Friday, June 19, 2020

Our Love is Here to Stay

Nothing lasts forever in technology!

It's very clear
Our love is here to stay
Not for a year
But ever and a day 
The radio and the telephone 
And the movies that we know 
May be passing fancies 
And in time may go 
But oh my dear 
Our love is here to stay

When George and Ira Gershwin wrote those lyrics back in 1938 they compared the timelessness of love to the Rocky Mountains and the Rock of Gibraltar, noting they were "only made of clay".    And in the lyric above, made the comparison to the movies, radio and telephone - which in 1938, seemed like pretty permanent parts of the landscape.  Surely, once we had telephone, radio, and movies, why would we do without them in the future?

Back then, if you wanted to travel to Europe, it was by steamship.   Surely steamship travel was something "here to stay" as well, right?   And the railroads and trolley cars?   Permanent parts of the landscape!

But things change, and what got me started on this was a remote control sitting on my nightstand, for a clock radio I no longer own.  We bought two - they charged our phones as well, and could play music from our phones, although that never seemed to work quite right.    One of them died and we never replaced it.  Mark will put on some music at night - the only time the local PBS station plays music - for 30-60 minutes on timer.  Of course, on certain nights, they play "American Roots" which can be anything from classic jazz to heavy metal - often in the same program.   So I have to shut it off, which is why I kept that remote control.

But it got me to thinking, we don't use that radio much anymore, and what's more, we used to have lots of radios back in the day.  Portables, and of course, the big honking stereo system.  Today, we have a Bose Bluetooth speaker and something called a "soundbar" with a subwoofer on our TeeVee.  We have a NOAA weather radio.  I think Mark has his stepmother's old Bose tabletop CD player radio in the studio.    And of course, the cars have radios, but we rarely use them for that - mostly playing Pandora or music from our phones or a USB stick.

What happened to radio?   I talked about this before.  It is like these ads I put on my blogsite.  I clicked on all the boxes on the setup, and this morning, ads are appearing all over the place!  Ads in the text, even (I just disabled this) and something called "links" with keywords at the bottom of the page (I may disable this shortly).   Radio became toxic to listen to, over time, much as cable-TV did, with the ad time competing for program time (watch a History Channel show sometime - it is nearly 50/50 ads versus program!).   Eventually, people turn away.    I lost interest in radio when all the channels played "The NEW COUNTRY WOLF!" or some some warbling auto-tune star from who wants to be a dancing chef millionaire voice whatever.   That and the numerous loud and obnoxious ads for car dealers and weight-loss products (Target audience: fat chicks in SUVs).

The telephone?   Largely dead.  Sure, we all have "phones" but I suspect that we will start calling them something else in short order.  We ditched our landline, and I suspect most folks either have or will, shortly, as well.   Why bother?    And even if you have a phone, no one calls, except some scammer with a heavy foreign accent claiming your social security number was "hacked" or that your credit card can be refinanced or your car warranty has expired.   It is just better not to answer the phone anymore, period.

That leaves the movies.   Technically, they still exist, although in this time of pandemic, the ritual of going to the movie theater is fading quickly.   Even with those nice comfy seats they have at the new multiplex, the idea of crowding into a theater seems kind of scary.  The last time I went, I had to switch comfy seats as the previous occupant of mine had some bad B.O., and the vinylene covering hadn't been wiped down with solvent.  Drive-in movies are making a comeback, it is said.  But they never were more than a mere novelty.

Direct-to-TV or direct-to-video might be the future for "movies" but then again, on which channel?  There are so many extra-cost pay options on cable and now a plethora of streaming options, that unless you buy every damn channel (which would cost you over $200 a month!) you won't be able to see "the new releases!" anytime soon, which is probably just as well - most are just explosion movies or something based on a comic book.

Yes, the movies are dead as well, replaced by video.

So what's the point of all this?  Just another old fuck dagnabbiting about how the good old days were better?   Far from it.   Just the opposite, in fact.  What is interesting about all of this is how impermanent  technology really is.    The Gershwin brothers were opining that radio, movies, and telephone were as permanent as the rock of Gibraltar, when within one lifetime, they have largely be rendered obsolete.   And this is not an anomoly.

When I was a kid, the "big corporations" included IBM, which dominated the computer business.  If you wanted to buy a computer, it was IBM or some piddling little competitor.  In other words, IBM or nothing, and you paid through the nose for that big mainframe and the building that housed it.   This was long-term permanent stuff!  Within my lifetime, that whole concept evaporated, and IBM, while still around, is hardly the 600-lb gorilla in the computer room.

Things change.  Today, we worry that "Alphabet" Google, or Amazon, or Facebook or whatever (once referred to as the "FAANG" companies, although lately, people are saying "FAAMG" as Netflix struggles and Microsoft lumbers on - how quickly they are kicked under the bus!) are taking over the world.   But are they?  As the Netflix example illustrates, you can go from being Wall Street darling to in the dumpster in short order.   In a sea of "me too!" media companies (particularly Disney) we may think of Netflix the way we think of Netscape Navigator (who?  what?) in a few years.   The industry pioneer, but first to market and last in the marketplace.   Besides, who wants to watch crappy "Netflix Original" content, anyway?

So I guess my point is this:  Don't sweat it, if it seems that Jeff Bezos or that Zuckerstein kid are taking over the world.   These things change, over time.  Often, the founders retire or die and the next generation screws everything up, royally.  Or people just get bored with these things and move on to "the next big thing!"   Or technology just eclipses them, just as the PC and the Internet destroyed the Mainframe computer business, or the automobile and truck destroyed the railroad's monopoly.

Change is the only constant.