Editor's Note: No keeping up, but here’s to keeping on

Written by Richard Wiens, The Triplicate November 01, 2011 03:32 pm

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 – 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 screens.

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.