Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Old Record Player

The digital age is still very young, but already it seems odd to think that there was a time, not so long ago, when we all had to do everything without it. Physically the world LOOKED much the same when I was ten or fifteen - give or take a few hairstyles and chrome-covered cars - but it worked very differently. No internet, no cash machines, no mobile phones, only three TV channels and only a test card on them for most of the afternoon.
Take music. Since the appearance of the personal stereo in about 1980, we've had four of five generations of similar machines, leading up to the current wave of hard drive MP3 players with memories big enough to store the entire collections of connoisseurs far too old and wise to ever think of buying in to such a tacky fad as the iPod. (An Archos or an iRiver, maybe. Just because they're not iPods. )

Going back a bit before even the Walkman, my introduction to music was an old wind-up gramophone that must have dated from the thirties. It was black, smelt of dust from the felt mat on the turntable and of rust from its decaying mechanism. You could still buy boxes of needles for them at that time, in little tins the size of matchboxes. You were supposed to replace them after every use, but of course that was a marketing ploy, like the toothpaste adverts that show the stuff being squeezed onto the brush generously enough to make you pass out from minty-flavour overload.
We had a few wooden cases full of 78s that Dad probably got from the salerooms. The oldest record in that box, I think, was a seven-inch 78 called 'Dreams on the Ocean', a Victorian melody performed rather tinnily by a combo called The Kiddyphone Band. It's since been de-hissed and transferred to my external hard drive as a WMA file, but it's just not the same without the shabby label on the original record, which showed a couple of chubby elves gazing delightedly at a gramophone that some careless soul had evidently left behind in their forest glade after (one fondly imagines) an outing from Oxford in a long-nosed Bentley with a hamper of expensive wine and salmon sandwiches, followed by some genteel debauchery with a couple of waitresses from a posh tea room, involving the sort of external hard drive that all students are familiar with.
When I got my first record player for Christmas when I was about seven, the gramophone disappeared. I still miss it a little.

1 comment:

Sally J. said...

Hi! I found you thanks to boingboing's posting about your lovely Steam Trek film.

I can't believe you had a grammophone as a kid. I'm sure that had something to do with your love of things that are beautifully anachronistic.