Posted by: Meg | 31 March 2006

fuck iPods

The first pre-recorded album I ever chose was Ace of Base's uberclassic "The Sign" in 1993.  I was nine.  I played it constantly on my walkman, when walkman meant portable tape player.  I hid it in my backpack or coat every morning because we weren't allowed to have them on the bus.  This practice of hiding went on until middle school when I realized that the rule was just to prevent liability on the school's part if it was lost or stolen.  Not a week has went by since then that I haven't used some sort of portable audio device. 

I had another walkman after my first died of natural causes, this one with a digital tuner instead of a manual.  All my friends only had cassettes at this point and we would trade them, pre-recorded or with mangled mixes taped from the radio.  The top eight at eight on the local pop station was simply the greatest invention of all time, because that way you knew that you could tape the eight HOTTEST songs without missing too much of the beginning.  Making a good tape when your main source was the radio required a lot of vigilance and planning.

I can't remember my first cd, although I know it came before my first portable cd player.  This first discman was like, not the first kiss but that first real kiss that stops your heart and makes you go all clammy and from which you will surely, inevitably, perish; all subsequent cd players will be measured against this one and will undoubtedly be found lacking.  I have had two since then and when they break I don't even try to find this magic anymore.  This first cd player had a digital tuner as well.  It was small, thin and round not rectangular.  Round cd players are common now but at the time they were very uncommon – they were still bulky and thick.  I painted a sparkling spaceship on the top, and when I broke the hinges it still held on for three more months.  I remember my last pre-recorded cassette tape; it was Presidents of the United States of America self-titled.

Then there was, of course, the internet.  Changing everything there was Napster, but there was also Audiogalaxy, a much more interactive site with amazing features.  There was and is Kazaa, Gnutella, BearShare, Limewire, SoulSeek.  No longer did you have to find someone with a physical copy of a cd.  This was an absolutely amazing thing for a kid who lived in the middle of nowhere.  The first non-pop thing I ever downloaded was Built to Spill's "Distopian Dream Girl" off of 1994's "There's Nothing Wrong with Love."  I think before this I had never truly understood that there were bands that really sold records that weren't played on the radio.  The rest, as they say, is history.

I'm not necessarily saying that I think the internet was the greatest thing to ever happen to music fans (it is).  It's definitely sucked some of the joy out of it.  People ask why I don't have an iPod, but that to me is succumbing.  The little girl that had to work to get a tape full of mangled radio copies would be disappointed.  It's too easy.  I am truly grateful that I wasn't born any later because I would hate to have missed making those tapes. 

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