Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My new/old wireless music player

I recently acquired a couple of pieces of technology that are pretty much at opposite ends of their respective lifecycles.

One is an Apple iPad 2, which I’ll write about another time.

The other is a product that represents a technology that was enormously disruptive to the music industry of its time. This product, and others like it, enabled anyone to listen to recordings of music in their home — no need to go out to hear live music, or to learn to play an instrument and make your own music.

I now have a Victrola manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Co. in 1917! I’ve had 78 RPM records in the house for several years now, some of them in album form, and it’s great to have a portable (well, luggable), wireless device to play them on. It doesn’t use electricity — just wind up the spring-driven turntable, put the needle down, and listen! What’s striking to me is that my new/old Victrola functions as well today as it did when it was first built almost a century ago; I doubt that my iPad 2 will be able to make that claim.

I already knew that the steel needles that pick up the sound from the grooves of a 78 RPM record should only be used once, as they wear out and a worn needle will damage records. One fascinating bit of information that I didn’t know previously, though, is that different needles will produce different tones when playing records. Needle selection is an important, and personal, choice when listening to these records, and I guess technology lovers of any era love tweaking and tuning their toys!

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