By Chris Gay
Every generation grumbles about how they had it worse than their successors, as if it’s some rite of passage. Of course, whether they’re right-or full of it-is for posterity to decide. With that said, today I’m here to make the case for Generation X not only having it worse than our successors, but our predecessors too. At least in terms of how we listened to music.
In the Beginning
From that beautiful day in 1877 on which Thomas Edison first introduced the phonograph, right up to the 1970’s, all anyone with a desire to hear his or her own favorite music had to master was the skill of dropping a needle straight down onto a spherical shard of spinning vinyl. The only other responsibility was learning the difference between 78, 33 1/3 and 45 RPM’s. Simple, really.
In contrast, by the time I’d figured out that that little yellow disc with the oddly cut pattern was used to convert 45 RPM records for use on larger players, my mom had already moved on to 8 tracks.
Now I’m uncertain if it was because I was very young then, or merely that I’m a techno-idiot. But not too long after I’d finally learned how to work the 8 track cartridge enough to hear Paul Simon’s ‘Slip Slidin’ Away’, a Hartford radio station was already touting a new musical miracle called the Compact Disc. Or, as they called it, the “CD”.
By that time however I’d already had a budding collection of records and cassette tapes. And to be frank CD’s didn’t sound all that much better to me than they did. Be that as it may though, the writing was on the wall. (Literally, in the case of the 1979 Pink Floyd album cover.)
Musical Musical Chairs
So…we Gen X’ers bounced from records to 8 Tracks and back again. We also perfected the fine art of sitting for hours next to a portable stereo with our ring finger frozen to the PLAY button, and our thumb on RECORD, while waiting for a DJ to spin Phil Collins’ song du jour in the faint hopes of capturing it on the blank cassette snugly nestled within its compartment. Sure, it sounds like a boring activity; and it was. But we’re talking Against All Odds here.
As my luck would have it though, I always seemed to get the Wolfman Jack wannabe DJ who tarnished the first third of every recording by trying to hit the post. You all know who you are. But, I digress.
Ultimately, of course, there was no holding back the CD tsunami. And along with its rising popularity came the requirement of replacing our stereos and upgrading our Sony Walkmans. Later, we had to switch out the tape decks in our cars for trunk or dashboard mounted CD-changers. Then, after spending our first few decades of life juggling audio technology like a half-assed circus clown, things finally seemed to settle down.
However just when we thought it was safe to remain stagnant within the audio equipment water, suddenly there were music files to be downloaded onto MP3 players. I mean honestly, WTF?
Look, the Baby Boomers, Greatest Generation, and the Roaring 20er’s (Yes, I did just totally make that last one up) had records. Generation Y and the Millennials have file downloading. We Gen X’ers on the other hand, are stuck with shoe boxes and drawers full of countless 8 tracks, records, audio cassettes and mix tapes that won’t again see the light of day until the last rays of our dying sun shine upon them in 8,000,000,000 A.D.
One also cannot overlook that during this same time period, thanks to cable television we were trying to adapt from flipping between three TV stations by hand, to fifty- via ever-changing remote controls.
And as if that wasn’t enough, after spending our formative years learning how to work the ring pull-tabs on soda cans, the beverage industry pulled the rug out from under us and switched to pop tops.
Want more? One day we’re trying to make heads or tails out of a combination calculator/wrist watch and work a typewriter; the next, some teacher throws us in front of a TV screen fused onto a keyboard, calls it a “computer”, and gives us two pages of code to type in just to confirm that 3 x 3 equals 9.
By the way, I use the term computer very loosely. What we were taught on made the model Matthew Broderick used in Wargames look like what Hugh Jackman employed in Swordfish. Damn it, it was all just too much. And I won’t even get into VHS versus Beta versus Laser Disc versus DVD versus HD DVD versus Blu-Ray versus Digital HD versus online streaming.
I’m guessing that those of you from adjacent generations likely have little sympathy for our technological plight. Whatever. They were our crosses to bear. Along with having to walk five miles uphill to school every day in the snow.
And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
What if a late 20th Century Jack the Ripper tearing apart a small Connecticut town was the result of a pancake shop bet between God and the devil? Imagine if Satan’s impact on the world in the new millennium hinged entirely on one police officer’s skill in hunting down a ruthless killer…hiding in plain sight. Detective Danny Seabrook is an unwitting pawn in a divine chess match with immeasurable consequences for all mankind. Set primarily in 1995, this action-packed suspense thriller features clever dialogue, humor and romance-with an ending you will never forget.
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As the end draws near for long-retired Sherlock Holmes in Sussex Downs, he calls one last time for the company of his best friend and colleague, Dr. John Watson. What was meant to be four last days of camaraderie and reminiscing instead leads to the most shocking, explosive revelation both of the great detective’s career, and his life.
Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal is a Holmes tale like none other ever conceived. Fans of Baker Street’s legendary detective will be left with the insatiable need to contemplate its extraordinary conclusion forevermore.
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Chris Gay is an author, freelance writer, voice-over artist, broadcaster and actor. For 7 years he wrote and broadcast a daily, minute radio humor spot in Hartford, Connecticut. He’s been published nationally in Writer’s Digest and has written the paranormal, theological thriller novel Ghost of a Chance, Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal, (an original, extraordinary short story on the great detective with a spectacular twist) and four humor books: And That’s the Way It Was…Give or Take: A Daily Dose of My Radio Writings, Shouldn’t Ice Cold Beer Be Frozen? My 365 Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota, and The Bachelor Cookbook: Edible Meals with a Side of Sarcasm & Another Round of Ice Cold Beer: My 365 More Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota. He’s written and voiced radio commercials, authored both comedic and non-comedic freelance articles, scripts, press releases, website, media and technical content, done occasional radio color commentary for local sports, and acted in a couple of movies and plays. His website is chrisjgay.com, and his humor blog can be found at chrisgay.wordpress.com.
Hope Springs (Barfly)