April 5, 2011

From BoomBox to BlueTooth

This afternoon as I lay on the couch listening to NPR on my cellphone, my mind drifted backwards to a day when my favorite sounds came through a boombox. Now if you have no idea what a boombox is, then you are really to young to appreciate this written memoir. 

But just to give you some perspective, think of a time when there were no cell phones and the house phone was shared by everyone who lived in the home. There was no answering machine or voicemail, but a pad and pen laying next to the phone. Yes, back then we had to write with a pad and pen on actually paper.  And everyone in the house knew from whom you had received a phone call, either by reading the pad looking for one's own messages or by hearing the words of the person who answered the phone when they said to the caller, 'May I ask who is calling'.  Yes, this was in the days of polite etiquette, before Caller ID. Back in those days, you had to actually answer to phone if you wanted to know who was calling. And you had to answer the phone because the call might be for someone else in the house other than yourself. This was a time when you actually had to talk to the people who lived in the house with you because after all there was no email or text messaging, matter of fact there wasnt even a computer in the home yet.

Computers did exist during this time, but they were off in the mystery locations of scientific labs and used only by techs and geeks for crunching physics numbers and such.  I remember when the IBM computer came to the public. It was beige and bulky, had to weigh about 30lbs, at least......and the screen was black and the writing on the screen was a pea soup green. I also remember when no one really got the concept of the new computer that hit the scene a few years later called Macintosh, no one thought it would be around for long because it seemed to be just something for geeks and nothing that would interest the average person. If you had told me then, that Macintosh would, in a few decades, be the product everyone wanted in their office, car, backpack, pocket and purse, I wouldnt have believed you. And I wouldnt have cared because I had more important things on my mind..... like who was cooler Prince or Morris Day or how I was going to play the drums like Sheila E.  After all, I knew how to moonwalk and I liked a boy who lived up the street because he could pop and lock.

So the boombox, was part of being 'in'........which meant you had to have to newest and best music, if for no other reason, you were the supplier of sound for the household and those who you passed as you walked down the street with the boombox on your shoulders......yes, you could purchase the music from the local record store, but this was the age of the cassette and with a boombox, you could record the song right off the radio. The trick was to get all of they lyrics on the recording, but none of the DJ talking over the intro. There was an art to backing up the tape just enough so that there were no gaps in the songs on the cassette. You also had to make sure that no one was talking in the room while you were making your recording, since the boombox was not connected by wires and there was no such thing as wireless anything back then....not even TV remotes, all the of background noises in the room would be forever stuck on your latest music if everything didnt happen just right.....
But, if you were really talented, you could sit the boombox next to the TV and record the music off of the t.v. shows like American Bandstand, and Soul Train. If you could do this, you were almost guaranteed to have at least one song that no one else had on their boombox.

So fast forward to today, when this generation of mine has somehow made the passage of time into a world where music can just appear on your computer or cellphone for a nominal fee.  And most listening is done through ear plugs or a bluetooth. Yes, back in the my time, a good pair of headphones covered your entire ear like an ear-muff-suction-cup and had a cord which meant you couldnt go but a couple of feet away from the source of the music. Back then looking at someone and talking to them on the phone at the same time was just something unrealistic and only on the Jetson's.

So you can only image my bubbling joy, when I figured out how to actually get my laptop to make a bluetooth connection to my cellphone and transfer a podcast from the computer to the phone. It was like magic right before my very eyes. Suddenly, I didnt have to sit at the computer to listen, I could actually carry this podcast around on my cell. I am slowly learning some of this modern technology and just like Macintosh, I hope to change with the times for the better.

My only regret is that I cant still make a collage on the wall with album covers.............