Labor of love

Over Labor Day weekend, I made a trip to one of my favorite shops, Half Price Books. This place is super-dangerous for me, especially when it has a store-wide 20%-off holiday special going on. I was able to control myself at the dollar CD bin and selected only one embarrassingly ‘90s album (early Gin Blossoms). My older sister, who was visiting for the weekend, made my heart skip a beat by flashing a Bill Cosby record at me. We’d been watching some of our favorite Cosby Show episodes earlier in the day, and I worried for a moment that, between her love of Bill Cosby and my love of vinyl records, Bill was going to be coming home with us.

Now, about this love for LPs. I find there’s something strangely soothing in the sounds of the pops and crackles as the needle finds its way to the first song. Much of my early childhood was spent standing on tip-toe, sliding any one of my favorite records at the time (such as Thriller, Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports, or Urban Chipmunk) onto the turntable, setting the needle in the correct groove, and somehow avoiding scratching the record. After spending the ‘90s under a thick layer of dust, our turntable was repaired. Since then, my visits to my parents’ house usually involve about an hour of poring over my dad’s record collection, selecting an album I haven’t listened to before, and giving it a spin. As a result, my dad recently bequeathed his record collection to me. I don’t know whether he fully comprehends the enormity of his gesture. Every time I catch sight of his hundreds of records, my heartbeat quickens and I’m unable to tear myself away from them. He’s what most people would call an electronics geek (which is totally cool), so he’s ripping all of his records to mp3 format. I’m what most people would call a history geek (which might be considered slightly less cool), so I’m treasuring all of his smelly thirty- and forty-year-old records with their crazy cover and sleeve artwork.

I’m going to briefly interrupt my goofy little trip down memory lane by drawing your attention to the materials facet of the vinyl to cassette tape to CD to mp3 evolution. I’m also going to break one of my rules of research, the rule that states “Wikipedia is not a valid resource,” and direct you to some articles of interest on Wikipedia.

Records through the agesCassette tapeCD materialsmp3

Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that without vinyl records, it wouldn’t have made sense for ELO to sing the vocoded words “please turn me over” at the end of 1977’s “Mr. Blue Sky” as a funny reminder for the listener to turn the record over. But without the updated materials technology, I’m sure I would have had to replace some of my favorite albums thanks to wearing out the record or cassette tape by playing it to death. Also, I’m very curious to see what engineers will think of next to improve upon current music technology. I can’t even begin to imagine it.

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About Caitlin
I'm a senior Materials Science & Engineering student at The Ohio State University.

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