01 October 2008


I've just been listening to Fat and Frantic on my Walkman, exactly as if this was 1988.

In 2008, however, my Walkman is considerably smaller than a cassette used to be, and currently contains 62 albums with ample room to spare. That's the equivalent of carrying around not only a machine half the weight of a brick on a strap, but a suitcase full of tapes to stick in it. And I keep it in my pocket with a phone I can carry round and use to ring people up from anywhere I like[1], and an object the size of my little finger that's functionally equivalent to a floppy disk, only with 4,000 times the entire storage capacity of my Dad's Amiga.

I'm not dismissing the deeply ambivalent effect that Western consumer technology has had on the world, improving quality of life immeasurably for a small portion of the world's population while fuelling a runaway consumerism which threatens to bankrupt the whole of humanity. Sometimes, though, it seems appropriate just to marvel.

[1]OK, so we had a few of those in 1988. But they were also the size and weight of half a brick, cost as much as a small car, and were exclusively used by yuppies for phoning up other yuppies and yapping about their stock options.

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