Random Thoughts

The magic of music

... from 78's to Ipods

Eleanor Jenkins

As I was going to Saint Ives -- ooops, wrong story. I was on the Acela from Philly to Boston  and of course Melrose. As we stopped in New York’s Penn Station, a young woman boarded the train sat down beside me. I looked up from my book about Rumpole of the Bailey and his wife -- she who must be obeyed long enough to say hello and a little small talk. My seatmate had been visiting her family in New York City and was on her way back to Harvard Law School. After stowing her luggage, she pulled out a small disc about 1˝" x 1˝", hooked up her earphones and sat back and relaxed. She was entertained with music all the way to Boston coming from this little object no bigger than a 50 cent piece. Of course, I had gone back to my book and let my mind wander, thinking about my anticipated visit with my daughter and friends in Melrose.

As I glanced again at that small object in my traveling companion's lap, I couldn’t help remembering back to the first big recording I purchased back in 1947. I was working in one of the department stores in downtown Philly. I worked the bookkeeping department on the fifth floor the store, but the remainder of the  floor was the record department which probably would be about the size of half of a city block. My brother had wanted a specific album for his birthday.

One day at lunch, I searched the aisles of the department and found the particular album. When I picked it up, golly, it seemed to weigh a ton but I carried it off to the back of the department to one of the four soundproof booths. Inside the booth, I opened the album, removed one of  the eight records from its paper sleeve, placed it on a turntable, turned the player on, carefully placed the needle on the edge as the record was spinning and listened carefully to this first side of the first record of the album. Three minutes later, I turned the record over and listened to the second side. Satisfied that there were no scratches, I placed the record back into the paper sleeve and returned the album to one of the six salesmen who worked in that department. He set it aside for me.

For the next week, I spent part of my lunch hour each day listening to at least one side of a record in that album until I had heard all of them and was satisfied that they were all in perfect condition. It was then that I made my purchase of $7.95. (At that time I was earning $0.25 per hour so that represented a week's pay.)

I was chatting with Steve and Karen about this when Steve said “Let me show you how we buy our music today". We ran upstairs to his computer room -- (well they ran, I trudged up the stairs). He went to his computer and opened Itunes. Almost immediately his monitor was filled with lists of titles of songs and names of the artists who perform the songs. He knew what song and artist he was interested in purchasing, scrolled down the list, until  he found it. He was able to listen to at least one minute of the tune to be sure that was the one he wanted. Then he clicked on it again for purchase. After he typed in pertinent purchase information such as his credit card number, the song was downloaded to his computer. Then he down-loaded his purchase to his IPOD -- all done in less than five minutes. We did look for the album I had purchased back in 1947 -- we heard about five seconds of it, but it was not available for purchase. Sorry about that.

Steve’s IPOD is a little larger than my traveling companion’s, but he told me that he had 3465 songs on it and there is room for lots more. For what they now have, they could listen for 9.2 days and never hear the same song twice.

Their collection is sorted into folders to select from the menu according the mood. For example there is one folder of songs they like to listen to while reading, another could be for walking with Russell (the dog), Karen has an assortment of her favorites and Steve has his own best bets. Certainly this has come a long way since the introduction of even the Walkman which was popular just a few short years ago.

I still have stacks of 78’s, 33’s and 45’s. My kids thought they were doing me a favor a few years ago with a new entertainment center. I can play tapes, 33’s and 45’s but the collections of Classical Music, Glen Miller and Benny Goodman and even Spike Jones are gathering dust. Maybe an IPOD would be the way to go, it wouldn't collect dust.

October 3, 2008

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