“I’d like to get three accompaniment tracks, please. The last time, you sent me those new compact discs, though. I need cassette tapes.” The voice speaking to me on the telephone was obviously that of a mature woman, probably in her sixties. I patiently explained to her that cassettes were no longer available, so she would need to buy the CDs and transfer them to cassette if that’s all she was able to use. In spite of the fact that prerecorded cassettes have been unavailable for at least four or five years, we still get requests like this frequently.
Over the last few years, approaching my senior years myself, I have contemplated this phenomenon any number of times. The lady described above is a Baby Boomer, as am I. We were the hip generation, the in crowd! We were never going to be like our parents, those old geezers. As groovy chicks and dudes, there was no way we were going to be caught dead over thirty, in square threads, investing our dough in the Man’s system, and handing out downer lingo like, “We’ve never done it like that,” or “When I was your age…”.
Now admittedly, not all of us in the Boomer generation were hippies, spouting the “make love, not war” mantra, and putting flowers in the barrels of the soldier’s guns. The great majority of us were more conformist than otherwise, but the universal thought was that we would be “forever young”. Even now, I can hear the whining voice of Bob Dylan, along with the cheesy vibrato of the Hammond B3, as he invokes the blessing of the epoch, “May you stay Forever Young…” When did we get to be old like our parents, stuck in the past, drawing imaginary lines in the sand over which we will not cross? It happens to each generation in its turn, it would seem.
I readily admit to a love of nostalgia. Recently, a friend sent me the text of a radio story about a museum for eight-track tapes. I was immediately eighteen again, tooling along in my brand new 1976 Chevy Nova, with the stereo I had installed myself. Radio? Pah! We listened to what we selected ourselves, on our extremely portable and wonderfully ill-conceived eight-tracks. I realize “wonderful” and “ill-conceived” seem to be paradoxical, but that’s how I view the technology, in retrospect. These tapes were a hodge-podge of genius and idiocy, held together by a generous dash of creativity. The genius was the idea to use a movable head to read the information on the tape, its downfall the inability to keep the head in alignment, often resulting in double tracking (two songs playing at once). It was genius to use a continuous tape, but idiocy to loop it in a circle that frequently tightened up on itself, making the music drag as if you had slowed a forty-five rpm record to thirty-three rpm. Oops, sorry! Another reference to an obsolete technology. Anyway, let’s just say the idea of the eight-track was brilliant in its concept, but completely impractical in its application. We bought them by the thousands.
There are innumerable other obsolete gadgets which have come and gone in my lifetime. The same could be said of my parent’s lifespan and of their parent’s era. For some reason though, we form attachments to the familiar, the once useful accessories, and we don’t want to let them go even when they are replaced by superior technology. Our parents did the same thing, as did our grandparents before them.
I’ve said it here before; I want to keep learning as long as I live. That doesn’t mean that I won’t turn my nose up at a few non-essential inventions. Right now, the e-book comes to mind, although I may embrace that idea one day. But, I want to keep an open mind and a lively imagination that grasps new ideas and exciting developments for as long as I’m able to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. All of my life has been played out in an exciting era of innovation and discovery, with no period more so than right now. What a shame it would be to miss out on it, just because I decided to get old.
I do still have a small collection of 8-track tapes squirreled away just in case they ever get popular again. You never know…Hey! bell-bottoms and tie-dyed shirts came back…
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.”
(Eleanor Roosevelt~First Lady of the United States~1884-1962)
Originally posted 2/25/2011