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From Vinyl to iPad: How music listening has changed and I along with it

As most of you have probably already heard, the iPad 2 came out last week. It’s exciting. But honestly, every time a new technology or update comes out, I can’t help but get nostalgic for the technology I grew up with. Remember those days? Back when the “Zach Morris phone” didn’t seem so big, video rental stores posted signs that read “Be Kind Rewind” and you could look anyone up in the white pages to get their phone number. (Remember those?!) Now, I’m not recommending that we go back to the way things were, but I think we should take a moment to appreciate how we got from there to here.

Music is a great example. My quick Wikipedia search tells me commercial music purchasing all started with records (for the record, I knew that but I wasn’t alive in the 1920s when gramophone records first came out so I had to double check.)

Then, the 8-track popped on the scene but was ultimately brought down by the cassette. Then, I was born and so my first memories with music are tied to cassette tapes. I remember driving to the dump with my dad in our Volvo 240 station wagon listening to “The Big Chill” soundtrack. Much to my dad’s dismay (and probably the tape’s), I would rewind the tape over and over again to listen to the Temptation’s “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” When CDs became popular in the mid-1990s, I was flabbergasted by the ability to skip to the next song. I spent my weekly allowance buying CDs to, get this, make mix tapes with my boom box to play in the Volvo.

Can we pause for a minute? The mix tape: there’s nothing quite like it. More often than not, I was listening to the radio while doing my homework, waiting for my new favorite song to come on so I could jump up and hit “play-record” with my middle and index finger. Inevitably I would accidentally record a commercial and have to rewind to prime the tape for the next song and miss the beginning by a few seconds. I loved making mix tapes and I made them for every possible mood or time of day: sad, happy, dance, sleepy, etc.

Then came MP3s. Tons of music on the computer! I loved it. Suddenly, I didn’t have to hit “play-record” but instead just had to “drag and drop.” Better yet, if I wanted to take my new fun mix with me, I just burned a CD. The only problem with my “dance” mixes was that it was hard to dance with a Discman on my hip – the CD would always skip.

What solved that problem? The iPod. Not only did I now have a portable way to listen to my mixes without them skipping, but I also had my ENTIRE music library in my pocket. I could listen to any mix and even add songs to the mixes with a few clicks of the click wheel. Crazy! Then, as we all know, the iPhone, iPod Touch and yes, the iPad with a built-in iPod, came next – giving us the ability to touch the screen to select our songs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate my iPod and iPhone. But the fact of the matter is I don’t make mixes in the same painstaking manner as I once did. The magic of “play-record” just isn’t there anymore. Sure, my mixes don’t miss parts of songs like they did on my cassettes, but I also don’t get as excited when a song “comes on” either, because I can always skip to it.

Maybe you’re not nostalgic for mix tapes, but I don’t think I’m alone in missing technology from the “good old days.” Is there any technology you miss?

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