Wherever the Road Leads

Cutting-Edge Technology

Rapidly obsolete

My dad had brought some Scottish 78rpm records with him when we came to Canada in 1952. Harry Lauder sang “I Belong Tae Glasgow”, “I’m 94 This Morning” and “Just a Wee Deoch an Doris”. The first record I remember seeing purchased was my cousin Al buying an Everly Brothers song – a 78rpm – “All I Have to Do is Dream”, released in 1958.

The first record I remember buying was a novelty song, a one-hit wonder by The Randells called “The Martian Hop”. Countless other 45rpm records were bought, nearly worn out, saved and finally chunked at some point, no doubt prior to yet another move. However, each one of them needed one of these.


Then, along came the 8-track, the cassette, Dolby to reduce tape hiss, moving on to the clarity of cds. I was doing a lot of traveling – surprise – and rental cars still had cassette players. I bought one of these…


… a Sony Disc-man. Most used it with earphones to listen to tunes, but I hooked mine up, along with my full-size cd player, to a stereo mixer and then a cassette recorder to produce one of these….


… to take on the plane for use in the rental car wherever I happened to be going. Now, it would have been simple to record a track off a cd, pause the recording, cue up and record a different cd track/artist, pause the recording… repeat until the cassette was full. Any rank amateur can do that. I wanted one tune to fade in as the previous tune faded out, so that the music was non-stop.

As rental cars changed to cd players, my recording style got better. I was always a fan of the “Drake Format”. It’s all about the music, not the morning crews, zoos, news and banter. Shut up and spin a tune. I found a site where I could download jingles from various radio stations. Now that my recordings were being done on computer, I could max out a cd with three songs faded in and out, fade to a jingle, fade to three more tunes and so on. No one else ever heard my masterpieces but they amused me in a strange car, a strange hotel and a strange city.

Then, along came Sirius/XM and nowadays, hundreds of songs loaded on a USB drive. The once ubiquitous yellow record insert, the cassette tape, Sony Disc-mans and soon even cds themselves, once state-of-the-art, will be simply memorabilia.



I once met a lady from Rochester New York, the corporate home of Kodak, a dwindling presence. Her husband had been an executive for years before his passing. I asked her why Kodak had never kept pace with digital cameras and the Japanese. Five words summed it all up.

“Kodak is a chemical company,” she replied.


Nowadays, if you have your phone then you have a camera, though seldom does anything ever get printed out. As we age and parents die off, one of the bittersweet events is to go through all the old, fading, dog-eared family photographs. I wonder, when it’s my time, if anyone will bother to scroll through the gallery on my phone.


My first electronic leash….


… the pager. The boss could always find you; no escaping that call-back phone call. Though more often than not, it was your wife who wanted you to pick up bread and milk on the way home.


The Palm Pilot passed me by. I guess I was never important enough.




Floppy discs!! The beginning of the computer age. How programs got loaded, data got passed around and viruses spread.



The encyclopedia. Once sold door-to-door for hundreds of dollars. Thanks to Google and Wikipedia, now free.



The paper map. Free from gasoline service stations at one time. Then available for a fee. Now we use a GPS or Google Maps on your phone. I still have a Rand McNally Atlas within reach of the driver’s seat. It may not tell me to turn left in 1.7 miles but it gives me a better perspective of where I am and how much further I have to drive through these damn mountains.



The Video Rental Store


Blockbuster et al had a good run for a few years but stayed the same when all about them the video delivery business was changing. Netflix came in and offered mail-order video rentals.

Yes, a movie took two-or-three days to get delivered… two-or-three weeks if it came via the Canada Post donkey, and never on a Saturday. But if you ordered your movie during the week, it would be delivered by the weekend, typical movie-watching time. Netflix improved by offering a flat-rate for as many movies as you could watch per month, three at a time. You never had to go further than your mailbox.

Redbox unmanned kiosks popped up everywhere, offering movies for a buck as you were walking out of Wal-Mart or Kroger. It wasn’t simply the convenience. Suddenly, the perceived value of a movie plummeted. Why should I drive to the Video Rental Store to pay $5 for a movie that I can get for a dollar as I walk past the kiosk or to my mailbox?


No doubt few who have ever tried these skates actually miss them. What seems to have become obsolete along with these, though, is the art of playing outside, skinning your knees and being home before the street lights came on.

I guess I’m showing my age when I say that I wouldn’t trade those times for all the video games in the world.



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  1. elayne  November 9, 2015

    ok now I feel really old.. very well done Gordon.but sad . lol


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