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|It's time to pay debt to the forefather of the MP3
The Walkman was my first source of listening privacy, mainly through elementary school when my tapes of the
Beatles and Rolling Stones were my best friends. By the time high school hit, I had finally wrapped my hands
around my first CD player — a boom box, stationed faithfully above my bed. But I couldn’t bring my CDs with me
to class, so the same Walkman stayed with me. That tape deck guided me through countless hours of music
and miles of magnetic tape. Through that timeframe, Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Pearl Jam’s No
Code, the Stones’ Hot Rocks and Jimi’s Experience Hendrix were some of the more traveled veterans to carry
me from class to class, not to mention countless mix tapes.
The mix tape phenomenon was awesome, by the way — the precursor to the MP3 play list. Besides the fact that
they were portable collections of The Best Of The Best or whatever qualified as such at any given time, it was the
actual act of producing these labors of love that made them so special.
Hours upon hours were spent crafting them, timing songs to make sure that they would fit neatly on each side of
a 90 minute Maxell tape (to ensure that REM’s “Electrolite,” for example, wasn’t spliced at the end). Before
computers, coming up with designs for the cases, or even just making sure that the handwriting was neatly
placed above each line on the J-card, was an almost daunting task. It was something special that can’t help but
feel like nostalgia now, due to the fact that it’s entirely unnecessary — a lot of folks don’t even have a tape deck in
their car anymore.
It wasn’t nostalgia then, though. It was a great way to spend a night if you were forced to spend one alone. And
they made great presents. A friend of mine in high school gave all of her friends (myself included) personalized
tapes one year, and she later confessed to spending some ridiculous amount of time (60 hours?) crafting them.
It didn’t go unappreciated — some of the gems from that tape included Beck’s “Loser,” the Beatles’ “A Day In
The Life” and Depeche Mode’s “Barrel Of A Gun.”
So, for old time’s sake, short of buying a new Walkman (my old pal finally stopped running just before
graduation), I’ll give an older record a digital spin while I’m lying on my bed or going for a walk.
If nothing else, it’s an easy, enjoyable way to say thanks.
It’s a well documented fact that ever since I invested my time and money into an MP3
player just over a year ago, it hasn’t left my side once. True, the 20 gigs has since become
oh so limiting, but to have that sizeable a chunk of my collection at my disposal (except for
my vinyl) has been absolutely priceless. But that doesn’t mean it’s come without a cost.
There’s an attitude about an MP3 player that can make a person lazy. There are so many
songs and so many possible combinations that it’s easy to just load every song and hit
random every time. There’s something to be said for just letting it play one album, top to
It’s hard for me to even imagine a time before my trusty sidekick. To think back to my
Discman and CD wallet seems so strange and limiting. But thinking back further feels like
the Stone Age — to the days of my Walkman, dating from 1989 to about 2000, complete
with DIY band stickers to jazz up the casing.