Monday, October 25, 2010

Goodbye, Walkman

Last week, Sony announced the death of the Walkman. As someone over 40, I remember the birth of it quite well.

The early 80's were a time of fun. They were also a time for great music. New Wave and Punk took off in the late 70's and reached their potential in the 80's. Rock music was yielding to Hair bands and metal, and soul was moving into rap. The cassette tape was quickly becoming the medium of choice for high school kids wanting their own soundtrack, and the boom boxes were born.

There were a few problems with the boom boxes, though. First, was the size. They really were pretty darned big (and some got HUGE). Then there was the cost; they weren't cheap. Then, to add to it, they took huge D-cell batteries which were expensive and didn't last all that long. I remember a kid in high school who carried his boom box with him everywhere he went. He always had it in class with him, obediently keeping it off to keep from having it seized and sent to the office. Oddly enough, the kid never got it taken away, and only played it (at a low volume) at lunch and before/after school.

The utility of having your own music with you was not lost on us kids. We all wanted that, but what we didn't want was to have to carry a suitcase-sized device with us everywhere we went. Then came the Walkman.

The Walkman was the first viable portable music device. Batteries were still not nearly as good as they are today, so keeping a Walkman working was quite expensive, but to have your own music, on cassette, with you at all times? Why, that was priceless!

I got my first SONY Walkman when I graduated from Marine Boot Camp in 1987. I bought it at the exchange within hours of graduating. I had made a point of making it the first thing I purchased with my first official paycheck. It cost me around $150, but I didn't care. It was cool, it was small, and it was mine.

That SONY Walkman lasted me at least 15 years. The last time I saw it, it was in my daughter's bedroom, and she was using it (this was about 7 years ago). I'm sure it's still around somewhere, buried in some closet or at the bottom of some box.

When the iPod was released nine years ago, the second-to-last nail was placed in the Walkman's coffin. It wasn't until last week that it was truly nailed shut, thrown into a hole in ground, and covered up with six feet of dirt. Regardless, the Walkman will always hold a special place in my music-loving heart as the first truly portable music player.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Apple as Big Brother

There's an excellent post on Gizmodo about how Apple has turned into the very thing they advertised against 25 years ago in their iconic "Big Brother" commercials. Back in the 80's, the commercials were aimed at IBM, then the world's largest PC and computer maker. Today, IBM is bigger in point-of-sale machines and business servers than in PC's, and companies like HP, Dell, and Gateway are leaders in the PC market. Apple, however, is making up for lost time through their iPhone, iPad, and Mac notebooks.

Their latest step into making more money, the Mac App Store, feels more and more like big brother and less like the company Apple wanted to be way back when. They are closed, rife with censorship, and more tightly controlling than any other company on the planet (save for some defense contractors, but I think Apple gives them a run for their money).

I won't go into everything that the article on Gizmodo goes into, but suffice it to say, I'm still shying away from any future Apple purchases, and the latest step by Apple with their Mac App Store more firmly cements my distaste for their business practices.