Old Media

Old Media

Things I Miss About LPs

  • Big cover art. You could spend hours looking at the details in the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or feel overwhelmed by the lips on The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. They really have to be seen at 12″×12″ for full effect.
  • Double albums. If 12″×12″ cover art was good, then opening up a record for a 24″×12″ inner image was even better.
  • Innovative packaging. I know, the important part is the music, but still, I liked things like the zipper on the Stones’ Sticky Fingers, or Styx’s Cornerstone, which opened up like a book, or textured covers, and the like.
  • Occasionally seeing a note or the recording engineer’s initials scratched in the master disk, by the label.

Things I Don’t Miss About LPs

  • Skipping.
  • Scratches, pops.
  • Quality loss after repeated playing.
  • Having to stop in the middle of the album to turn the record over.
  • Damn cheap paper sleeves that tear if you’re not oh-so-careful when putting the record back.
  • Plastic sleeves that stick closed with static cling, making it impossible to get the record back in.
  • Having to clean the record surface and/or needle before playing.
  • Having to be careful not to dance too hard next to the record player, or bump the furniture, especially while recording.
  • Size: can’t just bring a dozen LPs to listen to while on vacation.
  • Wondering why the music sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks, then realizing that I forgot to switch the record player from 45 to 33 RPM (or alternately, wondering when Chrissie Hynde started singing baritone.)

Things I Miss About Cassette Tapes

  • Relatively easy to open the shell and turn the tape upside-down, to listen to albums backward.
  • Easy to record streaming content (formerly known as “radio”); no DRM, no fiddling around with shell scripts to connect to remote servers.

Things I Don’t Miss About Cassette Tapes

  • Tape hiss.
  • Mangled, wobbly tapes.
  • Tapes that stretch after being played too often.
  • Having to wait for the tape to rewind or fast-forward.
  • Having to guess where the song I want to listen to is.
  • Cleaning tape heads.
  • Wondering which of the 20 unlabeled tapes in front of me has the song that I’m looking for.
  • Forgetting to remove the write-protection tabs, then accidentally fat-fingering “Record+Play” instead of just “Play”.
  • Unwinding tape from the capstan when the player decides to eat a tape.
  • Wondering who put cotton in the speakers, then realizing that I need to turn off Dolby noise reduction.
  • Dropping the tape case and breaking off one of the hinges.
  • Few, if any, liner notes. Rarely any lyrics.

Things I’ll Miss About CDs

  • Lossless backup archive of music.
  • Occasional original packaging (e.g., Pet Shops Boys’ Very, with its Lego-textured cover).
  • No DRM, for the most part.

Things I Won’t Miss About CDs

  • CDs that skip.
  • Dropping the jewel case and breaking off one of the hinges.
  • Trying to get the booklet out of the damn jewel case.
  • Tiny font in the booklet.
  • Trying to remember how the booklet was supposed to be folded to go back in the jewel case.
  • Trying to thread the booklet back into the damn jewel case.
  • Fitting the outer ring onto a CD single so it’ll play on a CD player that only works with full-size CDs.
  • Long boxes.
  • Peeling off the tape at the top, and trying to get the residue off of the jewel case.
  • Artists who think it’s clever to have 59 blank 5-second tracks, just so that the last song can be track 69.
  • Artists who think it’s cool to have 20 minutes of silence in the last track, to hide a bonus track.

One thought on “Old Media

  1. O gods, CDs going obsolete already? I’m old enough to have owned a turntable (hell, I’m old enough to have played my parents’ 78s on it!), and I’m damned if I’m going to change technologies again, unless and until I have no choice. I’m too lazy to transfer all my CDs to MP3.

  2. O gods, CDs going obsolete already?

    Not quite yet, I think. And in any case, I like having CDs as uncompressed, lossless backup media. That way, if I ever decide to switch from MP3 to Ogg Vorbis or FLAC or whatever the Next Great Thing is, I can re-rip them from scratch, without the MP3 lossage.

    I’m too lazy to transfer all my CDs to MP3.

    It wasn’t too bad for me, but maybe that’s because I made a project out of it: I have a script that’ll rip a CD, and another that can run on several machines in parallel: it normalizes the ripped audio, encodes MP3, and tags the files.

    When I was doing the initial conversion, it was mainly a matter of listening for CD trays being ejected, and keeping an eye on the disk, so that it didn’t get full.

    But once I was done and had my entire CD collection instantly accessible on disk, it was like meeting old friends again. I found that I’d bought a lot of albums because of one good song. But then, for years I’d ignore those CDs because I didn’t feel like listening to the one hit song. But when I ripped them to MP3 and listened to them again, I found that there were a lot of good songs on there as well, that I’d ignored because I’d gotten tired of the hit song. (Of course, there was a lot of crap, too. There was a good reason I hadn’t played those CDs in years.)

    Now I have an iTunes playlist with the songs I haven’t heard in two years. I occasionally look at it and think, “Gee, has it been two years already?”

  3. arensb,

    You’re reminding me too much of my “scann the wedding negatives” project. It began simply enough: Buy a scanner, scan the negatives. Over the course of the project, I went through 3 scanners (did I mention the negatives are medium format and not in strips?), a computer upgrade, countless hours of careful gloved negative swapping. I also ended up writing a bunch of custom computer vision software for automated negative cropping and archiving.

    I’m starting to learn that making a project of something like that can be time consuming. Often instructive, but time consuming.

  4. Heh. I know exactly how you feel.

    One would think that in converting {LP,tape} to MP3, the most time-consuming part would be recording, since that has to be done in real time (one minute per minute), whereas splitting tracks can mostly be done automatically, by looking for silences, and encoding is faster than real-time.

    And that may be true. But between backing up the raw data, endless fiddling about with uncooperative audio passages, looking up obscure artists on the net, yadda yadda, it’s the post-processing that takes the most time and effort.

    I shudder to think what it would be like if I hadn’t written a whole stable of scripts to help.

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