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13-Year-Old Trades iPod For a Walkman For a Week 354

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-tell-him-about-records dept.
BBC Magazine convinced 13-year-old Scott Campbell to trade in his iPod for a Walkman for a week and see what he thought. Scott thinks the iPod wins when it comes to sound quality, color, weight, and the shuffle feature. The Walkman, however, offers two headphone sockets, making it much easier to listen to music with a friend. My favorite part of the review is, "It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equalizer, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette."

*

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13-Year-Old Trades iPod For a Walkman For a Week

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  • by ls671 (1122017) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:51PM (#28518495) Homepage

    About giving him an 8 track cartridge tape ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereo_8 [wikipedia.org]

    At least, there is only one side to those. I still remember listening to Pink Floyd "The dark side of the moon" and "Echoes" while cruising in my car. Even today, when I listen to it on more modern media, I still remember where the sound track would cut for a few seconds in the middle of a song in order to allow the player to change tracks. They did a fade-out in the middle of a song in order to make it sound more appropriated... ;-)

    8-tracks came before 4 track mini-cassette :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Cassette [wikipedia.org]

    For those who don't know 8 tracks, the tape is arranged in a endless loop so it was impossible to rewind the tape ;-))) I still have an 8 track recorder in the basement somewhere, I used to record my own tapes ;-)

    • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:54PM (#28518539)

      Always fun convincing people they needed to rewind an 8 track.

      • by Brigadier (12956)

        only take you about 3 hours to find a song on the damn things. My dad had one. I finally gave up and copied all his worth listening to music to cassette. It only had fast forward, and there was no way of knowing which track the song should be on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Nevermind rewinding tapes, how about DVDs [kf6nvr.net]?

    • Originally invented in 1956, four-track was ignored due to marketing concerns but was briefly resurrected in the late 1960s as "the next big thing." When I was a little younger than this kid, I received a "Hipster" Four-Track tape player -- same thing as an eight track, but with a cassette-sized tape in a smaller form factor. I got one tape with it -- The Gentrys. I've long since lost that tape deck and the single tape it had, but I suppose it would be worth a wee bit of money were it in working conditi

    • by eln (21727) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:59PM (#28518625) Homepage
      I had a friend with an 8 track player in his Gremlin in High School. In 1994. It was not a chick magnet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CarpetShark (865376)

        I had a friend with an 8 track player in his Gremlin

        Yeah, the guy who mutilated the gremlins in the movie got chicks too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Doctor_Jest (688315)
        Are you kidding? I still own a 1979 Monte Carlo with an 8-track that WORKS. I have only two left... one of them being The Eagles Hotel California.... the other being something I'm not proud of saying... :)
      • by ScoLgo (458010) <scolgo@NospaM.gmail.com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:42PM (#28521127) Homepage

        I don't have an 8-track player - but I do leave several 8-track tapes strewn around my car interior.

        Best. Anti-Theft System. Ever. (YMMV)

      • by definate (876684) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:01PM (#28522697)

        When I was a teenager, 8 years ago (2001-2002), instead of putting a CD deck in my car, I wanted to put my dad's old 8 track deck into my car. That way it would have been ironic, hip, and would have limited me to playing only his old 60s-80s 8 track tapes. Also, I had no money for a CD deck. Almost got it done, but lazy kicked in, and the 8 track deck needed to be repaired a bit, so I abandoned it.

        I went around trying to find somewhere which might have one for real cheap, like a pawn shop or similar. This was a pretty interesting thing to go around asking.

        I went into this kind of music pawn shop, which had heaps of old things, including old record players, however it was more focused on that sort of indie niche. I walked in and asked the person running the store if they have an 8 track player, especially for a car. There was this old druggie raver looking guy standing behind him looking at records. When I asked about the 8 track player, he turned around and said "Hey man, that was funny, I thought I heard you asking for an 8 track player", at which point I looked at him and said "I am", he looked back with a freaked out yet blank face and said "Whoah". He then proceeded to stare at me after that last thought. All I can think was that I caused him to have some sort of an acid flash back, which he experienced for the next 30 seconds.

        Either way, I still got a pile of 8 track tapes and no 8 track player. Probably for the best, I now have a good car, with a good deck, and I like things which aren't shit, now. Though the old bomb (1981 Ford Falcon XD) was awesome for jumping over train tracks, going 200kph, drifting around dirt corners, shredding my tyres and similar.

    • by swb (14022) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:02PM (#28518671)

      I hated the cut in the middle of songs, although I don't remember any "good" songs being cut, usually it was mid-album lamers that got cut.

      The upside to 8 track was the infinite play capability; critical for those 1970s pot smoking sessions when everyone got too mellow to get up and change the music. Of course this was also the downside, waking up at 4 AM to switch off the Nth playthrough of "Led Zeppelin IV".

      • by ls671 (1122017) *

        > I hated the cut in the middle of songs, although I don't remember any "good" songs being cut,
        > usually it was mid-album lamers that got cut.

        It did not happen often with top of the chart hits playing on the radio, usually 2 to 4 minutes long songs. It only occurred with non radio suitable albums with pretty long songs, sometimes songs that took the whole side of an LP record (33 rpm).

        Technically, the challenge was to split a 2 side LP in 4 equal parts. Otherwise, if one of these 4 parts was considera

      • by grondu (239962)

        On the 8 track of the Allman Brothers Idewild South, they padded the last "program" so there wasn't so much empty space by repeating the section of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" from the drum break until the end.

      • I hated the cut in the middle of songs, although I don't remember any "good" songs being cut, usually it was mid-album lamers that got cut.

        One glaring example I remember: on Billy Joel's "52nd Street" 8-track, they cut "Zanzibar" in-half because it's too long for one track (5:13). It fades out during Freddie Hubbard's excellent trumpet solo.

        I am so thankful that 8-tracks quickly lost to cassette tapes, so I really never had to deal with them. Even though cassette tapes sucked, they were genuinely portable

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nolife (233813)

      Not only were you listening to "Money" on Track 2 but you could probably also faintly here "Speak to Me" on track 1 at the same time through the bleed through.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:31PM (#28519189)

        you could probably also faintly here "Speak to Me" on track 1 at the same time

        That was just 'the lunatic in your head' that you were hearing.

      • by ls671 (1122017) *

        This was due to head misalignment, it also occurs with 4 track mini-cassette but it is harder to recognize the interfering song because it is then played backwards ;-)

        • by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:47PM (#28520465)
          It is however possible, on both formats, for a loud sound like an kick drum hit to appear immediately before or after it actually is supposed to be heard, because the tape layers on the spool print through [wikipedia.org] onto layers above them. When I used to do gun recordings with a Nagra 4-S [wikipedia.org] you would always store the tapes "tails out" or FFwded to the end, so that any print through would sound after the actual sound, and would sound like an echo, rather than preceding the sound and ruining the attack.
    • Yeah, thanks for the (bad) memories... I bought a few 8-track tapes back in the day. It was great how you'd often have a track change RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FRIGGIN' SONG.

      I also had one of these popular brightly-colored "portable" 8-track players that had a big T-shaped handle on the top. If you wanted to change tracks, you'd whack down on the handle... I think this was the one [kaboomtoys.com].

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:53PM (#28518523) Journal
    Sony's audio cassette devices didn't manage to contain any rootkits...
  • by powerslave12r (1389937) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:57PM (#28518573)
    The sound of, say, Metallica's Garage Inc on tape is way better than on mp3. Cassettes are beautiful. They are durable, unlike CD/DVDs, and I have 25 year old cassettes that still work. They are hardware, tangible mechanical form of music. And there's just something about it that no CD/DVD/MP3s can match. And then there's the cover art sitting on an actual cover. Man I miss those days.
    • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m ail.com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:59PM (#28518619)

      And there's just something about it that no CD/DVD/MP3s can match.

      Like the ability to get wrapped around the heads in a crappy/broken player? ;-)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dotgain (630123)
        You're thinking of helical-scan tapes like VHS, even then it would only happen if the tape or head somehow got sticky. These decks have dew sensors to stop them from operating if build up on the spinning head drum is likely.

        4 track audio actually wrap around the capstan and pinch-roller, the tape is only 'dragged over' the head, meaning crap on the head can scratch the tape surface, but there's not really any way for it to tangle there. Any sticky crap on the capstan/rollers would cause the tape to adhe

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CarpetShark (865376)

        Like the ability to get wrapped around the heads in a crappy/broken player? ;-)

        Not to advocate cassettes, but at least they didn't get scratched in stupid CD trays that eject and retract at all the wrong times, like when you're halfway through changing the CD and rebooting. Then you try to rescue the CD from being scratched as it's jammed halfway into the closing tray, only to have the tray try to eat your fingers too.

    • I guess they're durable as long as you don't listen to them much. The mere act of playing a cassette degrades it. And then there's the sound quality issue. Comparing cassettes favorably to mp3 is one thing, but to CD/DVD? Seriously?
      • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:24PM (#28519049)

        Worse, the mere act of not using a cassette degrades it. Not even vinyl can say that. It just degrades in an analog way that will leave the tape technically playable for a long time. But it also starts with signficantly worse quality than either CDs or vinyl and goes downhill from there.

        I can understand the nostalgic property of vinyl to a certain degree, but longing for cassettes is just pathetic.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Here we branch out into technically superior and characteristically superior. I liken it to an old car. All those posting here about head being coated (which can be cleaned real easily, the joy of listening after that exercise!) and cassettes needing re-spooling or degrading with use need to look at it this way. All these very things make an album on cassette a thing. Not a song that can be copied in no time and you never getting to feel it.

        You can argue that mp3s appeal to the ear only as opposed to c
        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          I liken it to an old car.

          An old car, properly maintained and serviced, works like new. A cassette can never say the same as no amount of head cleaning will prevent or undo the degradation that occurs over time whether used or not. Even the highest quality cassettes (the only kind I'd buy) are on a slow curve to uselessness.

          You can argue that mp3s appeal to the ear only as opposed to cassettes (or even vinyl for that matter) that appeal to the ears, eyes, touch and if you're weird like me, then even taste

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dangitman (862676)

          Here we branch out into technically superior and characteristically superior.

          If you like the audio characteristics of cassettes, a digital audio file can reproduce every single flaw and bit of distortion. You could even apply filters to make brand new CDs sound just like an old cassette.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by RockWolf (806901)

            You could even apply filters to make brand new CDs sound just like an old cassette.

            A webcam microphone recording of the track being played through $5 Walmart speakers under a pillow, then downsampled to a 32kbps wma file should do the job.

            /~Rockwolf

      • A cassette lasts longer than a CD-R.

      • by dov_0 (1438253)

        I guess they're durable as long as you don't listen to them much. The mere act of playing a cassette degrades it. And then there's the sound quality issue. Comparing cassettes favorably to mp3 is one thing, but to CD/DVD? Seriously?

        When I was studying music years ago I did some blind tests to show whether I could detect the difference between analog and digitally sampled (CD) recordings. I got it every time. CD sounds like rubbish for a lot of music. It's great for modern music, but real rubbish as far as complex sounds like violins etc go. For strings, LP's and analog cassettes really do offer a nicer sound.

        • by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:01PM (#28520641)

          Just curious, you didn't write up your experiment, did you? My old prof [wikipedia.org] would probably be interested in reading.

          Also, are you sure that the CDs were "worse" at reproduction on absolute terms, or that the analogue recordings simply induced distortions that you found pleasant, like tube-induced second harmonic distortion? It's almost impossible to do double-blind audio analysis with analogue v digital, because analogue always gives itself away with noise, and I've read that subjective listeners often cannot tell the difference between analogue and digital for most program material if the digital is noised up, or if needle pops are added, or if programs like string-heavy orchestral programs are given even-harmonic distortion.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:03PM (#28518705) Homepage

      And there's just something about it that no CD/DVD/MP3s can match.

      Hmm. In a pinch, audio cassettes can do double-duty as impromptu teething devices for your toddler, and still play music afterwards. Is that it?

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Heh, apparently, I was really into Janis Joplin as a baby. I ate not one, but two of her 8 tracks.
    • by eln (21727)
      Cassette tapes obviously aren't as vulnerable to scratching, but I don't know if "durable" is a word I would use. I spent many a tedious hour winding a tape back onto the spool after having a tape player spew it out everywhere, being careful not to crease it at any point, else it might catch in another player's mechanism and either unwind again or just break. The sound quality also noticeably degraded after the tape was played several times, and reproductions were incredibly lossy. And God help you if yo
      • by Megane (129182)

        They were also vulnerable to a bad master tape during manufacturing. The only pre-recorded cassette tape I bought back in the day had a dropout in the music. I took it back and exchanged it for another copy. The replacement had a dropout in the same place. (And yes, it was a different tape, I know they didn't just hand the same tape back to me.)

        I ended up getting about a dozen LPs back in the early '80s (two or three of them Wierd Al), then stopped because CD would obviously take over.

        • by mdf356 (774923)

          I got so used to the dropout in my copy of "... and Justice for All" that when I finally got it on CD years later it sounded weird to me for a long time.

      • A CD in a hot car could also have problems, especially if the CD is a recordable disk. If the tape deck eats a tape, it only affects a small part of the tape, if needed you can cut and splice it. On the other hand, if a CD is scratched the result may be anywhere from unnoticeable to a skip to an unplayable disk. It would be quite hard for a tape player to make the whole tape unusable (short of a malfunctioning erase circuit).

        And cassettes are durable. Once somebody (not me) stepped on a cassette that I real

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by karnal (22275)

          The problem with your comment (and I'm not picking on you, just stating a point) is that most people today who would burn a CD probably have another copy of the data at home. So, the tedious effort of repacking a tape just to play it again (I know I've had the pleasure of doing this....) is actually quite substantial when compared to smashing a CD-R of your favorite music and then spending all of 5 minutes burning a new copy.

          I still have yet to convince my wife that she should not use pressed CDs in her ca

    • ...About the only benefit cassette tapes really had/have is the ability to play them in older cars that were too old to have CD players. Plus, durable? Someone hasn't ever lost a tape due to a bad player and made the tape look like a slightly less artistic version of this (http://www.walyou.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/jimi-hendrix-casette-tape-art2.jpg).
    • by Vellmont (569020)

      Heh.. Your post reminds me of all the people nostalgic about Vinyl. They said/say the exact same thing about tapes. It's interesting how some members of each generation seems to fall in love with the FORMAT of the music.

    • The sound of, say, Metallica's Garage Inc on tape is way better than on mp3. Cassettes are beautiful. They are durable, unlike CD/DVDs, and I have 25 year old cassettes that still work. They are hardware, tangible mechanical form of music. And there's just something about it that no CD/DVD/MP3s can match. And then there's the cover art sitting on an actual cover. Man I miss those days.

      Man this is just wrong. Yes, tape has a higher fidelity than your standard 128 kbps mp3. But not for long. You'll lose most of the highs from ambient electromagnetic interference over the years, unless you store it in a lead box or something.

      I wouldn't exactly call them durable either. You've never had a tape eaten by a bad deck? Or a little brother that decorated his room with the tape?

      And cover art? It's smaller than a CD case!

      Have you ever even heard of vinyl? Promo posters, bifold and tr

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pentium100 (1240090)

        Man this is just wrong. Yes, tape has a higher fidelity than your standard 128 kbps mp3. But not for long. You'll lose most of the highs from ambient electromagnetic interference over the years, unless you store it in a lead box or something.

        Depending on where that MP3 is written, after some number of years the cassette may sound bad and the MP3 might be unplayable.

        I wouldn't exactly call them durable either. You've never had a tape eaten by a bad deck? Or a little brother that decorated his room with the tape?

        It's also very easy to damage a CD. It's easily scratched, CD-Rs don't like sunlight (and UV rays) and degrade faster than a tape. Tape, eaten by a bad deck can usually be saved. A broken CD cannot be fixed, however it's likely that the cassette you sat on contains a tape that can be moved to another shell.

        I've got 80 year old 78's

        I have one record that's 94 years old :)

        Anyway, cassettes are usually more dur

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Yes, tape has a higher fidelity than your standard 128 kbps mp3.

        I very much doubt that. Even if you're using a well-recorded expensive "metal" tape as your point of comparison, I reckon a well-encoded 128kbps MP3 is still going to beat it for overall audio quality.

    • I loved my tape collection but it could be completely hit or miss as to how long they'd last because your tape could get eaten, you ideally, had to keep cleaning the player, and, while this is true of electronics in general, tapes laying around in the car was not a good idea at all.

      I personally think CDs had better cover art and you were much more likely to get more stuff to read in the CD over than the tape cover. The paper was generally better quality and it didn't fall apart after years of use (assumi
    • by ucblockhead (63650) on Monday June 29, 2009 @06:07PM (#28521401) Homepage Journal

      Best part, you can use them to trade music with your friends, just like the Metallica guys did before they got famous.

  • by WarwickRyan (780794) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:58PM (#28518581)

    ..was there to make my C64 games load faster...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:02PM (#28518667)

    It comes with a handy belt clip screwed on to the back, yet the weight of the unit is enough to haul down a low-slung pair of combats.

    Pull your pants up and wear a belt! You damn kids

    • by eln (21727) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:08PM (#28518815) Homepage
      Seriously, these things were made for the '80s! Back then, you needed your friends to help you put on your pants because they were so tight! If you ate too much during the day, you would need the paramedics to cut you out of your pants at night! You could clip a brick of lead to your belt loop and your pants would remain firmly in place.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851)
      That was my thought, are kids today really that spoiled rotten? I mean when I was a kid we got to choose between cassettes and records then later cassettes and CDs. But, I don't recall any of my friends ever speaking so derisively of the turntables.

      Perhaps it's because I'm quite bright, but apart from the metal switch, I never had any of those questions when I first picked up a tape deck.
      • Re:Low-slung... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:53PM (#28519593) Homepage

        Perhaps it's because I'm quite bright, but apart from the metal switch, I never had any of those questions when I first picked up a tape deck.

        Maybe because tape decks were in common use when you were a kid, and you saw them being operated?

        I'm not sure it's fair to call kids "spoiled rotten" because they see the superiority of current technology over what was in use years/decades before they were born. Kids may have a hard time imagining life without iPods and the Internet, but many young adults have a hard time imagining life before TVs and telephones were in every house. Many of us have a hard time imagining life without electricity, automobiles, or indoor plumbing. Insofar as this kid is spoiled, we're all spoiled.

      • That was my thought, are kids today really that spoiled rotten? I mean when I was a kid we got to choose between cassettes and records then later cassettes and CDs. But, I don't recall any of my friends ever speaking so derisively of the turntables.

        Perhaps it's because I'm quite bright, but apart from the metal switch, I never had any of those questions when I first picked up a tape deck.

        I think part of the reason you had little trouble was the contemporary "general knowledge" of the time. You learned tapes had double sides, because at the very least you saw an adult flip the tape around and there was usually writing on both sides. You saw it being used, you heard you parents (or whoever) talk about the device, etc. Even if you don't recall someone specifically stating "Now Sam, remember the tape has two sides so when you reach the end you need to flip it" you learned it from somewhere.

        T

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tbird81 (946205)

        Perhaps it's because I'm quite bright, but apart from the metal switch, I never had any of those questions when I first picked up a tape deck.

        Yes, you're very smart. Pat yourself on the back.

  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:04PM (#28518727)

    As I listen to Dëthklok, I marvel at a radio that would have a Metal/normal equalizer preset.

    That would be pretty metal.

    • by mobby_6kl (668092)

      The Sony Walkman which my parents got me in the mid 90s also had the awesome Metal tape switch. Too bad I wasn't into the genre at the time, I'm sure it would've amused my young self to no end. Still, it took me a while to figure out what it was for, since of course I did not RTFM.

      Unfortunately it was snatched on one of the school trips, so while it's not cluttering up my drawer somewhere, I do still have the kit earbuds. From what I can remember about it, it was a model related to the WM-FX211 [walkmancentral.com], though not

  • Boombox (Score:5, Funny)

    by ei4anb (625481) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:18PM (#28518963)
    and for next week's assignment have him carry around a ghettoblaster [wikipedia.org] ;-)
  • by RawJoe (712281) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:22PM (#28519035)
    Either he writes well or I was an idiot when I was 13.
  • I bought a Walkman in Munich in 1981 when I was a tourist and the device was still relatively new. It was so cool! The first versions looked so well made!

    Nowadays, the thing's junk compared to my Sansa player, but my memory takes me back to when it was the single coolest single thing I owned.!

  • I remember when the walkman and similar cassettes came out. I did not know what the metal/normal switch was for, and I was more than 13. It did not seem that long until the auto reverse feature was common. I wonder how many people in the 90's, who never grew up with albums, really understood that there were two tracks, or sides, on a tape.

    Here are the two reasons I liked my first MP3 player better than a tape or cd player. First, even on my primitive player, which I used from a time before the iPod ex

    • by King_TJ (85913)

      For that matter, I wonder how many people really owned metal bias cassettes, even back in the hey-day of the Walkman?

      I remember being told by someone "in the know", at some point in my childhood that the "chrome" and "metal" positions on a component stereo tape deck were for "better quality" cassettes with those "bias settings". But I never had reason to USE any setting but "normal" until much later, when I found some "chrome" TDK branded cassettes on sale (at about double the price of the others) and decid

      • by dangitman (862676)

        My father used metal tapes in an expensive Nakamichi hi-fi cassette deck. He used them to record his classical music from his vinyl records, so he wouldn't degrade the record with repeat listening.

        But I never saw anybody else use them, at most people would buy the "chrome" tapes, which were much more like the normal tapes, only very slightly better. Nothing like these "metal" tapes that cost a small fortune. And they actually were heavy, almost as if the cassette was made of lead - other cassettes seemed fl

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by paimin (656338)
      FYI, there's actually 4 tracks on a cassette tape. Each side has two tracks for left and right, and they are interleaved from top to bottom: left side 1, right side 2, right side 1, left side 2.
  • RTFM? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PFritz21 (766949)
    I didn't read the article yet, but did the reporter give the kid a manual for operating the Walkman? If so, the kid could have resolved some of those issues by reading it. If not, then I understand his confusion. CD's have been the standard for physical media since the early 90's, and manufacturers probably stop making cassette tapes for new albums when he was 3 or 4. CD's are, after all, one-sided.
  • I wonder if I'm the only one in the world that still uses Minidiscs. The way Sony handled the minidisc format is unsurprisingly idiotic, but the technology itself is very cool (Faraday effect/magneto-optical). They are also very durable, last a long time on batteries and have removable media which to some people is a feature rather than a bug. I don't use portable players much but when I do I still use my MZ-RH1 Hi-Md. But then again, I never, ever use the horrible SonicStage software that is necessary to a
    • Man, I bought my wife a mini-disc player six years ago because I thought they were pretty cool. You could put a lot of music on a disc, and although it wasn't quite as big as an iPod, you could always just carry another disc or two because they were pretty small. I thought it was a great balance between size and expandability, and the player was pretty small and easy to carry around. The sound quality was great. I thought, 'I know she asked for an mp3 player, but this is even better than an mp3 player.'

  • by ninjagin (631183) on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:56PM (#28519633)
    ... figure out a rotary-dial phone?
    • Re:But could he... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:34PM (#28520291) Homepage Journal

      I don't see why not. There's only one official way to use a rotary dial phone. Dialing by fiddling with the receiver "off hook" switch was a pain, and only for those cases where you had to make a call when somebody put one of those locks on the rotary dial.

      It's not at all physically obvious why casette tapes should have "sides". The answer is in the physical property of the media. The speed with which the magnetized tape passes the head determines the strength of a signal. One of the trade offs of the technology is that higher speed and overall tape length. Having two sides to the tape allowed the overall tape length to remain manageable while doubling the capacity of the cartridge.

      Likewise with the "metal" button. His guess was actually quite clever, and not too far off the mark. "Metal" here is a ridiculous piece of jargon; all tapes use metals or mixtures of different metal compounds bound to a plastic substrate. "Metal" tapes have a mixture with different recording and playback characteristics than the older iron oxide tapes. How the hell is anybody supposed to infer that from a label on a button?

      Judging from the picture, they game him a beat up old tape player. It's no wonder it didn't sound so good. He was quite observant to note that some of the sound problems he heard were a result of weak batteries driving the motors, which might be worse on an old device. The quality of the tapes he used could also be an issue. Old, worn out tapes would sound bad, and new tapes that weren't recorded properly in the first place could have problems too.

      Back in the day, a really good "walkman" type tape device with a decent set of portable earphones and a good quality tape could actually sound acceptably good. Maybe not audiophile quality, but then again you'd be taking your life in your hands to walk around with anything "audiophile quality" on conspicuous display. Even today people listen to their MP3 players using earbuds. I would say that a portable tape player with everything in tip-top shape and a pair of decent over the ear earphones would give an iPod with stock earbuds a run for its money in terms of sound.

      • Re:But could he... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ninjagin (631183) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:50PM (#28520511)

        A friend of mine had to teach their kid how to use the "phone without buttons", recently. Let's just say that it's non-obvious, and much more so than I expected.

        Your points are good, but leave off one interesting bit about cassette players -- not all of them were especially good at matching the same tape speed. I had a sony that would play just the tiniest bit faster than it should, mucking up the pace and tone of the recording. Oddly enough, the sanyo it replaced had a speed control so that you could adjust for that.

        Finally, he never got to listen to two of my favorite cassette bands -- "de-magnetizer" and "head cleaner" -- what's a cassette experience without 'em?

  • Funniest Quote (Score:4, Insightful)

    by porcupine8 (816071) on Monday June 29, 2009 @05:09PM (#28520737) Journal
    I'm relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born..

    Aw, that's cute. We'll see what he says when he's forty and he gives his kid an iPod to play with.
  • Wait, what? (Score:4, Funny)

    by ChinggisK (1133009) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:37PM (#28523507)

    That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equalizer, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette."

    Wait wait wait. They had actual METAL cassettes? Like, made out of metal?

    The scary part is that I'm being completely serious. I'm only 21 but I had a Walkman for a few years before I got my first CD player, I always wondered about that switch but since I never saw a cassette made out of metal I assumed the same thing he did, that it was being genre-specific.

    Now one of the great mysteries of my life is solved.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ProteusQ (665382)

      Vegeta99 is right about the sound quality. (I don't know about the chemical composition of the tape-- it's probably on Wikipedia, but I can't be bothered to look it up. ;) The cases were always plastic, of course.

      Metal tapes were a lot more expensive than regular tapes, and you could only buy them at specialty stores, such as Musicland. If you were going to create a master mix and then duplicate it on a cutting-edge dual-cassette deck, you would create the master on a metal tape ($4 to $5 each in mid-80'

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @01:02AM (#28524771)

    I find it disturbing that, according to the article at least, this particular kid had problems working out for himself that a cassette tape is two-sided and what half of the controls on the Walkman do.

    As a kid, I can remember taking some bits of machinery apart to clean or service them, and just to see how they worked. (For example, my parents were in the clothes-making/tailoring trade and I frequently messed about with old sewing machines to fix them or clean them.) I also got into electronics at a fairly young age and knew some basics about car mechanics.

    It seems a shame that kids these days don't get the chance to (or are just not interested in) take things apart just to see how they work - from my perspective, I developed an "engineering brain" from a really early age that has served me well throughout my career.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eu_virtual (994133)
      You know, not everyone from your generation did that. Just because this particular kid doesn't do that kind of stuff, it doesn't mean kids these days are not interested.

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