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A Modern 'Record' Player

I met Cindy in 1989. Hair was tall, sweaters were bulky, and everyone owned component stereo systems. [1] [2] We both had a system of our own and when got married, both setups made it into the house.

Over time, as technology advanced, we 'simplified' our music system. Vinyl records were the first to go. Cassettes were for the car only, then they went all together. But we had several hundred CD's and a five disk changer. We could load it up with disks purchased from last year's folk festival, hit play, and we were set for hours.

Then came MP3s and iPods. The CD player went away. I ripped the CD's and the disks went away. Then Spotify and Tidal came along and even the MP3s went away. Everything is streamed on demand.

I think this shift was a big mistake.

Not because of the sound quality. My component set was pretty cheap. The sound was OK, but not great. (Although it was far, far better than my tinny laptop speakers.)

Not because of the size of my library. I have access to more music now than ever before. So, so, much choice. Sure, I rarely listen to a full album anymore. (Do musicians still put out albums?)

Partially because we never listen to the radio anymore. CBC Radio One on Saturday mornings was a happy tradition back in the day.

No, it was a mistake because our current setup leaves Cindy out of the picture. If I'm using the laptop, I'm also using the speakers. Moreover, the infinite choice of the streaming services is often a barrier, not a help. It's one thing to look at a shelf of CD's and make a decision. An infinite shelf? For some folks, that's an impossibility.

But I think I found a compromise. I stumbled across a YouTube video today where a young woman made 'records' out of RFID tags and album art and connected them up to a card reader and Spotify. You tap a 'record' on the reader, and the album plays. Pretty cool.

The way she codes the library of 'records' could use some work, but the general idea is awesome. I can see myself making Cindy a gift box of RFID records and she can just tap the one she wants to listen to.

It might be cheaper and easier to just buy a stereo and a bunch of CDs, but this could take up less space and would make a fun winter project.

  1. For younger readers, a component stereo system was a set of reasonably large metal boxes, stacked in a wooden case, with a pair of wooden speakers beside the case, and a tangle of wires out the back. Amplifier, radio receiver, dual cassette deck, CD player, and turntable, each as a separate component. Typically found in your living room, and possibly a second unit in the bedroom if you were young and had roommates, or were even younger and lived at home. ↩︎

  2. The good old days:

    an example of a component stereo system