Por­ta­ble mu­sic scratches lis­tener’s itch

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - VOICES - Con­tact Shawn Ryan at mshawn­ryan@gmail.com.

When you think about it, a smart­phone is just a fancy ver­sion of a tran­sis­tor ra­dio.

Sure, you can make a phone call, check Face­book, Twit­ter or In­sta­gram, send an email … OK, kinda shoot­ing down my orig­i­nal thought.

But ev­ery­where you go, folks are star­ing down at their cell­phones as if $50 bills will shoot out if they keep their eyes on them long enough. Many also have ear­buds in place; maybe they’re watch­ing videos, but more likely they’re lis­ten­ing to mu­sic.

Back when di­nosaurs roamed the Earth, a tran­sis­tor ra­dio was your por­ta­ble con­nec­tion to mu­sic. It even had a lit­tle strap that you could slip around your wrist so you wouldn’t lose it. Or, if you spent a lot of time on your bike, you could hang the ra­dio from the spi­der han­dle­bars on your bike with the ba­nana seat. (Look it up if that doesn’t make sense to you; there are plenty of pho­tos on the web that will ex­plain.)

The speaker on a tran­sis­tor was junk, so its sound was tinny and flat with no depth. But when you’re lis­ten­ing to such stel­lar stuff as “Gimme Dat Ding” by the Pip­kins or “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies (the same Archie An­drews on the show “Riverdale;” again, look it up for ex­pla­na­tion), great sound wasn’t the goal. Af­ter all, you prob­a­bly were lis­ten­ing to it on AM ra­dio any­way. These days, though, un­less you pay the ex­tra cost for de­cent, front- fac­ing stereo speak­ers, a smart­phone doesn’ t pump out great sound. Stream­ing from an av­er­age- cost smart­phone is re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to hear­ing it from a tran­sis­tor ra­dio, although it will sound bet­ter Blue­tooth-ing it through your car or home stereo.

Like tran­sis­tor ra­dios, though, con­ve­nience is key when it comes to car­ry­ing your mu­sic along with you. Some might think that car­ry­ing your mu­sic with you has only hap­pened since the first iPod came out in 2001, but you have to go back more than 20 years, all the way to the Sony Walk­man, the first true por­ta­ble mu­sic player. It played cas­settes and was ac­tu­ally pretty cool in its day. Five years later, Sony re­leased the CD Walk­man — aka Dis­c­man — but any bounce might make it skip.

Yes, I had the Walk­man and the Dis­c­man and the iPod and the iPod Shuf­fle. My 120gb iPod Classic is hooked into my car stereo, and I can’t ex­er­cise with­out my iPod Shuf­fle clipped to my belt.

The first tran­sis­tor ra­dio came out in 1947, so we’re look­ing at 70 years that peo­ple have wanted their mu­sic when­ever and wher­ever they want it. You might call it a con­stant sense of en­ti­tle­ment. I pre­fer to think of it as a con­stant need for mu­sic.

Shawn Ryan

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