IPod V. Walkman
Saturday, July 04, 2009 at 11:09 AM EDT
The BBCâ€™s News Magazine has an entertaining article on the results of a comparative test of old and new technology. The Sony WalkmanÂ® was introduced 30 years ago, while Appleâ€™s iPodÂ® is, of course, relatively recent. The magazine persuaded 13-year-old Scott Campbell to swap his iPod for a week, to try out a Walkman.
Scottâ€™s first reaction was to the size of the Walkman:
Of course the Walkman is bigger, a fact amplified by comparison to the iPod. It occurred to me to wonder how Scott would react to seeing my TEAC reel-to-reel studio recorder; itâ€™s bigger than the Manhattan White Pages, and considerably heavier.
Not unusally for a teenage user, fashion was something of a consideration:
But the most amusing part, to me, was the cross-generational conflict of assumptions that Scott sometimes had to overcome. For example, he didnâ€™t initially realize that the cassette tape had two sides (and therefore had to be flipped in the Walkman model he was using, which didnâ€™t have auto-reverse). An artifact of the difference between two recording technologies (ordinary and CrO2 recording tape) also proved a bit puzzling:
Itâ€™s a funny reminder of how something that seems completely obvious at one time (like the function of that switch â€” having lived through the switch to cassette tapes, I knew at once what it was) can be close to opaque not very much later. There are lots of other everyday candidates for this kind of puzzlement: I wonder how long it will be before the phrase â€œa broken recordâ€ becomes mysterious.
I had a similar experience a few years ago, when I had just moved into a new office, and was unpacking a carton of old stuff. One of the things in the carton happened to be my trusty Keuffel & Esser slide rule. A younger colleague of mine asked, â€œWhatâ€™s that?â€ On being told that, â€œItâ€™s a slide rule, silly,â€ he told me he had never seen one before. So I showed it to him, and explained the basics of how it worked (by adding logarithms); he was then really impressed, because I actually knew how to use it.
Looking around me, I can see some other possibilities, too. Computer techonology is too easy a target, like shooting fish in a barrel, but there are others. There is my Hermes portable typewriter, which I got when I was in high school. There is the aforementioned TEAC tape deck. And, in some ways perhaps most potentially puzzling of all, my old Exacta 35mm SLR, which is not only a film camera, but was manufactured in East Germany, â€œdie sogennante DDRâ€. Oh, and I still have my little portable Toshiba cassette player.
Here is part of Scottâ€™s conclustion, in case there are some of you that donâ€™t feel quite old enough yet:
This article originally appeared on Rich's Random Walks.