing. Only instead of going on public transport, I break into people's houses and instead of putting on headphones, I hide in their closet. It allows me to really get to know people.
posted by aldurtregi at 6:06 PM on June 29, 2009


"That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette."

I very much like the implication that metal is not like normal music.

Okay, I feel uniquely qualified to comment here because in the space of ten years I was (a) a precocious 13-year-old, (b) an early adopter of the Walkman, and (C) a Sony employee.

So, yes, kids do write like that, but the kind of kids who get 100% on all their spelling tests, get shifted into programs for "gifted students," win national spelling bees, play a lot of role playing games, and don't get laid until after they flunk out of university and take a blue-collar job because they spent their first thirteen years of school never having done any homework while still being an honour student, and thus never developed study habits. Or, uh, so I have heard. Ahem. Anyway, you should feel pity for this kid, not skepticism.

And several people are quite right about the dual plugs on early Walkmans being an attempt to keep these things from being automatically the isolation bubble that they soon turned out to be. Indeed, within ten years, by the time I was toiling for the benefit of Sony, they had totally abandoned that approach. I recall a demo video for the products (a three-minute loop that would run in stores) including the slightly socially troubling line, "Plug in the headphones and isolate yourself from what's going on around you!"

As well, the posters upthread who mention Sports Walkmans might draw blank stares from other readers. For those mefites who are drawing a blank, the Sports series were large, bulky machines with a casing of vibrant yellow impact-resistant (hah!), water-resistant (hah again!) plastic. There were a few brief experiments in making them in other primary colours (there were a few blue ones at least), but they were all pretty hideous in my view. The only exception was the top-end one, which came in a gorgeous slate-grey and had a casing of something akin to vulcanized rubber. It had an incredible coefficient of friction so it was well-nigh impossible to drop out of a sweaty hand while running, and the casing did have remarkable resistance to jolts and jars from being dropped. I bought one with the employee discount before I left the company and I had it for a long time, but eventually sold it on the black market in Tel Aviv, where electronics were incredibly expensive and sports Walkmans were unknown and thus quite a novelty.

Anyway, my point here is that I learned the product line varied far more from country to country than I would have guessed . I worked in Canada and thought the Sports line was everywhere, but it seemed only Canadians and Australians went for them, and the line was minimal or non-existent elsewhere. In the mother country of Japan, all the Walkmans in the catalogues seemed to be variations on the one or two top-end models of the North American lines: sleek black steel things, scarcely any larger than a cassette case. I compared listings once for the priciest, slickest Canadian model and its Japanese counterpart, which seemed identical. I was puzzled, though, as to why the Japanese Walkman was listed as weighing about 80% of what the Canadian model was. I called a friend of mine who worked in the service department and he told me that the differing cultural expectations went below the surface, literally. Japanese consumers valued these devices as being very lightweight, while North American consumers would pick one of these things up and figure its lack of heft signified it being a shoddy product, so North American models had lead weights in them to give them a comforting heft.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:18 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Am I the only one who sometimes puts their earphones in on public transportation but leaves their MP3 player off, to lull their fellow passengers into a false sense of privacy?

I do it so people won't talk to me. I figure they'll pick on someone else -- someone who isn't apparently trying to listen to something.

It doesn't work.
posted by grumblebee at 6:19 PM on June 29, 2009


I had the very first model Walkman that came out. My Dad had read about this new technology in Popular Science and knew that it was something that I'd like so he talked to our neighbor, who owned a TV shop and was a Sony rep. The guy put one on hold for me when the first shipment came in. I played that thing to death (it finally gave up the ghost after about seven or eight years). It was so great to be able to listen to whatever music I wanted, (I made my own tapes, didn't listen to cassette albums much) in stereo, anywhere! I got laid off from my first job in 1981, and back in those days (more pre-technology stuff) you had to go down to the unemployment office in person, stand in line for hours, and then answer the usual questions ("Are you able, available and actively seeking employment?") before the clerk would manually cut you a check. I took my Walkman with me and those hours in line became a little bit more bearable. By the time it finally stopped working completely, they had come out with auto-reverse models, which was a welcome feature for me because I always listened to it when traveling by plane or train, and now I didn't have to wake up and flip the tape over.

As far as that 13-year-old not knowing there were two sides to a tape, well, when I was 13 I'd never actually seen a car with a running board or a telephone operator plugging cords into a switchboard in person, but I knew what they were from reading and watching TVs and movies.
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:20 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll give him that VCRs, which he may have actually used, didn't involve any flipping over, but he should have noticed the writing on both sides, or possibly other hints from packaging and whatnot.

I'm glad he had help with this article, because his other reviews could use some help, at least if he thinks of himself as "unbiased" ("Barack Obama propaganda" sounds like it has a lean to it).
posted by filthy light thief at 6:26 PM on June 29, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "Also - holding your mobile phone to your ear is a great way to talk to yourself in public without getting strange looks. Depending on what you like to talk about, of course."

And then it rings and you rupture an eardrum! Haha that's funny when that happens.

Seriously though, I talk to myself pretty much continuously and I generally don't really take any precautions. I will however admit to occasionally, when I feel particularly embarrassed for my unabashed public monologues, pretending to be singing instead, like "*mumble mumble* I really should complete my masterplan for world domination today (*o shit there's someone*) #na-naa... world dominaaaytion / #naa-naahh... *whistles*".

It somehow seems less insane that way.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:03 PM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


And then it rings and you rupture an eardrum! Haha that's funny when that happens.

Nobody calls me :(
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:05 PM on June 29, 2009


God this post makes me feel old.
posted by WhySharksMatter at 7:14 PM on June 29, 2009


I consider mixtapes to be, by far, the most intimate of gifts. They have to be timed just right so as to avoid those big gaps at the end, and to make sure not to cut off the last song. And the transitions are important! The beauty of them is that it's a pain in the ass to skip a track. When you give someone a mixtape, you are trusting that they will love each piece of it because they'll need to listen to the whole thing each time. It's a work of art. Even more so these days, because it's so much work to make them, and to play them. I still make mixtapes for people every so often, but it's been awhile since I trusted someone with that kind of responsibility.

I <3 walkmans.
posted by lunit at 7:22 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, yes, kids do write like that, but the kind of kids who get 100% on all their spelling tests, get shifted into programs for "gifted students," win national spelling bees, play a lot of role playing games, and don't get laid until after they flunk out of university and take a blue-collar job because they spent their first thirteen years of school never having done any homework while still being an honour student, and thus never developed study habits. Or, uh, so I have heard. Ahem.

Are you me? It was a shocker to get to college (university) and realize that I had to study.
posted by octothorpe at 7:35 PM on June 29, 2009


I never really fell for cassettes. My obsession is with vinyl.

I think a decent factor for me is the art, in addition to the music. Owning a CD or cassette you don't get the large "so you can analyze every little detail" album art. When I recently read a Wired article about album art (and how artists planned to simplify for the iPod crowd because they see album art in little 100px by 100px squares), I sighed. I like having an amazing physical companion to amazing music. It's like having feelies for your favorite adventure game. It grounds it more in reality. Plus, you know how the brain likes to find meaning in things that don't actually have it? My brain would do that with album art and inserts in vinyls. I'd try to find the little easter eggs the artist might have left in when they made the album. Oh, and on that note- the inserts as well. In CDs you just have the short, flimsy little cover inserts, sometimes only just a single sheet of paper. But with some vinyls you get the big lyrics sheet +credits, and sometimes even whole booklets of art in the sleeves. I love it, and it's probably the reason I got big into collecting vinyls.

And don't get me started on the music quality, the most important bit. It is pure analog bliss. In fact, I made it a point to get vinyls of CDs I already owned- because I knew I was missing something. Playing Coldplay's Vida La Vida or The Who By Numbers, any number of excellent records, on quality speakers in vinyl is to die for. I remember seeing an article linked earlier this year, I believe on MetaFilter, about a scientist conducting tests on teenagers- seeing if they liked flawless, crystal clear reproduction over hissy, fizzy 128 kbps MP3s. When I heard the results were in favor of MP3s I nearly threw a fit. It's not because I felt any kind of snug superiority. I just feel bad that people haven't heard what they are missing, or worse. Just don't appreciate it.

I'll admit I've veered off this discussion slightly. But while I hate elitist attitudes generally ('lol, Facebooks sux and is for dumb teenagers!!' anyone?), the music format elitism is probably the most justifiable: vinyls and to some extent cassettes are generally better in their own way. As silly as it sounds: yes, I wish I was born in a decade where making a mix tape for your sweetheart was something heart felt and kind. Not ironic or 'out of date'.

I like having 16GB of music in my pocket wherever I Go, ready to listen and just relax. I can edit it, mix it, do a mashup, do an a capella, make a music video, make it the soundtrack to my own YouTube movie. But there is something to be said for the simplicity of putting a needle on a vinyl, or sharing a pair of headphones on a Walkman with someone you love. Even just playing an album (ex TMBG's Flood) in the order it was intended. Not in a hackneyed, discombobulated shuffle.

Oh, and by the way? I'm 14. 15 years old in a couple of days. And I do talk like this.
posted by Askiba at 7:43 PM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


grumblebee: "Am I the only one who sometimes puts their earphones in on public transportation but leaves their MP3 player off, to lull their fellow passengers into a false sense of privacy?

I do it so people won't talk to me. I figure they'll pick on someone else -- someone who isn't apparently trying to listen to something.

It doesn't work.
"

Ooh, that reminds me of my favourite public transportation- and portable music player-related personal anecdote. A couple years ago I was on a train to Amsterdam from The Hague early in the morning rush hour when it's not so busy yet, just half full of commuters heading for the early shift and maybe a few very zealous college students, until you pass by Schiphol Airport when all of the cars flood with people coming into Amsterdam. The other people in the four-seater booth on my side of the aisle were quite obviously white collar-ish co-workers who commuted together.

Then at the airport, this early twenties-ish guy gets on, sits alone in the booth parallel to ours, slouches in his seat and kind of zones out. Which at the time seemed quite a feat, as his earphones were BLASTING drum & bass -- or a very fast, aggressive kind of UK garage -- straight into his ear canals at sound pressure levels akin to those of a jet plane taking off.

He was totally rocking the whole British look by the way: buzz cut, Pumas, skinny jeans.

So then his mobile phone, which he had set on the little table, rings. Should've kept it in his pocket of course, considering the phone's vibration made the table sound like some sort of erratic chainsaw. But then now I figure the jeans would have been too skinny to accommodate such a device.

Anyhow, one of the co-working co-commuters went to the trouble of giving our mister Noise-Induced Hearing Loss here a polite little "erm, attention, sir" wave, and he is rewarded with a look that says "leave me in peace with my BPMs and my decibels, already, both of which happen to be of the same number". It's ringed what, maybe ten times now, you wonder if the beat-up pre-millennial Nokia even has voice mail.

So he sighs and reluctantly answers the phone, and is obviously met with the Mother of All Cell Phone Questions -- "Where are you?" -- as after a brief pause he answers, at the top of his voice and in an accent which can only be described as a cross between Begbie out of Trainspotting and a very angry Groundskeeper Willie:

"I'm on a trrain with a bunch of fucking WANKERRRRS!!!"

Which of course caused the entire car to erupt with hilarity. I kid you not, he even demanded to know what was so fucking funny.


I wonder where he is now.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:43 PM on June 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


It has a certain movie plot quality to it:

The Walkman Dare

"Scott Campbell is a quiet 13 year old, but little does he know that when bullies break his beloved mp3 player his life is about to change forever. Unable to afford a replacement, his single father suggests he try a Walkman for a few weeks. Initially skeptical, over the course of the summer Scott learns to appreciate his Walkman and in the process learn a little about technology, a little about himself, and, with the help of the dual headphone jacks, just maybe a little about love."


I have Nick Hornby on line 1...
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:44 PM on June 29, 2009


lunit: "I consider mixtapes to be, by far, the most intimate of gifts. They have to be timed just right so as to avoid those big gaps at the end, and to make sure not to cut off the last song. And the transitions are important! The beauty of them is that it's a pain in the ass to skip a track. When you give someone a mixtape, you are trusting that they will love each piece of it because they'll need to listen to the whole thing each time. It's a work of art. Even more so these days, because it's so much work to make them, and to play them. I still make mixtapes for people every so often, but it's been awhile since I trusted someone with that kind of responsibility."

I don't know you, but it suddenly occurs to me that perhaps I wouldn't mind marrying you at all.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:48 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Askiba: Most of us would have guessed you are young because you used the term "vinyls" to refer to LPs.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:01 PM on June 29, 2009


Entropicamericana: I'll admit it, vinyls stuck over LPs for me even though I know it's supposed to be LPs. Probably parental/social influence. I know it's not YOUR intent, but I'm not going to beat myself over the head for it. "You KNOW this, Askiba! C'mon!"

My friends don't even know what EPs are, for gods sakes. I should be happy I know this much =P
posted by Askiba at 8:07 PM on June 29, 2009


As a kid, I listened to SNx2OP. Very bassy.
posted by xorry at 8:21 PM on June 29, 2009


I remember seeing an article linked earlier this year, I believe on MetaFilter, about a scientist conducting tests on teenagers- seeing if they liked flawless, crystal clear reproduction over hissy, fizzy 128 kbps MP3s.

I have, finally, got myself an MP3 player (in the form of an iPhone), despite the fact that my first glorious MP3 hit my hard drive way back in 1997 (Primus - Tommy the Cat, 96kbps). And you know what I think is most important thing for me, that makes the biggest difference in the quality of the sound? Headphones. I've discovered that headphones simply kick the ass of speakers. I've got a fairly average $30 pair of in-ear bud earphones, listening to my 128kbps MP3s, and I'm hearing things I never heard before listening to the original CDs on my $700 stereo. I'm hearing instruments I never noticed before, I'm understanding lyrics that I'd always misheard. It's really fucking weird.

I have to say that tapes definitely have their place, though. I maintain that the only way to listen to Weezer's first album is to high-speed dub a copy onto a blank tape, then leave that tape sitting on your car dashboard in the sun for 3, maybe 4 months. It matures like a fine wine.
posted by Jimbob at 8:45 PM on June 29, 2009


So, it's like 2001 or thereabouts, I'm rummaging for useful shit at the local thrift store in Medford, Massachusetts. Kid, probably about ten, with his dad sifting through a cardboard box nearby have the following exchage:
"Dad, what's this?"
"It's an eight track."
"What's an eight track?"
"It's kind of like a cassette."
"What's a cassette?"

True story.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:59 PM on June 29, 2009


WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND A MODERN CAR WITH A CASSETTE DECK?


2007 Dodge Grand Caravan - stock with a Cd Player and a tape deck. Weird. I figured they were just using parts from the nineties.
posted by bradth27 at 8:59 PM on June 29, 2009


Askiba: "I never really fell for cassettes. My obsession is with vinyl."

Yes! Now that we're on analogue audio media in general, let's not forget the realm of audio production, as opposed to, pardon le mot, consumption.

I'm a musician, and I started out recording on analogue: on a 4-track cassette Portastudio like rongorongo mentioned upthread, as recently as the mid-to-late nineties.

Which happened to be just about exactly the point in the digital revolution where all the audio people started dumping their analogue gear for hard disc recorders and PC-based DAWs, with all the baby steps and adjustment trouble associated with such a major, massive switchover. Needless to say that I spent the vast majority of the past ten, fifteen years recording to digital media.

Now, many of you will know that analogue media still have their unyielding place in the recording process, if only in the form of high-end analogue multi-track tape recorders like the major studios use. Leaving aside the temporary obstruction that was the global tape crisis of 2005, tape has never really gone away.

Some artists and engineers like to project all kinds of mystical qualities onto the medium, much of which I feel is really superstition, or nostalgia, or both. But there are surely advantages to both analogue and digital recording media, and I do believe there indisputably are properties of analogue tape that are very difficult to recreate or emulate in the digital domain: for instance, transient (treble) smearing, non-linearity, head (bass) bump, and tape saturation. It's not like people aren't trying, however.

And I would gladly recommend that Ferox plugin, by the way; it's terrific at the saturation and non-linear response parts of tape, especially. Not so much the warmth, but there's plenty contenders for that role. Unbelievable that Ferox is freeware.

So, long story short, I got myself a reel-to-reel tape machine. A Fostex B16 1/2", 16-track machine with Dolby C to be exact. It's essentially a 14-track, because I won't bother recording anything on the outside (1 and 16) tracks, half of it will get lost anyway due to the age of the heads, which otherwise still hold up well, even if they're slightly woolly sounding (it is Dolby C after all -- the same as you got on the cassettes!). It's well upwards of 100 lbs, the tapes are expensive and it needs to be cleaned pretty much daily -- and demagnetised regularly, too -- but I love it.

Now, do I use it a lot? Well, yes and no. I still do maybe 75-80% of my recording in the digital domain, because of convenience as well as the other, very real benefits that digital, in its way, does have over analogue tape. I did record the bulk of my last album straight to the old machine though, and I still sometimes pull some stuff of it over to the DAW because I like the sound. In my current setup most stuff goes to both tape and PC simultaneously so I can choose whichever I want without having to rearrange cables all the time.

The kicker? I paid all of €250 for the machine. Did I not tell you people have been dumping their analogue gear for digital en masse? It must have cost orders of magnitude upwards of that when it was new. I still see adverts for "prosumer" tape machines like mine from people who actually expect to see a significant part of their original investment back, and apart from the super-high end machines it's just not going to happen, there is simply hardly any market to speak of.

I did get a little lucky though: not only did the previous owner -- who I found through the Internet and selected in part because of geographic proximity -- happen to be a co-worker of my father, but he was really knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, and he really does seem to have taken good care of the machine, as the last few years of use by yours truly IMO have proven.

So part of my motivation for "going analogue" if you will I guess was seizing the purchase opportunity, some of it was a curiosity for learning the ropes the old-school way, and some of it was a desire for a particular kind of sound. Part of it is ritual, too: as described upthread, rewinding tape takes time, time which can be like an aural palate cleanser or at least a moment to reflect on what you've just done, which simply doesn't exist with the instant jumps you get with digital methods. That's just one of many "ritual" aspects which really do influence the process.

But I must admit that a very large part of it, too, is the simple knowledge of using equipment which -- the B16 is from the mid-eighties, and I myself am of 1981 vintage -- is just about as old as yourself.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:04 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


To add a personal anecdote that predates the Walkman even, when I was 12 or 13, in 1966 or early 1967, I did a Look magazine modeling shoot for an ad in a freezing cold playground for what was, I think, the first portable compact cassette recorder available in America. I can't remember if it were Sony or Philips. Like this one but with a carrying handle. It was so new there wasn't an actual gizmo for me to hold, there was only a cardboard mock-up of this futuristic thing.

One of these days I'll ask somebody how to use one of those new fangled mp3 gadgets, they sound handy and convenient.
posted by nickyskye at 9:24 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


furtive: You need to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with just one or two tapes for a month to appreciate what it was like to have a Walkman.

This is absolutely true. I dubbed the first disc of this Paul Simon set my parents had (among other things) to take with me on a church mission trip. To this day, whenever I hear that album, I’m back in the early 1990s, on the dusty streets of Valladolid, Mexico – the Corona signs, the unmarked ice cream shop on the corner, the crumbling cathedral in the central square. Sleeping in hammocks big enough for two or three – the old women who sold them. The open windows, families in bare rooms, watching flickering televisions. The quiet.
posted by SirNovember at 10:24 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Askiba: Most of us would have guessed you are young because you used the term "vinyls" to refer to LPs.

They're not all LPs. I have a few hundred records and only a dozen or so LPs.
posted by flaterik at 10:28 PM on June 29, 2009


I'm 14. 15 years old in a couple of days. And I do talk like this.

And you sound 14 or 15 in your writing.

The annoying thing about the kid in the article wasn't that he was "literate", that's a straw man foisted above.

The annoying thing was that he sounded so fucking pretentious that you wanted to dunk him in the toilet.
posted by rokusan at 1:36 AM on June 30, 2009


Lunit: I consider mixtapes to be, by far, the most intimate of gifts

A chance for another link to "Cassette from my Ex" then.
posted by rongorongo at 2:02 AM on June 30, 2009


A friend of mine used to manually rewind her tapes by swinging them around on a pencil, to save battery life. She was doing this on the train one day, in the company of a long-time acquaintance, and she happened to refer to why she was doing what she was doing. He said "Jeez, I always thought that was just a nervous tic". He thought she was a TAPE TWIRLING LUNATIC. And maybe he was right.
posted by tiny crocodile at 3:37 AM on June 30, 2009


The annoying thing was that he sounded so fucking pretentious that you wanted to dunk him in the toilet.

Pause for a moment and think about how you sound right now.
posted by srboisvert at 5:36 AM on June 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


I <3>

I know this is supposed to be "I heart walkmans" but I always rotate in the other direction so for me it reads as "I nuticle walkmans"

posted by srboisvert at 6:44 AM on June 30, 2009


wow. it seems you can't cut and paste a scrotum without it becoming a mess.
posted by srboisvert at 6:46 AM on June 30, 2009


Here's to mowing lawns with Hüsker Dü's Flip Your Wig on auto-reverse. What a great way to spend summer.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:45 AM on June 30, 2009


"They're not all LPs. I have a few hundred records and only a dozen or so LPs.

flaterik, just so you know, us oldsters used to call them "records" not "vinyls."

Typing that made me feel more ancient than anything else in this thread.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:45 AM on June 30, 2009


And you sound 14 or 15 in your writing.

How so? I'd like to know.

Largely because I'd hate to fall under the label of stupid teenager again. No: I do not hate my parents, listen to Paramore, call people who are actually interesting faggots, and make Halo 3 remixes and post them on youtube. I hate to see such stereotyping, especially when I get shuffled right into it.
posted by Askiba at 9:00 AM on June 30, 2009


And you sound 14 or 15 in your writing.
How so? I'd like to know.
Largely because I'd hate to fall under the label of stupid teenager again.

Oh, no. Not at all. You sound fine, well-adjusted, normal.

What you don't sound like is a teenager trying to sound forty, the way the kid in the story does.
posted by rokusan at 9:08 AM on June 30, 2009


wow. it seems you can't cut and paste a scrotum without it becoming a mess.

...and other lessons of the cocaine-fueled Eighties.
posted by rokusan at 9:10 AM on June 30, 2009


just so you know, us oldsters used to call them "records" not "vinyls."

Gah, that was to askiba, not flaterik.

Now I'm off to wind the Victrola.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:18 AM on June 30, 2009


Now I'm off to wind the Victrola.

Alright. Don't forget to send your mother a telegram! ;)
posted by Askiba at 9:22 AM on June 30, 2009


Don't forget to send your mother a telegram! ;)

GREETINGS FROM SIAM STOP CEYLON AND CIPANGU WERE BEAUTIFUL STOP WILL BE RIDING HOME IN A DIRIGIBLE STOP
posted by grubi at 11:25 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


... .... ..- - / - .... . / ..-. ..- -.-. -.- / ..- .--. / -. --- --- --
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:41 PM on June 30, 2009


typo, sorry


... .... ..- - / - .... . / ..-. ..- -.-. -.- / ..- .--. / -. --- --- -...
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:41 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


... ..- .-. . --..-- .-. ..- -... .. - .. -. .-.-.- -... .-.. --- --- -.. -.-- .-- --- .-. -.- -.- . . .--. .. -. --. -- . .- .-- .- -.-- ..-. .-. --- -- - .... . -.- . -.-- -... --- .- .-. -.. .- - -. --- --- -. . ...- . .-. -.-- -.. .- -.-- .-.-.-
posted by Mitheral at 2:02 PM on June 30, 2009


Speaking of the Ghostbusters, let's not forget some classic Walkman action from Ghostbusters 2.
posted by inconsequentialist at 10:06 PM on June 30, 2009


ricoshet biscuit:
So, yes, kids do write like that, but the kind of kids who get 100% on all their spelling tests, get shifted into programs for "gifted students," win national spelling bees, play a lot of role playing games, and don't get laid until after they flunk out of university and take a blue-collar job because they spent their first thirteen years of school never having done any homework while still being an honour student, and thus never developed study habits. Or, uh, so I have heard. Ahem
Yes, well, um..... yeeaaahh.... though to be fair, i did actually work pink collar jobs for years, back when a man with the job title "secretary", "nurse" or "flight-attendant" was immediately assumed to be gay or somehow "othewise strange".


I fear that I might actually be ricochet biscuit and octothorp. or was, until my I and my walkman were caught up in that freak quantum-physics accident in 1996...
posted by lodurr at 5:27 AM on July 1, 2009


« Older There, I Fixed It - "Epic Kludges + Adventures In ...  |  Industrial Span, Dead Cars, Bu... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments