Tue | May 22, 2018

Michael Abrahams | I miss holding stuff

Published:Monday | August 1, 2016 | 12:47 AMMichael Abrahams

I miss holding stuff. I really do. I grew up in a house with lots of music. My father owned a formidable record collection, and I was exposed to many different genres - classical, jazz, rhythm and blues, calypso, reggae, ska, rocksteady. You name it, it was being played at home.

In those days, we had these things called records. They were made of vinyl and were usually LPs (albums) and 45s. I would place them on the turntable, put the needle down on them, and enjoy the music. The lyrics would be often be printed on the album jackets or inner sleeves (of LPs), along with information such as the songwriters, producers, arrangers, musicians, studios where the songs were recorded and instruments played. Sometimes the records would have scratches, or gather dust, causing the needle to skip over parts of a song, or repeat lines in a song, sort of like a remix, but more annoying. If exposed to heat, the records would sometimes become warped and the needle would be tossed up and down on the disc like a rodeo cowboy on a raging bull.

One annoying thing about records is that once the song or songs on one side were finished playing, you had to turn them over to hear what was on the other side. Cassettes were also available, and the advantage with these was that when one side was finished, with the better devices, the next side would automatically play. In addition, you could purchase blank cassettes and record and re-record on them, and listen to them when you were in your car, or on portable devices that you could carry or attach to your garments.

One of the major problems with cassettes was that sometimes the tape would be pulled out or get caught up in the players, and you would have to manually wind the tape with a pencil or a pen, and with constant playing the sound quality would sometimes be compromised.

Then CDs came along. It took me a while to get used to them. They were like mini-records, and the albums would have liner notes with the information that I was interested in, just like with LPs. But by the time I got used to CDs, before I know what was happening, something radically different began to transpire regarding the way we obtain and listen to music.

Downloads became the new way to groove to our favourite songs, and all of a sudden, the opportunities to actually hold my music in my hands started to dwindle. Record shops gradually began to disappear. I used to enjoy visiting New York and roaming through music stores in Manhattan and searching for CDs to add to my collection. During my last visit there, I came up empty-handed.

I am now experiencing the same situation with books. I love reading books. Books that I can hold in my hands, and turn pages in and open up and smell that new-book scent. (You know what I am talking about). But nowadays, downloads are the thing, with Kindle and other devices increasing in popularity. Books, magazines and newspapers now have online options, with some being available exclusively in that format. As a matter of fact, you are now reading this article on a laptop, tablet or mobile device, as it is only available in the online, and not the print, version of The Gleaner.

Nowadays, there is less stuff to hold. We no longer need DVD collections, as movies are available on demand and we can binge-watch them and television shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and other online media services.

Entire book collections can be stored on Kindles and large music collections on iPods and mp3 players. If you wish to hear a song that you like or watch a video, there is also YouTube to provide instant gratification.

So bookshelves and CD and DVD stands are being replaced by laptops, tablets and cellular devices. Video games can be downloaded instead of being purchased as cartridges. The last time I bought an article of clothing, while I stood waiting for the receipt, I was told that it was emailed to me, and when visiting the bank, I no longer have to walk with a bankbook.

All these developments benefit the environment, as it means less plastic and other non-biodegradable material to pollute the planet. It also give us more room in which to manoeuvre ourselves, as less space is taken up in homes and offices, and the convenience of accessing information and entertainment, and carrying out financial and business transactions almost anywhere is a definite plus.

Come to think of it, all this makes our lives easier. But sometimes change can be difficult to accept, even though it may benefit us. I do appreciate all these amazing technological advances, but I still miss holding stuff.

- Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.