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The Future’s Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

November 24, 2020

Do you know what the fastest plane in the world is? It’s the SR-71 Blackbird. The Blackbird set the record for absolute altitude record of 85,069 feet on July 28, 1976. The SR-71 also set the absolute speed record of 2,193.2 mph on that same day. Of course, these are the “official” numbers. It’s likely the true capabilities of the SR-71 were never revealed.

Anyway, that was 44 years ago. It’s fair to say that represented the height of aviation technology. But, we don’t use the SR-71 anymore. It was retired for good in 1999.

I bring up the SR-71 because it’s a cool looking plane, but also to show that “cutting edge” isn’t always best.

I own an iPod. That in itself is considered somewhat old school. I don’t play music from my phone. I have enough trouble keeping the battery alive without streaming music. (I do stream baseball games, but they suck my battery.) I recently bought a set of bluetooth speakers.

These are Damson Jet Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Speakers. They have some issues. In fact, I think the 3.3 rating on Amazon is too high. If you get the speakers too far apart (like more than 18 inches) they have an annoying habit of losing the connection.

But, it works well enough. The iPod has 128Gb of memory. There are about 7800 songs on it. I don’t use it for much else besides music. The battery would drain long before even a portion of the songs were played.

While many of the songs came from my CD collection, even more were downloaded from iTunes. Before downloading and streaming CD’s were how we all got our music. Prior to that was cassette tapes. Before cassettes were ill-advised 8-tracks. And finally prior to the venerable 8-track was records. There were multiple formats, LP’s were long play. they rotated at a speed of 33 revolutions per minute. There were 45’s and 78’s.

I remember listening to my brother’s Beatle’s White Album. Rocky Raccoon was my favorite track. There are two major problems with LPs. The first is the sound. They work by a needle on the record vibrating to grooves that make the sounds. The problem is that stuff happens, dust, dirt, wear and tear. And albums had an issue with pops and cracks. The second problem is that they were made of vinyl. They were plastic. And plastic scratches. And if you scratch it too badly, the needle cannot follow the track and the record is ruined.

That’s what happened to my brother’s White Album. I was turning it over one day and I dropped it. I put a long scratch along side two. The album was ruined. I had to buy him a new one. But, he bought a tape instead. And it wasn’t even the White Album.

The pop and crack problem wasn’t eliminated when the music industry went to tape. Tapes stretch, they scratch they have similar, but slightly different issues as vinyl albums.

CD’s were the final ultimate solution. The recordings were perfect. No pops or cracks. Exactly as the artist and the producers envisioned. Streaming does the same thing. Digital perfection. Perhaps even the height of recording technologies.

But, there was a new problem. What would you rather look at, a digital portrait or a painted one? Something out of a 1200 dpi printer, or something created from oil and canvas?

Perfection has its place, but music may not be the place for it.

I inherited a record player from one of my kids recently. And last week I went and did something I haven’t done since I was a kid. I bought an actual record. Last year vinyl sales exceeded CD sales for the first time ever.

Among those 7800 songs on my iPod is not only the Beatles White Album, but an album by John Coltrane called A Love Supreme. It was originally released in January 1965. I was a one month old baby at the time. It was obviously released on vinyl.

A friend of mine who is an expert on Jazz music suggested A Love Supreme as one of the five most influential Jazz albums. I downloaded it to my iPod on his recommendation. I listened to multiple times. I liked it. I don’t understand it, but I like it.

When I went to restart my record collection, I decided I wanted to start with a signature album. An album that was designed to be listened to on an old style record player. That’s why I chose A Love Supreme.

The store, admittedly had a limited collection. They did not have my first chose Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. (Oh, and no White Album.)

A funny thing happened when I bought an album that I already own a download copy of. I found the notes inside the album.

A Love Supreme was written as John Coltrane’s attempt to put in music our relationship with God. The “supreme” he’s referring to is the ultimate Supreme. And suddenly, the album started to make sense.

I still listen to my iPod. It’s great to hook it up to the bluetooth speakers and play it in the garage while I working on cars or woodworking projects. And I still love my Jazz collection.

But, it doesn’t compare with putting a record on the record player and listening to it as the artist intended it to be listened to, pops and crackles and all.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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