Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A broken record

I knew a guy at my previous job who loved technology. ("Love" actually may be too weak a word to properly explain.)  One time when a few of us were going to lunch, he was explaining how much better certain stereos and sound systems made old recordings.

Someone else in the car remarked that he'd always heard it was best to listen to a song in its original format -- vinyl, for instance.

This guy glanced up in his rear view mirror and said, "A scratchy record may be the way kids in 60s heard the Beatles, but an iPod and digital sound system is how people standing in the recording studio heard them."

I don't know what the deal is about people obsessed with the past.  Maybe it's the uncertainty of our times -- as the guy on Dlisted would say, IN THIS ECONOMY -- and no more needs to be said. 

Maybe it's Mad Men, though I'm inclined to think anyone who has really watched Mad Men gets that it's not nostalgia for a bygone era that fans love, but getting to see our parents and grandparents behaving badly (in fact, much worse than we ever have) back when they were our ages.  (Also Jon Hamm looking pretty in a suit.)  I don't know about you all, but I'm a big fan all those sexual harassment lawsuit precedents that remind folks it's not okay to wrestle a girl to the floor in her office and lift up her skirt to find out what color her underoos are.  I may long for a couple of Betty Draper's dresses, but certainly not her life.  

But some things have me baffled.

My very first camera was literally a "vintage" camera.  ("Vintage" as defined by hipsters.)  My dad used it when he was in college, and for the record, my dad celebrated his 40th high school reunion my senior year.  You had to search high and low to find the right film because no one made it and photos printed out on 5x5 paper even though the viewfinder was a rectangle.  As you can imagine, most of my pictures were crap.  The idea that I would trade my new digital camera -- or more realistically, the camera on my phone -- for that piece, just because of nostalgia, is pretty ridiculous.  I may want to keep that camera on a shelf for old times' sake, but if a memory were worth capturing, I think I'd use the equipment capable of getting the job done.

The fact is, technology does make our lives better, and not just in computery-ways.  (Though I'd also like to meet the person who prefers liquid paper to a delete key.)  Better running shoes.  Better windshield wipers.  Better phones.  Better bras.  Better pens.  Better lead-free-everything.  Washing machines.  Vacuums.  Kitchenaids.  Duct tape.  Screwdrivers with five different heads instead of five different screwdrivers.  Better medicine.  Better mattresses.  Better light bulbs.  Need I go on?   

Maybe someone else can explain this fascination with the decades of "socks that don't stay up/maxi pads the size of bricks/subpar dentistry," because I am just going in circles here.


  1. I'm glad "better bras" were on your list, because all I could think of when you brought up Mad Men was how glad I am that I don't live in a time where cones are the ideal shape.

    I now have that technology song from Napoleon Dynamite stuck in my head.

    I have to admit, I don't get a lot of the old stuff is rad thing (like when you were talking about vintage or "vintage" plumbing. That's really something I want state of the art), but some things I do like. Like cameras. I like the ancient SLR camera I have (it's from pre-light meter days; it used to belong to my grandpa) because there's something about taking a picture and telling the camera just what I want it to do, and not the camera telling me what to do. But maybe that's just because I'm bossy.

  2. I love me some technology and women's rights and what not, but I do kind of swoon over some old things. They just feel sturdier, like they expected them to able to last through the nuclear apocalypse. My in-laws used to have this giant monstrosity of a waffle iron, ugly as hell, but it lasted over 40 years before it died. Nothing lasts like that anymore. Plus, much as I love all the crazy computer chips in everything, I also like knowing how something works or even having confidence that if it breaks, it could conceivably be fixed by changing a gizmo.

    Also, I watch too much sci-fi, and am slightly afraid of what will happen when technology can kill us all. Commercials about how smart phones are scare the bejezzus out of me.

    I say on my laptop, with my ipod charging next to me, like a good little hypocrite.

  3. I don't get some people's obsession with "vintage" either. I just figure I'm not hip enough to get it. Which I'm fine with.

  4. Because the alternative is looking toward the future like they did in the 80s, then you get The Black Eyed Peas' Super Bowl Halftime show.

  5. 1. I love your thing with the use of the word "vintage."
    2. God bless "better bras."