Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Heads or Tails #98 -- spin

In today's Heads or Tails, our meme-master Barb asks us to write about "spin."

I never completely understood how a needle riding through grooves of spinning vinyl (or, before that, wax -- thus, "stacks of golden wax") could somehow extract music and convey it to the stereo speakers. But I could see that a discontinuity across the spinning grooves (a scratch) could cause the needle to skip. I could look at an album and see where the music was and wasn't. I'm not saying I could see drum solos... although some people, I believe, could. The best I could do was put the needle down just at the start of a song... and sometimes, with practice, right at some other spot I most wanted to hear. I could see, when the playing surface was not level, how the needle would bounce. I could even fix that, sometimes, with a carefully taped dime on the tone arm, if it was flat enough. Of course, too much weight on the needle and the music was literally carved out of the grooves.

I know CDs spin; I can hear them whirring around in the disk drive. And scratches can sometimes fatally injure these, too, though not always. CDs go a lot faster, however, than the 33⅓ RPM of my old albums -- or even the 78 RPM records of my late father's original collection. Laser light is involved, somehow, so we can not watch the CDs spin and imagine the music being lifted from the surface. And the music doesn't come from the surface anyway, on a CD, it comes from beneath. From the underside. It is pulled out of the disk's... well, it's not the same as watching a record spin.

On my desk now, here at the Undisclosed Location, there sits an iPod dock. I put my iPod in the cradle in the morning and press "play." I hit "pause" when I answer the phone. I (usually) remember to take the iPod home with me at night. But nothing spins on the device, except for the search wheel. It's nice. But something's lost when you can't see the record spin.


Barb said...

Of course I remember the days of 45s and albums. I put a penny on the needle arm though. You must have been richer than me.

I wore out a few 45s. One was "You've Made Me So Very Happy" by Blood, Sweat & Tears. That song was also the only song ever dedicated to me on the radio. Many years later.

Karen said...

This was such an interesting "take me back in time" post. I still have my record albums.