When I was a kid, we had to rely on AM radio to hear the latest hits. If we heard a song we liked, we had to hope we heard it again when we had our tape recorder ready, and even then we had to be quick to not lose more than the first 10 or 15 seconds of the song before pressing the PLAY/REC buttons at the same time and holding the mono recorder up to the tinny radio. Even when FM radio started playing AOR, the technology wasn't much better. If you had affluent parents, you may have had a tape deck attached to a stereo receiver, or at the very least an all-in-one system. But even then, the process was the same, only you at least got a better quality recording. Oh, and even if you liked a song, the DJ didn't always announce the name of the song or group.
Of course, you could go out and buy the single 45rpm or even the whole album. You did have to be sure to save your allowance or your paper route money (yes, kids had paper routes) so you could maybe buy one album every week or so.
Then there was the issue of listening to your music outside of your house (did I mention that we actually left our homes and went outside?). This was a dilemma in and of itself. There were no iPods. Even the Sony Walkman didn't come out until I was 16, and again, it wasn't something that every Tom, Dick, and Harry could afford.
Hell, I didn't even start buying albums with any regularity until I was 16.
Anyway, in order to listen to music outside, you had to be lucky enough to have a portable cassette player (mono of course), or a transistor radio, or if you could afford it, a boombox. You had to carry this clunky thing around, and if you wanted to hear it while you played stick ball or something, you had to turn it up to the point where it was barely audible distortion. And as for mobility, I used to figure out ways to tie the radio to my bike's handlebars. It certainly wasn't fitting in my pocket.
Keep in mind that all of this was going on while we were outside with no form of communication (we couldn't bring our rotary or touch-tone phone from home you know), no way for our parents to get in touch with us, and no connection to anyone that we weren't actually with at the time.
Fast forward 40 years. Yesterday I'm watching American Idol (basically the Gong Show with less funny judges and host, but a more serious purpose) on a 20 minute recorded delay, in high definition surround sound, on a 52" flat screen TV, and a commercial for the new Mustang comes on, which has a song I think sounds pretty cool.
Do I hope I hear it again so I can get my tape recorder ready? Of course not.
I simply pick up a small thin device that sits in the palm of my hand that I can occasionally make phone calls with, I tap a few spots on the screen to open an app (what the hell is an app?) called SoundHound. I touch a big gold button on the screen after rewinding the commercial (rewinding TV? That's crazy!), and in literally 3 seconds I know that the aurally appealing song is 'Light Of The Morning' by Band of Skulls from the album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey.
But wait....now I know the song. I still have to record it somehow, or go out and buy it, no?
Don't be silly. From the same page on the device that gave me this information, I tap a button that says "Buy", and it takes me to the Amazon MP3 site (Amazon? MP3? site? Huh?) where I'm automatically logged into my account (an account eh? Fancy man are ya?), I click on "Download" (okay, now you're blowing my mind), and in a few seconds I have the song on my phone which, in addition to being able to browse the web (what, like a spider?), also happens to play and store music. Of course, I could have opted to stream it from the Amazon Cloud Player instead of downloading it (okay, now I know you're nuts. How do you play a cloud from a stream?)
Did I mention that before buying the song, I first clicked on the name of the song on my strange little device and watched this video?
The funny thing is, we are so connected today, that we take it for granted. How often do we stop and think how far we've come in the last 30 years? Can you imagine if we left our smartphones at home for a day or two? For some people, that would be like asking them to leave their lungs at home.