I live in one of the three million homes in the United States that was not prepared for the digital television revolution on June 12. While our television mostly sits in the closet, I do wonder how it is that we let the first deadline pass, then ordered coupons for the converter, and still were not ready for the big switch. It may be a simple case of procrastination or perhaps we are finding it difficult to say good bye to the analog world.
Here in the United States, we either remember life before digital or we do not. I like to think I strattle the two generations. But when my seven-year-old son told me a couple of days ago that his favorite numbers were one and zero, I realized I am an urchin of the analog waves.
Two pre-digital inventions shaped my world view. I had a deep relationship with the typewriter. Like an analog wave, the typewriter offered no option to cut, paste, sift or sort text like you can in a digital environment. Editorial changes were never taken lightly as they often included starting all over again.
Cassette tapes were once abundant in my life. The brown tape that captured the recordings could disembowel at any moment. If I wanted to hear a song again, I had to push rewind and try to guesstimate where to stop. Like the typewriter, the cassette tape was often a frustrating proposition. I could not click from one song to the next. Each time I played a tape, I made a commitment to take a musical journey in the same order the songs appeared. The cassette tape aerobicized my attention span.
I am clear that the digital revolution is a good thing. I do not want to return to the tap-tap-tap of the typewriter or the fixed nature of the cassette tape. I do wonder, however, what it means to lose the waves in our everyday lives. Just like the ocean, waves can calm us. Committing to a certain order, as one must in an analog environment, can be a useful discipline.
I said goodbye to the typewriter. I don’t play cassette tapes anymore. I said goodbye to them slowly like a wave that retreats from the shore. I will say hello to digital television but not immediately. I will take a little time before I welcome more ones and zeros into my being to romanticize my analog past.