Breathless laughter erupted from all around, the theater was filled with knee-slapping chuckles and uncontrollable giggles at the perplexed boy holding his father’s cassette tape as if it was ancient, alien technology. Illuminated by the movie screen I saw the faces that surrounded me, grownups who actually grew up during the days of cassette tapes and Walkmen. Now they were growing old in the age of iPods and iPhones. The scene was funny but I couldn’t help but think they could relate to the father who wanted to give his son a relic from the past and knowing the same struggle of passing down their '90s music but not through the same '90s medium.
We are in this ever-evolving state of moving forward when it comes to technology. Products that were once seen as essential are just a few years away from being tucked into garage corners where the spiders will find them. It recently occurred to me that my mother has a collection of VHS tapes collecting dust in her den and a shelf of movies stacked to the ceiling that is worth less than the Blockbuster we used to rent movies from.
A few weeks back she offered me the entire OJ Simpson trial that she recorded on blank VHS tapes back when the case was unfolding in 1995. I laughed, wondering how that cinder block would fit into my tiny Playstation. From tapes to disc, a seamless transition from the eyes of a child. But as an adult, I’m starting to become aware of the small advances and the tiny changes that are currently happening. No matter how you might want to fight and protest against change, the world is always in motion, forever in a state of change. This is why we love nostalgia, it’s a piece of the past, a slice of familiarity that we wish to hold on to for a second longer.
Netflix killed the video store. Blockbuster as we knew it died Tuesday because the world is "clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,"according to DISH President and CEO Joseph Clayton. The video chain announced it will close its 300 remaining retail stores and stop its rent-by-mail service in January. For many, Blockbuster was a video store, a first time job or an important part of their childhood. This is a eulogy. - Blockbuster Is Dead. Long Live the Video Store
How long until this generation ceases to be the boy and becomes the father in the film? Instead of our cassettes, it will be our CD collection that we try and pass down. Can you imagine the day you hand your son or daughter a physical CD-R, one of the classics, and they stare back in confusion? Wondering where this disc is supposed to go since all their music comes from applications with streams and subscriptions on laptops and computers that no longer have disc drives. After years of burning blanks and buying albums, it’s hard to believe that the CD is following in similar footsteps as cassettes and floppy discs. Computer companies removed the floppy disc drive when they became obsolete. Apple has already started to produce computers without disc drives, it won't be long until the rest follow suit. How long until all cars are made just with Bluetooth and they remove the CD player? Soon CDs will just be one more item in a list of things that we cite when saying, “Back in my day.”
Kanye said that he would never release another physical album. This is the same man that said his album would only be streamed through Tidal so we know his word at times is worth less than a jawbreaker. Yet, it’s possible that this mindset could become the industry norm. For some, it's a small deal, but to others, it's pretty big. I recently spoke to a friend who hasn’t heard The Life Of Pablo only because it’s solely available on streaming services and he isn’t signed up for any. He’s old-school in the sense that he still purchases physical albums. He’ll be someone who remembers the feeling of excitement that came with the arrival of Tuesday, back when it was album release day.
For most of my life that was the day you went to the local store and purchased the album you spent weeks maybe even months anticipating (and saving up for). Now you don’t even have to leave your house, at 11:30 PM on a Thursday your pre-order will come straight to your phone and be available on all streaming services. Release dates barely matter now. Royce just dropped his album a week early on a Monday. I don’t understand why we care about Drake’s release date, we all know Views can come during any episode of OVO Sound Radio or at any hour owls start to hoot at the moon. Music can drop whenever the artist says so. A new thrill that replaces an old one.
Artists able to release music whenever they please isn’t something that would impress Elroy Jetson but despite the annoyance, The Life Of Pablo is pretty futuristic. The first major label project created to be a living album that can be constantly altered and updated. Just thinking about updating albums like I would cell phone apps seems more suited for science fiction than reality. My brother had his phone playing in the car, the old version of “Wolves” played, and I got so frustrated that he failed to update his Pablo iSO. It’s similar to how some video games are created now with additional DLC content. Developers are releasing games that aren’t 100% completed, selling them and in some cases charging consumers more to pay for the expansions and bonuses. I vaguely remember a time where the whole point of playing the game was to beat it, not reach the middle and wait for the rest. We've come a long way from blowing into Nintendo cartridges, needing link cables and inviting friends over to play the latest birthday gift. Now you just need a WiFi-connection and you can be trading racial slurs in a chatroom with kids from bandos in Atlanta to the castles in Berlin.
We aren’t that far removed from a generation that wrote letters on typewriters, now we send text messages with winking Emojis. Instagram is the modern photo album, social media is the modern pen-pal, Facetime and Snapchat are so advanced they would baffle our ancestors. They honestly baffle some of our parents. We may not have flying cars but we do have fast food restaurants with drinking machines that have over 100 different flavors. Before you used to wish that your soda wouldn’t be flat, now you can’t even get a Suicide because of too many options. There are holograms of the dead performing in front of our very eyes. It wouldn't surprise me if we're 50 years away from a laser printer bringing a Tyrannosaurus to life in the heart of Brooklyn. What a time to be alive.
My little brother just turned 21 at the stroke of midnight and it’s also the day that Kobe Bryant plays his final NBA basketball game. One I never expected to become a grown man and the other I never expected to become an old man. Here I am, having to accept both on the same day and feeling very old because of it. Soon he’ll have kids, and his kid’s kids will have their music artists, their basketball players, their social media and some strange listening device that will make me miss my old iPhone.
It’s the way the world progresses. Moving forward until our expiration date or the nukes blow us all to Mars. Leaving behind the products and the people we once believed would be around forever.
So it is, so it has been, and so it always will be.
By Yoh, aka The Final Instant Messenger, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: Instagram