Real to Real
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Damn this is cool. Sure, you’re enjoying the music but as you lean back in your easy chair your peripheral vision is entertaining by the slowly-turning wheels and the four twitching meters…and a couple of 120V neon bulbs as well, I bet.
Reel-to-reel was way before my time. I think it was the snooty audiophile format. But it looked cool and that’s all I care about. My childhood is filled with cassette tapes (you could see the pegs turning and get a sense of how much time you had before the tape ran out) and all of my comedy albums were old things on LP which had yet to come out on CD. It wasn’t reel-to-reel, but you had a tangible connection to the source of your music.
Now, music is…well, it’s just sort of there. I bought a CD last week. I handled it for the few minutes it took for me to get it out of the package and into my Mac, and then when all of the tracks had been ripped I handled it for a few seconds more as I put it back in its case and tossed it on a pile of stuff that I don’t intend to keep in the office. Of course, I usually don’t have any contact with physical media at all; most of my purchases are single tracks from the iTunes Store.
We’re constantly influenced — and limited — by the world we grew up in. My generation had absolutely no problems "getting" MP3s and file sharing because we never knew a world in which music was locked onto an album. Stereo cassette recorders were cheap and readily-available. CDs made it easy to zap straight to the track you wanted without having to carefully cue things up.
It’s also the reason why we get a lot more pissed off about copy-protection than preceding generations. The idea of not being able to copy things from any one medium to any other and rearrange it however we like is alien and stupid.
But we didn’t grow up in a world in which the media was completely disconnected from the medium. So there are ideas that we really can’t come up with. For that, we need to turn to the twentysomethings who may have never touched a CD in their lives.
It also helps to explain why the later generations seem to have trouble equating piracy to theft.
It’s not a lack of ethics…it’s a lack of that delicate abstract concept. Media — music, movies, even printed publications — have always just been there. It costs nothing more than the cost of moving bits from a server to a desktop, so what the hell are people getting so worked up about?
But we still think of a movie as not just a physical DVD, but all of the time and money that went into it. We might still download stuff illegally, but we’re probably not as likely to treat it as a human right as opposed to something we’re getting away with.
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