Car Audio

Whatever happened to car audio? 20 years ago when I was a teenager, it seemed like a big subset of our generation cared about how the music sounded coming out of your car. Entire sections of big box electronic stores were dedicated to car audio. There were even stand-alone stores dedicated to sub-woofers, amps, decks with removable faces, some of which even came with remote controls. Now, the industry is dead as far as I can tell. Is it because the stock audio incorporated into cars these days is good enough, if not more than sufficient, or is it because everyone is too busy playing on their phones all day with no need or energy to spare thinking about car audio.

All I can say is that among the many industries digital music and smart phones have killed, the car audio industry is often overlooked. Kids these days will never know what my memorable experience was like driving in a friend’s suped-up car thumping two 12-inch subs in the back for the entire neighborhood to hear. Another adolescent pastime down the drain that will be lost forever for today’s kids.

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Smart Watches

Almost six years ago I published a post entitled, The Timepiece as Art. I am still into wristwatches and have added to my collection significantly since then (Thanks, Dad!), but I wrote a line in that post that stated that I wanted a watch to feed me information. In addition to the local time, a typical mechanical watch can offer one or more of the day, date, month, world time or other time increments. But there are limits of what information can be offered. All of that is about to change.

Smart watches that link to a user’s phone is not a new concept; fitness trackers and other smart watches have been on the market for many years and have been meaningfully improved recently. But similar to my post below, because of the Apple Watch that was further detailed today in San Francisco by Apple, I am excited at the possibility of what the coming years hold. When the iPhone was announced in 2007, competitors’ phones began improving immediately. The Samsung Note 4 that I use today is a great phone, but is the sum of the successes and failures of prior phones across the global market the last eight years. I would expect a similar trajectory for smart watches.

But here is my conundrum. I still love mechanical watches. Having the time, day, date or other information in my palm or pocket on my phone has not caused me to stop wearing a wristwatch on my left wrist everyday. But when I can get all of that information and more on my left wrist, what do I do then? I don’t think we’re going to see the days where people wear multiple wrist accessories that are intended to do the same thing – for example, no one will be wearing an Apple Watch, FitBit, Rolex, etc. There will be only one winner in this game and the big losers will likely be the Swiss and Japanese watch making industry.

I have yet to join the iOS ecosystem and have been a Google/Android user since 2006. I don’t see myself with an Apple Watch, but I do see myself one day with a smart watch – probably an Android-based device several iterations from what is available today. But that prospect concerns me when I think about my wristwatch collection and what the future holds for it. I know classic watches will never go away or out of style, and I hope the prevailing style is to find a way to use both mechanical and high-tech watches, but I hope I don’t eventually become a wearer of solely a niche item.

Smart Phones

I wrote the below post on this blog in February 2007 and titled the post “Because of the iPhone.”  Now, eight years later, I can say that beyond sleep and work, I probably spend more time with my smart phone than anything else and definitely more than I could have ever imagined at that time, the least of which is actually talking on it in the traditional phone sense. I still don’t have an iPhone (although my wife does), but the technology that I first saw that February morning in New York City has changed our lives and our culture in unforeseen ways.

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February 2007

I’ve been wanting to get a new cell phone for the past several months. The one that I have now has been with me for the past two and a half years and has been a great phone, although the battery life is starting to fade. But I have decided to wait until later this year to get a new cell phone. I have decided to wait not for the iPhone, but because of it.

Yes, I read about the hype when Jobs announced the new phone last month. Yes, the phone looked nice, but it didn’t occur to me to get one. And then, this past Tuesday morning, I arrived early for a meeting at the building on the corner of 59th Street and 5th Avenue – the site of the world’s busiest Apple store. I decided to go in for a few minutes to warm up. While inside, I checked out a demo of the iPhone and its functions and features. I was impressed, to say the least. The iPhone is the direction that phones are heading and I wanted in. Yet, I’m not one of those guys who loves Apple. I have an iPod and enjoy it, but I am loyal to PCs for my computing needs. Once the iPhone (or whatever else it may be called depending on the dispute with Cisco) comes out, it will only be a matter of months before the big cell phone manufacturers come out with something similar available on the major service providers. The price may be steep, but if all of the iPhone’s bells and whistles work as well as they did on that demo I saw, the price may be worth it. I am not the only one to think this, but this phone will revolutionize cell phones as we know it. And once I have more options and lower prices, I will be ready to jump in.

When Music Ruled the World

For anyone who enjoys the music industry, technology or pop culture, you need to subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter. A friend let me know about it over three years ago and I have enjoyed reading his musings, insight and rants in my email inbox since. While most of his letters focus on the music industry and its artists, there are the occasional non-music related discussions that open my eyes to something new or expand my thinking. In a recent letter discussing a song he enjoyed listened to over and over, he wrote the following:

It’s about music! This is something the baby boomers know. Which is why they overpay to see the stars of yore. Ask young ‘uns, and you find out music is disposable, grease for the event, something to laugh at and discard. But for baby boomers, music is life itself. Because they remember when music drove the culture, ruled the earth.

After I read those few sentences, I stopped, and read them again. While I somehow knew this intuitively, it made complete sense to me when I saw it written down. Just think of the Top 40 right now, the YouTube stars and the rise of electronic music – how many of those artists become legendary, cultural icons, or rule the world? These days, it’s hardly about the artist and it is definitely not about the music most of the time. Music is, as Lefsetz writes, solely the “grease for the event,” a facilitator.

Music was still driving the culture in the 1990s, when people still bought CDs (I was still buying plenty of cassette tapes then too), but soon, along came MP3s and streaming music and access to any song any time almost anywhere. What has come along with it is a generation of young adults that may know certain songs, but barely own any music and may never know the enjoyment that comes from following an artist through his or her musical career.

I have kids at home. One of my goals will get them to appreciate the music of yore while still living life to the disposable music of today.

EDM

I posted on my Twitter feed the other day (@soundtosound) the following: Who knew I would see the day when Swedish House Mafia was played on the mainstream radio station. And I’m serious, but I guess not overwhelmingly surprised. I should have seen this coming. Ever since 2009 I have tried to follow the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene the best I could from a distance, but it is plainly obvious that EDM is here to stay. Remember thirty years ago when many thought that Rap was a fad and would ultimately fade? Well, it hasn’t, and neither will EDM. Whether it’s trance, progressive, house, dubstep or drum and bass, this is not the techno from the 1990s. The music and technology is much more sophisticated, the audience is young and global and the DJs behind the music are raking in millions. I dare someone to turn on the radio to any pop or Top 40 station today and not find a song that does not include EDM elements – they hardly exist anymore. In fact, Calvin Harris and David Guetta are radio stars these days and attract mainstream radio and media coverage, even though they are only the surface of the entire EDM scene. Just look at the numbers and the audience that Electric Daisy Carnival brings in – and it’s growing every year (see the 2012 EDC trailer here). This is the world’s future generation and perhaps the future of music. Personally, I credit Tritonal’s Air Up There podcast over the past three years as one of the largest reasons why I am into EDM today. Thank you, Chad and Dave, and keep up the good work.

Reminded Again

Five years ago I wrote on this same site that it was eleven years since I had my bone tumor removed. Well, again on December 19, I am reminded of that same event, but now it has been 16 years to the day since I went under the knife and had a bone tumor removed from my upper right humerus bone. I’m glad to report that after all of these years, I am doing just fine other than a rather impressive scar that I have often showed off over the years. One consequence of the surgery was reduced movement and rotation in my right arm and a tendency to get tired faster than my left arm when performing strenuous activity. My nerves up and down my arm also were affected and tingle from time to time, but overall I consider these things as minor in nature and they definitely do not outweigh the benefits received from the removal of a large, overgrown and deformed piece of bone that was growing in my arm. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have the surgery, but I will forever be grateful for the technology and skills that allowed for me to have the surgery. My life is better off than it could have been due to modern medicine.

Left on the Plane

So get this. I uncharacteristicly left my Kindle Fire on a flight from San Francisco to New York. After delays and a late arrival, I rushed off the plane only to realize upon arrival to the hotel that I had left it. I filed a claim online (since that is all that can be done) and was hopeful that I might see it again.

When I checked my personal email the next afternoon, I was shocked to see 40+ emails from Amazon thanking me for my purchases. Except that it wasn’t me. Yes, my password-free Kindle Fire, tied to my Amazon account and credit card, was picked up by another passenger or employee and they started a shopping spree. Thankfully, no tangible products were purchased, only digital items directly for use on the Kindle, which made it easier to mitigate. The purchases ranged from kids music and books, to diet and work-out videos and materials to erotic fantasy novels, clearly a renaissance consumer. I quickly notified my credit card company and Amazon, stopped all purchases, deregistered my device and had Amazon turn off the signal, therefore rendering it useless for anyone else. Goes to show that cheaters never win.

No charges from Amazon ever went through to my credit card (thanks Capital One and Amazon!) and the only real loss to me is the device, which sucks, but is not the end of the world.

Apparently I’m only one of many that have made this mistake, according to a recent WSJ article discussing how many iPads and Kindles each airline collects. 

One day, however, it would be nice to believe that when a fellow person makes a mistake, that those that could benefit would rather do the right thing rather than try to benefit from said mistake. But that’s perhaps too simplistic and naïve. The better idea is to not leave my personal belongings behind ever again.