Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

A stark reminder comes along every now and then that I'm not perched on technology's cutting edge.

Take CD players - if you try to buy one these days you'll discover that somebody must have taken them.

I wasn't quick to climb aboard the compact disk bandwagon in the '80s. My music inventory was tied up in vinyl and cassettes. But it was getting to the point where the record stores (remember them?) were offering practically nothing but CDs, so I acquiesced.

Over the next couple of decades, I built my CD collection to the

exclusion of all other sound delivery systems. Old records were boxed up

and closeted - the indispensable albums I repurchased on disk.

The next revolution snuck up on me. People started "downloading"

music and walking around with their entire collections stored on

handheld gadgets.

I ignored the wonder of that in my leave-well-enough-alone fashion.

But I did appreciate the notion behind newfangled MP3 files because

dozens of songs could be stored on a single CD.

I didn't know how to create MP3 disks (my experience with pirating

music was limited to using both sides of a dual-cassette player), but

when someone else did it for me I enjoyed them in my car stereo.

But MP3s didn't function on my home CD player. And then the CD player

itself - yep, the one I'd bought 20 years earlier andndash; started skipping to

its own beat.

This is when I came to discover that I wasn't just behind, but

hopelessly behind. I resolved to shop for a new home CD player, one that

would play MP3s. Maybe even one of those fancy ones that would hold

several disks simultaneously. You know, a solid-state component that I

could hook up to my receiver and speakers.

I did not cruise successfully. Circuit City was closing for good.

Best Buy offered no such product - just cheaply made portable models.

Ironically, it was easier to find new turntables - the devices that CD

players had replaced!

Even if I'd wanted to go back to the needle, my records had gone to

garage sale heaven, along with my toy soldiers and Hot Wheels. That's

the topsy-turvy world we live in.

These days, I play home music through a portable MP3 player handed

down from one of my sons, who happens to work for Microsoft doing God

knows what. It's attached to the rest of my arcane stereo system on the

bottom shelf of my old oak entertainment center.

On the top shelf rests my 500-pound TV set with a 32-inch screen and

at least that many inches of backfill. I've had it 16, 17 years and it

refuses to die.

My latest Luddite revelation came during the World Series. You know

all those vital statistics in the upper-left corner during a televised

sporting event? Like the score, the inning, and the ball-strike count?

It's a wide-screen world now, and Fox no longer bothers to keep those

stats visible to those of us watching on traditionally proportioned TV


You say the Cardinals were twice down to their last strike before

rallying to tie the score in the late innings? Not on my screen.

It's been at least a decade since I first heard about those flat-screen plasma TVs. Maybe it's time to go shopping.