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Saying good-bye to yesterday's technology can be hard to do
Nov. 1, 2010
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by Mark Ollig

Last week I posted a link on my Facebook page about Sony’s announcement to discontinue, or “retire” the manufacturing of their Sony Walkman portable cassette tape player.

Trivia answer: Kozo Ohsone is the person who coined the term Sony “Walkman.”

Some of us will no doubt recall when Sony introduced this new portable cassette player back in 1979.

My first thought after looking at one was a bit doubtful; “There’s no record button on it.”

It was, however, a very portable and easy-to-carry around stereo cassette player with adequately fitting headphones.

It used two “AA” batteries, which, I discovered, required regular replacement.

During the 1980s, the Sony Walkman cassette player had its highest popularity.

Before the Walkman, the only “portable” music player I owned was the transistor radio I carried around with me (or taped to the handlebars of my bicycle).

In the mid 1970s, former Holy Trinity classmates may remember my portable radio being present (and usually turned on) during a few classes.

I also had a Radio Shack Realistic CTR-41 cassette tape recorder I liked a lot.

A person could walk around with this cassette recorder while it played music, so it was in a sense, “portable,” but one needed to keep from jostling it about so the tape wouldn’t wobble around and affect the audio play-back quality. All in all, it was a well-made, compact cassette recorder.

Back in the day, our music was on vinyl records, 8-track tape cartridges, or cassette tapes. We bought them in the retail stores, or signed up for memberships in record and tape clubs, like Columbia House.

How many of you recall mailing out for tapes or record albums after watching those infamous 1970s K-tel commercials on television?

I sense we have some of the young folks scratching their heads.

Ah yes, well, if you want to see one of those vintage 1976 K-tel television commercials, check out http://goo.gl/vRle.

I remember folks recording music to cassette tapes using a dual cassette tape deck. One would copy the pre-recorded music cassette onto a blank cassette and share it with friends.

Being the ever-resourceful generation, we learned how to record songs off the radio, vinyl records, and pre-recorded cassette tapes, and onto blank cassette tapes.

Remember, kids, in the mid 1970s, we didn’t have an iTunes to download music and sync it to an iPod.

There was no BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing protocol or pirated music sharing websites like Napster (which was sued by record companies and forced to shut down in 2001).

If members of my generation are feeling a bit nostalgic, you can watch videos of those old vintage cassette recorders on YouTube.

YouTube has many videos uploaded from people proudly showing off their working vintage cassette recorders. Several give details about AC and DC bias source recorders and provide a bit OF history about them.

My first recollection of tube and transistor radios, portable reel-to-reel tape recorders, dial telephones, 8-track tape decks and stereo consoles playing 45 rpm and LP 33 1/3 rpm vinyl records was during the 1960s.

No, I don’t remember people playing Thomas Edison 78 rpm records – although I do have one.

The technology kept improving during the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and the ‘00’s.

Gosh, that’s five decades worth of technology I have lived through (so far).

It’s actually six decades, if you count the two years of the 1950s I lived in.

Not that I’m counting.

So, how do you feel about living through the years of dealing with changes in technology?

I sometimes find it challenging . . . but when I understand, it becomes very satisfying learning about a new technology or what the next futuristic gadget is.

The improvements in the computing, digital, wireless, optical, and new organic technologies we unquestionably will be seeing in the future are worth looking forward to.

Of course, some of us like to reminisce nostalgically about past technology and the electronic devices we used from yesteryear.

Your technologically retro-columnist, wonders what the young people of today will feel about the electronic computing devices they are currently using, say 30 years from now.

In the future, when the announcement is made that the iPod and iPhone have become obsolete and will no longer be manufactured, I wonder how today’s young people will react.

Will they feel nostalgic about these devices in the same manner some of us feel about our 8-track tape players, vintage reel-to-reel and cassette tape recorders, turntables and vinyl records?

My old Sony Walkman player is stored in a box someplace, no doubt gathering dust along with my collection of cassette tapes from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

It probably still has a Doobie Brothers cassette tape in it.

As 2010 comes to a close, all of us can look ahead in anticipation to ground-breaking technological developments and the highly-advanced new gadgets we will marvel over.

My friend, Randy Lachermeier, posted this Facebook message to me, “I wish I had been born a hundred years into the future. I love technology, and can’t wait for the next new gadget to come out.”

I totally agree with you, Randy.


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