2/23/12: The latest edition of Rolling Stone (March 1, 2012 – Paul McCartney on the cover) features a cover story titled “Is the CD Finally Dead?” The article rehashes things we’ve been hearing for years – that the compact disc is not long for this world. While downloads are certainly outselling physical product, and probably will so for the immediate future, don’t count out that little silver circle just yet. If the past has taught us anything, it’s that our society has always embraced new technology with reckless abandon. But, over time, we usually come to our collective senses.
I remember when microwave ovens first hit the scene (yes, I am that old). I recall watching a demonstration in a department store with my parents standing in awe, while the salesman touted all the wonders of this new gadget. He even scrambled an egg in it. Has the microwave replaced your stove or conventional oven? Nope. Scrambled eggs still taste better on my old stove.
When digital recording technology hit the scene in the Nineties, people threw away their old tape machines and embraced the computer and its ability to cut and paste instruments and multiple vocal takes seamlessly into a song. Yet, for all the bells and whistles, digital still can’t beat the warm feel of analog tape. And, there’s something magical about having to get it right the first time, and not having to tinker endlessly. The Grammy-winning Foo Fighters’ album is just one example of analog’s triumphant return.
What about digital photography? It’s certainly great to be able see what you’ve taken immediately, and to have no worry of running out of film. Yet, when you think of preserving your photos for future generations, how confident are you of that hard drive lasting 50 years? You’re better off printing them the old-fashioned way.
And, while some people are dumping their CDs, DVDs, and books off at the local Goodwill store, you might think before you do the same. We live in a world that likes to show off what we’ve got. Why do people get tattoos? To express their individuality (although, by not getting one, I’m also exercising my uniqueness). Why do people drive ridiculous-looking cars? Same reason. Yet, put your Ipod on the table…it looks exactly like mine. You may have 3,000 of the coolest songs known to man, but you have nothing to actually “show” for it.
There’s something about having a collection of things (books, movies, music) that is a direct representation of your personality. That’s not even getting into the discussion of the smell of a book, the act of turning the pages, and the feel of holding it in your hand. The bottom line is, we like to flaunt our possessions. And, while the current trend is toward eliminating the physical collections in favor of digital copies, don’t count on it lasting too long. We’ll eventually come to our senses – we always do. –Tony Peters