Sunday, November 15, 2015

Old Media

There is a video going around of kids trying to use a Walkman for the first time. It's worth a watch because it's pretty amusing, although I'd like to see their reaction when they realize there's no skip or shuffle option.

I'm fascinated about things like this--technology marches on, and all that, but it's weird to see things that were commonplace not that terribly long ago simply become foreign to new generations. Even things as simple as landline phones, camera film, and radio dials effectively don't exist anymore in any effective manner.

As someone who is old enough to have been alive when the internet didn't exist, that's a huge gap. If you wanted to know who was in that one movie you saw a month ago, you simply went without knowing. Or, maybe, possibly, you would run into the library and see if there were any books about that movie, which was unlikely, so maybe you'd have to look for books that might have some info about some of the movies in the same genre--and then, of course, that's not worth it at that point. You can't just dial the movie up again and watch it; you were bound by the vagaries of the programming of the local television affiliate. Maybe, just maybe, if it was after 1985 or so you could go to your local video rental place and see if they had it there, which they probably didn't. Today, of course, it would take all of 10 seconds to find the info.

Still, old, outdated media not only holds a bit of charm but also some importance. We face a day in which a lot of media is simply going to disappear; floppy disks are already slowly degenerating. the important media has all been saved, of course, but, as history has shown us, it's the less obvious media that can be just as important. Even today, nearly everything is saved on a computer and relatively little is written down. How would things be if, like today, absolutely nothing except the most important things from the 50s, 60s, and 70s  were kept? There would still be huge gaps in what we now know. What if someone found a document that is in WordPerfect 3.0, but the manual for WordPerfect 3.0 no longer exists? No one is saving those.

Change is good, of course, and the less old stuff out there gumming up the works the better. And yet one has a sneaky feeling we should respect these details a little more.

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