Monday, December 18, 2006

Digital vs. Analog

Recently, I’ve been getting a touch ticked off with digital technology.

If I pick a CD at random from my collection (say Soundgarden, or some Prokofiev), chances are pretty good that at some point, one of the songs will start skipping. I’m not sure what to do when this happens. Do I whack my CD player? Do I stick a paperclip in there somewhere? Maybe I’m supposed to hook a cable to the back and send in some hex codes?

I rent DVDs from a variety of places: convenience stores, the big rentals shops, the independents, even the online shipping services. Very often, and regardless of source, the DVD will slow down and eventually stop somewhere near the middle of the movie. Wonderful - what to do? Ah, but here I have a remedy. Follow: One, stop DVD. Two, go to menu. Three, choose next chapter. Four, rewind until close to defective area. Five, repeat process many times, as I usually get too close to defective area. Six, press play. (I suppose I could apply this method to my skipping CDs, but there’s a difference in media here. Songs have a much less linear importance to them. I don’t often stop a song and later feel the urge to start listening again from where I left off.)

I have regular cable TV where I live and have had no digital occurrences. However, I used to visit a home whose occupants subscribed to digital cable. They invariably had to sit through blocky patches of black dancing around their screen. Actors and actresses morphing into patchy goblins and then snapping back to their beautiful selves. When I visit my parents, who have no form of cable, I’ve seen a few episodes of this same black pixelation. I guess some stations are broadcasting signals which at some point in their transmission are digital.

I am definitely not a Luddite, but recently I’ve been cursing digital’s name. I’ve been thinking of seeking out alternatives. I’ve been reminiscing of the days of old: static on an old Beatles LP, and nudging a skipping needle; adjusting the tracking on my VCR; positioning the rabbit ears above my TV in just the right orientation.

With analog, when a problem occurred, I could typically see or hear “through” it. A bit of static or white noise. I could deal with these minor annoyances. But now, I’m starting to feel a bit of rage each time I experience a digital defect.

Are we moving forwards or backwards? Or perhaps we’re in the midst of a really long lateral play.

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