That’s what they call it when things you love become obsolete. Things like broadcast television. Your 1970 Oldsmobile
Cutlass SS 440. Bowler hats. Jazz music.
We’re never allowed to ignore the ticking clock of life’s second-hand movements. We’re all on a death march, sure, but every 20 feet, we get another signpost pointing it out. We’re getting old, we’re getting older, we’re really, really old.
Today, as I type this on my superfast titanium MacBook Pro, I can glance over at my grandfather’s typewriter, sitting locked in its “portable” case—a 1935 Remington Rand with every key and leg intact and nary a scratch anywhere on her. She’s so obsolete, I refrain from ever touching her, lest one of the last ribbons in the universe become completely used up.
I’m wearing headphones plugged into my iPhone, which has, among a zillion other things on it, like a GPS unit and a game where I fling cartoon birds at poorly-constructed buildings of wood and stone.
I guess I have no one else to blame but myself. I was willing to settle, even though I could tell the difference. An MP3 just sounds flat. Sure, it’s a handy means of collecting a lot of songs into a conveniently small package—I could fit my entire record collection onto my iPhone, while they take up an entire wall of my home office. But the MP3 compression makes everything portable in a way nothing ever could before…except maybe the Sony Walkman.
Progess. This time, it’s the Sony Walkman, for whom the bell tolls. That ubiquitous little hand-held device that we could clip onto a belt or stick in a jacket pocket was the first portable device we could take anywhere that freed us from the shackles of Mom and Pop’s obsession with talk radio. They could listen to Hal and Charley to their hearts’ content while I jammed out to MJ and Prince without having to listen to my father complain about this “noise.”
That Walkman was more than just a device though. It was a means to create relationships—I could forge new bonds with others simply by exploring our shared appreciation of “Let’s go Crazy,” or “PYT.” It was a bridge that paved the way to my first crush, my first date and my first kiss.
Today, Sony announced it was no longer going to manufacture and sell the Walkman. After 31 years, progress has finally passed it by.
Aside from a curious passing nod to an ancient relic, on a slower news day—(mostly overshadowed by the discussion of to whomever Brett Favre allegedly did or did not send digital pictures of his unit) the announcement made little ripples in a world where we can now store the equivalent of the entire discography of the Progressive rock movement (yes, that includes Chicago) onto a listening device small enough to be mistaken for a postage stamp.
Here lies the Sony Walkman, 1979-2010. May she Rest in Progress.