“You remember taping your favourite songs off the radio, and hoped the DJ wouldn’t talk over the end” ;
“There was only one phone in the house – it was always in the hallway, and you’d have to whisper so your dad wouldn’t overhear you” ;
“Cereal boxes had toys in them”… And so on.
So much changes in the course of a lifetime these days that when you’re faced with the bleak reality of just how different things are than they used to be, it can be quite disconcerting. Worse still, the pace of change has ramped up considerably in the last decade or so.
It’s frightening to think that there’s a whole generation who weren’t alive when vinyl was king; a generation that has no understanding of the niceties of chrome oxide over standard cassettes, or any opinion on whether TDK trumps BASF. Even more frightening, not only do we remember the rise of the CD and the demise of the LP, but that huge collection of CDs we acquired to replace our record collections also now languish, unused and boxed-up, having been usurped by MP3s and music streaming services. The same is true of video and DVDs… Old before they’ve even had a chance to mature.
It’s quite astonishing, when you consider that rate of change, that SL is still going strong and is essentially much the same concept and platform as when it started, after nearly 15 years! In technology terms, that’s several lifetimes, and yet it perseveres – some might say it’s hanging on grimly, but I don’t see it that way.
Old and clunky, it may be, with the immanent threat of newer, glossier virtual worlds, like Sansar and High Fidelity hanging over its head, but I have a feeling that SL will endure, and may even outlast its successors, because SL has managed to carve out a special niche for itself that transcends progress and taps into a particular facet of human nature.
Vinyl, CDs, even cassette tapes and VHS may well be officially dead and buried, but amongst aficionados, they are very much alive and kicking. The smooth and superior tonal quality and the aesthetic appeal and tactile indulgence of removing an LP from its protective paper dust cover; carefully going through the act of placing, cueing up and playing; sitting back to enjoy the music, jacket in hand, admiring the cover art and reading the track details and lyrics, without squinting, has a kind of magic about it that streaming a digital file simply cannot compete with. And there are those who will wax similarly lyrical about the joys of tape and even CDs, because they have an essential character and ritual to them that is both unique and incredibly desirable to those who understand their allure. It’s not for everyone, but it’s undeniably a powerful draw. Mainstream they may not be, but in their particular niche, they’re fit and healthy, thank you very much!
And it’s the same niche that I think SL occupies. It holds a special place for those who know and understand it – they view it with affection and accept its foibles and limitations as part and parcel of its unique appeal – it wouldn’t be the SL we know and love without them, and that would make it somehow less appealing. It’s the wonkiness of a warped tape, the dodgy tracking of an old VHS, and the pop and crackle of vinyl that adds to their character, as well as irritating the hell out of us… And SL is no different.
So, I’m convinced that we may yet see another fifteen years of our favourite virtual world we love to hate, no matter how far behind technological innovation it may fall – that’s simply part of its charm, and if the truth be known, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you
It takes me all the way
I want you to stay
30 Seconds To Mars – Stay