PR Niblets

Monday, November 22, 2010

Forced Obsolescence

I’m sitting at my desk trying to put a tape into the ancient walkman we have at the office, when my co-worker starts laughing hysterically.

“What’s so funny? It doesn’t fit!” I said, frustrated.

“I’m not laughing at you,” said Jules.

“Yes you are. Why?”

Jules takes the walkman from me and starts pulling the cassette I’ve jammed in it out.

“No, really I’m not. I’m laughing at the fact that you’re using that thing to record. You also realize that this tape isn’t for an audio recorder. It’s for a video recorder.”

“Oh,” I said, as my face drops. “Well they didn’t have any other tapes in the store.”

“You’re probably right. They probably don’t sell audio recording tapes anymore,” Jules laughed even more hysterically. “Come look at this.”

I begrudgingly roll over to his desk. “Do you see a record button anywhere?”


“Right. This isn’t a recorder, it’s just a tape and radio player.”

“Damn it. Oh well, I guess I’m not recording the panels,” I said as I rolled back to my desk.

“Just download an audio recorder on your iPhone. That will probably work better than this would have even if it were an audio recorder.”

Within five minutes I downloaded Audio Memos for free and figured out how to use it. At this point, Henry returned from lunch wanting to know if I found a tape for the audio recorder and if I know how to use it. Jules and I laughed and explained the calamity of what had happened. Jules still finds it hilarious. This launched everyone in the office into a discussion about how much technology has changed over the past 20 years.

The most interesting part of this slightly frustrating situation is how significantly technology has changed. Sure, you hear this being said all the time, but this is the first real dramatic difference I’ve experienced. I remember walkmans and playing tapes when I was younger but then along came the CD walkman and of course CDs. After CDs everything turned digital - MP3 players, listening to streaming music, iPods, iPhones, and on and on. If I didn’t have an iPhone, I wouldn’t have been able to record our client’s panel that day.

Another thought occurred to me after both trade shows were over and I was downloading the recordings. How would I have saved the recordings if I had used the old audio recorder? It would’ve required a lot of effort to find a way to upload the file or I would have had to pass around the walkman with the recordings not the ideal scenario with our clients in Boston and California.

It’s fascinating to see the extreme changes in technology and how people and companies are adapting to them. I’ve watched my parents struggle, yet still get excited, by new innovations, such as the digital camera, digital video recorder, the Internet, blogs and much more. It makes me excited to see how the digital landscape will continue to change. It also makes me wonder, if changes in technology continue to happen as quickly as they have in the past 20 years, will I eventually become out of touch with the latest technologies on the market? Or, will my generation be so used to these changes that we automatically adjust? Only time will tell…