Today I bought my first MP3 player.
Or to be more accurate (and long winded) about it, yesterday I decided to buy my first one. I pulled out the Argos catalogue (apparently, that's where rock stars shop) and looked at the bewildering array of options from not-much-more-expensive-than-your-average Walkman to only-marginally-less-expensive-than-your-average round-the-world trip. Being an out-of-touch-oldster, I decided I'd better consult with the nearest available expert: my 13 year old daughter. Her advice was fairly clearcut: "If it's less than 100 Euro, it's crap!". But crap how? Her answers did little to dissuade me that she was making pronouncements based on her current paradoxical phase that combines rejection of all things mainstream with snobby brand consumerism.
So after assuring her that I wouldn't bring shame on the household by allowing some cheap piece of sub 100 Euro junk in the front door, I furtively rang my go-to guy for all-things-sound-technical: oldest son and budding sound engineer Paddy. He cheerfully debunked Fiona's advice as the naive ramblings of someone who hasn't read No Logo yet, and explained the deal to me in terms I could understand. In essence, MP3 player equals USB memory stick combined with Walkman. So, the only real question is how much memory I want. That decision made, I chose a cheapo sub 50 Euro player and made a mental note to scrape the price sticker off before Fiona got home from school.
Mireille went to collect it for me this morning (think of her as my version of the woman in the Argos TV ads, only hotter), and this afternoon I loaded a few MP3's from the computer (till now, an MP3 has been something I download or am sent, and listen to once or twice on the PC) onto the glorified memory stick. Then I peered at the hieroglyphic excuse of a user's manual trying to figure out how to get the damn thing to play. After a few unproductive minutes, I accepted the inevitable and called in the expert. My 11 year old son Oisin in this case, who combines an autistic's lack of interest in other humans with a startling intuitive knowledge of how all things mechanical work. He snorted as he disdainfully discarded the hieroglyphics offered to him, fiddled and pressed buttons for about 10 seconds, then handed it back to me. Turns out the switch you're supposed to twiddle to toggle different functions and menus becomes a button you're supposed to press once you've made the desired selection.
So this afternoon I made my first run without my trusted Walkman in years. Actually, that's not quite true. This decision to buy an MP3 player was brought on by Adam lending me his to run with a couple of times last week, and the obvious advantages (not having to change the channel every time they play Mariah Carey, not having to worrying about reception dips) suddenly outweighing the disadvantage (the loss of random newness).
The main reason I held out for so long against buying an MP3 player is I clung to the old-fashioned idea that radio is how you find the best new music. I grew up in an era when this was certainly true, and the arrival of the Walkman was a Godsend as it meant instead of only being able to listen to a couple of hours radio a day in your leisure time, you could add in commuting time, running time, and even working time to listen to up to 10 hours a day.
However, times change. Radio is now formatted to death, and more interested in nostalgic necrophilia than playing new stuff. In the last few years, my first exposure to anything new generally comes from some source other than radio, like one of the 21 cable music channels, or a recommendation from someone else.
So I guess this is goodbye to the Walkman for me.
I'm not sure if this also means a goodbye to radio for me. Perhaps it does, or perhaps I'll go back to doing what I did as a kid: listen to it as background in the evening while I do my homework.
Am I the last person here to get an MP3 player? Did it change your lives (or at least your listening habits)?
"Ireland is a great country to go to if you think you're drinking too much. Because it turns out you're not even close"