Wednesday, August 5, 2009

MP3 X 2

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:MP3
I love electronic gadgets. When I was a kid, my imagination was fueled reading the comic strip, “Dick Tracy”. He had a two-way radio, which looked like a wristwatch. The idea that any radio could be that small was mind-boggling.
I had a radio my uncle gave me when I was twelve, my first major electronic gadget. It was a huge shortwave radio, it was just an all-business microwave oven-sized galvanized metal box containing glass tubes and wires. It had a twelve-inch speaker mounted on top and it must have weighed forty lbs. When you turned it on, you had to wait a few minutes for it to warm up before you could listen.
It gave me my first exposure to foreign broadcasts, commercial transportation communications, and best of all, rock and roll.
I didn’t know how it worked, but the sound was great, it brought me the world.
A few years later when I was 15, my first paychecks went for a stereo “hi-fi”. My stereo would play LP’s, 45’s and the old-fashion breakable 78’s. It looked like a suitcase covered with wood-grained contact paper. The ends of the suitcase contained the speakers, they would swing out on hinges to face forward or, you could lift them off and move them away from the turntable to give the sound, ‘stereo separation’. It even had an automatic record changer. I could stack four albums (my complete collection) on the spindle and listen to the first side of each album, uninterrupted. It was an hour of Bob Dylan, Donovan, Peter Paul & Mary, and Janis Ian. I could flip them over, reload and listen to the second four sides.
I set the stereo up in my bedroom on a flimsy stand. Several times, my basset hound Red knocked it over. Scratches on the vinyl music brought thoughts of my clumsy dog Red back to me, years after his demise.
Through the years, I jumped through the technology hoops; I bought new albums, then portable music in the form of eight track tapes and players, then cassettes. When we arrived at compact disks, I thought we were at the end of the road; technology was complete. CD’s have perfect digital sound; you could listen to them on the road, and they took up little space.
The first cut of the first CD I ever listened to was from an album I knew well, the classic Eagles’ hit, “Hotel California”. I loved the song and the group but I’d never heard all the nuances or all the guitar licks. I was stunned at the sound quality.
Over the years, Emmy Lou and I bought numerous CD’s. We gave them to each other when a present was required and asked for them when people wanted gift ideas. What better gift is there than music?
Now people download their music from the internet. They store hundreds of albums worth of music on their hard drive back-ups, often smaller than the size of a cigarette pack.
Emmy Lou and I again are jumping through hoops, keeping up with technology. We gave each other MP3 players for Christmas.
My MP3 player is just a bit larger than a Zippo lighter. It includes FM radio. I have six audio books downloaded on it from the library, and while I don’t know how it works it brings me the world through podcasts from all over. Best of all, I have all my CD’s on it including lots of rock and roll..
We’ve come a long way since I was a kid, My MP3 player does a thousand times what my shortwave radio did and weighs just ounces.
I still haven’t seen one of those Dick Tracy two-way radio wrist watches.. or comment on my blog at

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