Please forgive my bout of nostalgia. I’ll be back to “normal” soon.
My son recently sent me a link to a video about “record changer” systems that existed in large numbers up to the 1970s. These devices allowed multiple records to be stacked and played one after the other. Given that I was born in the late 1950s this was a familiar review of something I hadn’t thought about for decades. I think my son sent it because he thought I’d be interested, but also because of the novelty and strangeness of such a device too a Millennial.
This video reminded me of my years in the 1970s as a moderate budget Hi-Fi audiophile. I saved money obsessively from my first real job as a grocery bagger to buy a Hi-Fi stereo system. I can well recall walking into the local Hi-Fi shop with five one-hundred dollar bills in my pocket and leaving with a Marantz receiver, a turntable and Bose speakers.
This first system lasted only a couple weeks because I started reading Hi-Fi magazines and became convinced that my stereo receiver needed to be replaced with separate components (i.e., and integrated amplifier and an AM/FM tuner). I still remember the disgust with which the shop owner eventually lived up to his “no questions” return policy when I brought back the receiver. But I also bought the new equipment and became a regular as more Hi-Fi components became “necessary” for my listening experience.
Listening to a record went far beyond the content. I used elaborate disk cleaning kits prior to each play. I hung my speakers from the ceiling with chains so that the “direct/reflecting” feature could be optimized. When the music was playing it wasn’t just the instrumentation and vocals that I heard but also my mighty Hi-Fi components creating this sonic wonder. In sum, playing a record was a complex ritual of human senses intersecting with analog custom purpose “computers” programmed to deliver a “realistic” listening experience.
I very quickly became a recording enthusiast. When I bought a new album I would record it on the first play onto tape. From that point on I played the tape, thus (in my fevered youthful mind) recreating the virgin play of the record indefinitely.
From there I built up a mobile recording system of microphones, mixer and a reel-to-reel tape deck. I hooked up with some folk music people and ran around my town recording folk and jazz performances. I loved the electro-magnetic/mechanical technical “magic” by which audio information was transferred from the actual experience onto tape. It was a wonderful experience.
I’m certain that it was the Hi-Fi magazines’ equipment reviews that got me interested in my eventual vocation, electrical engineering. The reviews often included photos from the test lab, showing the complex equipment used for the tests. I loved the idea of technical measurements being connected to the human experience.
The entire adventure was a blast. It knocked me off my default plan of becoming a history or english professor. My electrical engineering career in wireless technology has been extremely rewarding, so Hi-Fi was a portal into another world that I didn’t know existed.
Now I just touch a couple soft buttons on my iPad which communicates via Bluetooth with my integrated speaker and music plays. Ho hum.