December 16, 2009

Shiny toys

In a time long gone and almost slipped from memory, I owned a cassette tape recorder that served the purpose of catching bits of melody that were in danger of fading from consciousness. It ran on an AC adaptor or two AA batteries. It was cheap. Tapes were cheap. Short of a reel-to-reel recorder, this was the best of all worlds in terms of personal recording. A few years later began the unfathomable zoom into the digital era and my little Radio Shack recorder was sealed away forever.

Now, I’m left to mourn a graveyard of obsolete digital technology. First, a machine – about the size of the pillow on which I sleep – with lots of knobs and sliders (not the local bar variety) that I never quite mastered, never quite understood. I used it, but only utilized a fraction of its potential. Looked fantastic, though – slick and modern.

Then followed the mini-disc recorders that used…well….mini-discs. They came in beautiful translucent colours. I used it, but the little buttons are so small that its compact nature was lost on me. I now use the mini-discs as shims to hold cupboard doors shut and to level light objects that seem, to my eye, to be tilting.

Another beautiful porta-studio joined the group. Necessary, of course, because it had MIDI capabilities. Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI allows electronic instruments communicate and synchronize with computers, thereby enabling all sorts of things that, like the aforementioned knobs and sliders (you know the kind I mean) I don’t understand. I used it, but never connected it to a computer.  Not to mention that I don’t play an electric instrument, save for an old electric piano over which I agonize to write little melodies – that is to say that I can barely play it. That didn’t stop me from buying a sound synthesizer that helped me create the sounds of waves crashing over sand dunes or tinkly wind chimes. I used it, but the sound of waves crashing over wind chimes began to irritate me. It’s sad that I ‘ll never again be able to go to the beach with a wind chime in my tote.

A Micro Track hand held recorder move in to replace the porta-studio. This was meant to be it. Loved it for about three weeks. Realized that the lack of a speaker made it useless for easy playback. The cute little LED screen was not backlit, therefore impossible in dimly lit rooms.

Interwoven with this assortment were several dicta-phones, the kind that slips in a jacket pocket. For rehearsal purposes, I loaned my favourite to an erstwhile – very erstwhile – colleague.  She took it reluctantly, swearing her steel trap memory rendered it useless to her. She forgot to return it to me.

I like doing things by hand – pastry-making, sock-darning, cat-patting, but I’m a pushover for shiny objects that seem to promise a new and better way of recording. Or taking pictures. Or watching movies. Or making expresso.

The beauty of these objects, I regret to say, is often polished chrome and/or fiberglass deep, and I am often too shallow to get beyond the attractive housings. Oh, I do use them – like a magpie does a dime.

Thanks for tuning in.


One Response to “Shiny toys”
  1. Jane Greening

    It does get more and more complicated and hard to keep up. Sometimes keeping up is well…not worth it. Try to keep the wind chimes out of your head.