Photography ... astronomy ... art ... design ... technology
(... and the odd rant)

All of these make my world go 'round, to some extent, and they will all be found here at some time or other. Some of the photography can be purchased from my Redbubble site. I can also be found at Tempus Fugit (no longer being updated).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Whither the Walkman?

OK, it's confirmed - I like retro stuff. I like shiny new stuff as well, but it doesn't provide quite the same frisson as nice old gear. Thing is, technology is developing at such a pace that shiny new stuff becomes nice old gear fairly quickly.

I have been volunteering in a local 'op shop' (charity shop/thrift store) lately, and have just started testing the donated electrical gear. Among all of the toasters, vacuum cleaners and vibrating foot spas there is the occasional item of greater interest, and I find that I have to control my urge to claim these relics as my own. One plastic bag contained a number of boxed devices - radio, portable cassette recorder, mini-vac, and so on. It looked like an electrical dealer had had a clear-out of the back room.

The piece that stopped me in my tracks was a 'Walkman'-type cassette player. Ordinarily, I'd pass by one of these very quickly, never having had a real need for music on the go; I don't own an iPod, and possibly never will (but as I've still got my old slide viewer, I could do this with it). Also, I've seen enough sad-looking cheap specimens to know that they are usually not worth a second glance, even in their heyday. This little Panasonic beauty though, seemed a notch above the rest. It looked like a serious piece of kit and was a recorder as well, in pristine condition. I've been thinking about getting a recording device, so that I can do some interviews, and this seemed to be the ideal thing.

Recording is via a built-in mic, or by using the plug-in stereo mic supplied (Stereo Dynamic Sound, the box says), or if I'm feeling particularly Luddite, by plugging into the PC and copying MP3s across... Listening is by earphones or with the built-in speakers (or by borrowing the PC speakers). I can record and playback at either of 2 speeds, and when I've had enough of recording myself and playing back in Barry White mode, I can listen to the radio, either FM or good old AM. To perfectly locate the aerial, I can rotate it into any of 18 click-stopped positions on one axis (the other axis just does the mundane swivel thing, but it's very tight and smooth).

All in all, it's a fully-packed little gizmo, even though it won't play MPEGs or AVIs; as it is, I have already used it to transfer a set of audio tapes to MP3, before the tapes lose their magnetic charm. A tone control and a setting for metal tape would be nice, but I won't lose any sleep over it.

Judging by the sticker on the box, it's only 6 years old, but using, as it does, the antediluvian audio cassette instead of flash memory or a HDD, it's retro enough to give me that secret tingle. Oh, what fun we'll have, me and my RQ-A300 - once I've bought some blank audio tapes. As John Lee Hooker said, "this is hip".