Part of a very long list of things that in their day – in some cases quite recent days – were the absolute shizzle. The bee’s knees. Aspirational kit for the upwardly mobile mover and shaker.
Some of these devices lasted less than a generation. Their lives were considerably shorter than the equipment they replaced, like telex and telegraph machines and hammer-action manual typewriters, which survived for several human generations. A notable exception is the vinyl record player, which while no longer the ubiquitous means of playing recorded music it once was, is enduring and undergoing a bit of a renaissance thanks to today’s music mixers and samplers.
This pace of change makes me wonder what tools we currently rely on will still be in widespread use in five years time. And if they are still around, what will have replaced them.
Recent years have seen the internet finally find a use – as a repository for all manner of stuff that can be easily searched and the information that’s stored in it readily retrieved. The ubiquitousness of information.
After a heavy Wikipedia and YouTube session a couple of evenings ago, I came to the conclusion that if the sum total of human knowledge and creativity isn’t currently already stored on the web, that day can’t be that far away. Frightening? No. Fantastically marvellous? You bet!
Internet search is amazing. I use it all the time for all manner of stuff both business related and recreational.
A discussion the other day with my beloved in a rural cafe raised a question about the health-related aspects of aspartame, an artificial sweetener. Seconds later we had an answer, thanks to a 3G connection, a smartphone and Wikipedia. We marvelled that not that many years ago we would have had to waited until we got home to do some research, and hope that our edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica had been published after aspartame was invented. And, of course, if we had remembered to do that!
Another highlight recently was “Canada Night” at home on Youtube. Music from my youth that has imprinted itself indelibly somewhere in my memories. It’s not just the music, but the circumstances where I first heard it that are particularly memorable. Burton Cummings, Ron Sexsmith, Joni Mitchell, k.d. lang, and Leonard Cohen starred. It was fantastic. I may have even shared a few clips online, thanks to Facebook.
One summer, as a 19-year-old, I spent several summer months working for a sheep farmer. His property was trapped in a valley in the middle of the North Island. Radio other than National Radio was unheard of. His shearing contractors had recently returned from Australia with a ghetto-blaster cassette player that was really loud. And one cassette. The Eagles “Hotel California”. Guess what we listened to ceaselessly for the next 10 days.
“On a dark desert highway, warm wind in my hair, strong smell of policemen rising up through the air.”
Despite that overload, I still love that album.
Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album is also imprinted indelibly but for different reasons.
One of my university flatmates used to play Rumours in an effort to either intensify the heat of the moment or to dull the noises of feverish copulative activities he was engaging in at the same time. I never knew which, nor cared to ask.
His bed was a double-size model with a wire-wove mattress and tired springs. He had made the “legs” for it out of piles of recycled bricks. At full noise it produced a symphony of squeaking metal springs, grinding bricks and a rhythmic banging as the frame connected with his bedroom walls. A vocal accompaniment was provided by the object of his affections, known in some circles as a “screamer”. Sigh.
“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here.” And, thankfully, it was.