If you are on the right side of 50, you have lived through a music migration from records to cassettes to CDs to MP3s. And if you’re someone who never throws out music in any form, you may also have 78s, 45s and 8-tracks. These days, I have to think of the vintage of the music I want to hear to know where to look for it in my house. Beatles – look for records. Bread – look for 8-tracks. Bee Gees – look for cassettes. And if you’re like me, you probably have bought CDs of your favorite albums from the ‘60s that replace records that have more skips than a five-year-old girl.
Because I have gotten tired of buying and re-buying music in different physical formats, in recent years, I have taken to buying MP3s of my music and storing them on my computer, my phone, and my iPad. I back them up on the Internet. But despite all this redundancy, I don’t trust digital formats. They’re too ephemeral. I prefer to have physical backup. That’s why I still keep all the original source material that the old music came on. I also buy CDs as a backup of my most vital music.
Back in 1972, I purchased yet another music source – a reel-to-reel tape recorder. I used it primarily for recording, but I also purchased commercial “albums” that were available in that format back then. For example, I have the Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Past” on a reel-to-reel tape. Recently I dusted off my old reel-to-reel, and played some of those old tapes, and I was surprised at the great sound. Audio enthusiasts insist that records have better sound than CDs, but to my ears, reel-to-reel tapes have better sound than records. More than 40 years of sitting in boxes has not degraded the quality of the tapes. Of course, my children look at my reel-to-reel as if it was a contemporary of Edison’s wax cylinder. But they can’t dispute the great sound.
In addition to music, being on the right side of 50 means maintaining machines to play video cassettes, DVDs and Blu-Rays, but that’s another story.
All this is why I have a home entertainment center that looks like NASA launch control while my son has an Ipod connected to a speaker and an Ipad to stream video. I don’t care. I’m not throwing out any of my music and video formats. Someday I may want to listen to my 8-track recording of “Winchester Cathedral.” What? It’s available for 99 cents in the iTunes store? Anybody want to buy an 8-track player?