Posted in Technology
By Robert Farewell
Technological progress is a paradox. It makes our world safer, more violent, increasingly free, but it also makes us more dependent. Although social media and instant communication have enhanced our lives, they are also obstacles to self- reflection and insightful thought.
Dependency on our latest technological devices comes with a huge sacrifice. With the growing need to stay connected, we seldom find ourselves separated from our computers or phones. We are increasingly interacting in this very impersonal and virtual world. Change will always be a constant. Just as the generations before us, we will adapt accordingly. Yet the problem lies in what progress removes from our daily lives. What we are sacrificing is the quiet time for reverie and critical thinking, the necessary cornerstone to personal fulfillment. Technology yields little time for beneficial isolation and self-rumination. There is always an email, a text message, or a picture to comment on. It is rare to able to reflect, to think seriously about something other than school or the next witty post on Facebook. People lose sight of their own personalities because of the feigned intimacy of social media. Facades have never been so easy to manifest. Other people can write one’s posts to make them seem smarter, or one can embellish one’s picture in order to appear more attractive.
Coming from an all-boys school, I can vouch for the importance of social media. At same-sex schools, a major part of social life takes place on Facebook. In this new social climate where friends rarely interact face to face, people will represent themselves in the most appealing way possible, in a way that is far from genuine. Personalities become convoluted with this need to appeal to others. We live in a world that is more superficial and insecure than ever. People are afraid of revealing the truth, out fear of rejection. Oscar Wilde said it best: “those who go beneath the surface do so at their own peril.” It is a time of life where most thought is consumed in the realm of high school and the Web. Serious thinking and reflection are becoming almost non-existent; we need to find ways to overcome these barriers to personal space.. We can embrace these changes, but at the same time we need to be cognizant of the challenges they pose to our personal growth.
By Robbie Farewell
Things get old. Whether it’s your family’s beloved cat or dad’s first Chevrolet, possessions that we loved and cherished at one point eventually degenerate into a pattern of uselessness. Sadly, this just began to affect me as I have slowly and painfully watched the deterioration of my iPhone 3G. I feel it’s like watching a grandparent go, one by one, parts slowly becoming less useful, and everything a little slower and less functional. Starting with the internet not moving as fast as it once did, my grandmother seems to be following a similar trend. The sleeper button doesn’t work anymore, and the silent button always fails in the simple task of muting my phone.
Nevertheless, I still love it no matter the age, the wrinkles, and even the scratches I take responsibility for. Although busted up and battered, my phone rarely says no to a challenge. Say I get lost and need directions, the iPhone comes through. With turn by turn directions from the current location to my destination, my phone is my guide, and yes, my friend. Taking the Metro through South Central, it had me covered when my music mood was feeling some NWA.
It’s important to have limits as social networking can be very addicting. It’s important to distinguish the difference between convenience and a relationship. This is why it’s important to have some ground rules. If used in the right way, a smartphone is pretty nifty. It’s more than a phone: it’s a way of life.
In all honesty, I can’t imagine a day without it. To those who haven’t had the experience of using one, you wouldn’t understand my feelings. For those who do, I’m sure this provides some gratification that there is someone else who feels the same. Although mine may be old and feeble it still comes through like a friend and, who knows? This could be love.
By Matt Ramirez
In recent years, the audio quality of music has grown progressively worse. In the age of MP3’s and digital downloads, the quality of music of today compared to the quality of music of the past has greatly diminished.
In the early 1900s, vinyl records had replaced the old phonographs as the alternative for listening to music. At the time, the records were as close to live sound quality that a listener could get. Unfortunately, these records were big, bulky, and breakable. One had to worry about the needle which allowed people to play vinyl records on their turntables whether it was too sharp or too dusty. One also had to worry about heat and dust because it affected the pitch and even the stereo balance on the records which resulted in hissing sounds and sudden pops. Though it was the best quality of its time, it did have its many shortcomings.
In the 1930s, the cassette tape made its debut. The great thing about cassettes was that you could record pretty much anything, even live radio. However, as great as the cassettes were for recording, they were terrible in quality. The film would sometimes have to be detangled with a paper clip or could be damaged by heat, which resulted in degraded sounds.
CD’s hit the market in the late 1970’s and would soon replace the old vinyl records and the cassette tapes. As opposed to the needle or spool, CD’s use laser technology in order to play any audio files that are on it. The quality has far surpassed that of its successors. A disk is much smaller than a vinyl record and has better sound and recording ability than the cassette. CD’s did, however, prove to be fragile to heat, dust, and scratch marks.
In the late 1990s, the Internet allowed for the MP3 to rise in music. This has probably been the worst mistake in the history of music listening. The way an MP3 file works is that it takes a song and compresses it to make the file smaller, thus resulting in freer disk space. Compression essentially increases the volume of the quieter elements within a mix while holding steady the peaks of the louder parts. By doing so, it excludes the musical information that the human ear is less likely to notice. Much of the information left out is at the very high and low end (MP3s do not reproduce reverb well for similar reasons). So, when the CD master tape is then consumed via MP3, the flattening effect is enhanced further. The result: an unsatisfying, brittle, indistinct, hollow experience with no kick.
Just as the CD replaced vinyl, we all know that MP3 and other digital formats are quickly replacing CD’s as the most popular way to listen to music. Many have lost interest in high end stereo systems while younger listeners, most notably our generation, have grown so used to dynamically compressed music that the battle has already been lost.
So, the next time you decide to purchase a song or an entire album, ask yourself, “Do I want convenience or quality?” If you see me walking down the street with a Walk-Man in one hand, a pile of CDs in another, and my old iPod in the trash, don’t ask me why.
By Christian Romo
I find it funny reading an article reminiscing over the “good old days” of dead music technology, especially written by someone who was born after Kurt Cobain sent generation X into frenzy. CD’s were no doubt a step-up from previous technology, but make no mistake, the MP3 is progress.
I have no qualms with the technological points Mr. Ramirez makes in his editorial. It’s true that MP3 files lose audio quality when compressed (and it’s even worse when music is ripped off a CD or record), but when weighed against the benefits of digital music, there’s no reason not to take your musical library into the 21st century.
Entire walls of bedrooms have been freed up for space thanks to the physical convenience of the iPod. There is no longer a need for massive home stereo systems to recreate quality sound in your home. We no longer need to dedicate entire bookshelves and milk crates to store our music. We no longer need headphones with Marvin the Martian antennas to enjoy a private moment with our music. We have evolved.
For some, it’s a strictly American philosophy to sacrifice quality for convenience. Musical purists would scoff at any new technology that compromised the integrity of their beloved product, but there is a distinct difference between evolution and change. The MP3 offers many other benefits.
Digital music is the greenest form of musical consumption. The carbon footprint left by transporting and purchasing millions of CD’s is enormous. The tons of shrink-wrap and petroleum-based plastic it takes to produce CD’s is unfathomable. Even if the ecological cost of production is the last thing on your mind, the labor and resources that is saved by offering digital music is passed on through a reduction in market price to the consumer (ten bucks for an album is quite reasonable).
We can’t ignore that the Napster phenomenon hurt the music industry, but it has resulted in a mostly positive impact to artists. There is less of a reliance on blood-sucking record companies as bands can market their music themselves over the internet. Bands like the Arctic Monkeys and Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah put very few resources into marketing their music but gained a vast fan base thanks to the far reaching powers of digital music and the internet.
Free downloads of music (regardless of legality) haven’t hurt artists nearly as much as expected. The main form of income for artists now is not through record sales but through touring, and internet downloads have allowed music to be spread much faster and more efficiently than radio or MTV ever could. Bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have willingly posted their most recent albums free on their own websites, and ironically those albums have been the best selling for those two groups.
But none of that addresses the topic of sound quality, so I will attempt to do so now. The affect on sound quality between CD’s and MP3 files is apparent, but negligible. A good song is a good song regardless of how it is listened to. I still feel bursts of ecstasy listening to Daft Punk on my iPod. I nearly cried when I first heard John Denver through the wimpy speakers of my laptop. A friend of mine introduced me to early Modest Mouse on his cell phone; to this day I’m a dedicated fan. We listen to music because it has the ability to make us feel. A song on a CD does not make me feel any more or any less than that same song on an MP3 file.
I understand the nostalgia attached to vinyl records or tape decks with midnight radio recordings, but I can’t reasonably see why those outdated technologies triumph over progress. After all, they did say to our parents once that rock ‘n roll was bad for them…
By Chris Keppel
Photo Credit: Apple
Last Tuesday, Apple unveiled a new line up, or generation, of iPods. In addition to revamping the look of their most sleek products, they changed the hardware in every series of the device.
The design of the iPod shuffle returned to its previously thin and box-like form. Last year’s shuffle took the largest design deviation from its predecessor, resembling a piece of Trident gum.
The iPod Nano may be the most impressive design debuted this week. It no longer sports Apple’s signature click wheel, a feature that used to be an essential part of any iPod only a few years ago. Like its better selling sibling, it now features a touch screen and an operating system relatively similar to that of the iPod Touch and the iPhone. In addition, the new Nano is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, a significant size change from its already tiny predecessor.
Many fans of the company have been waiting for two years for Apple to release its latest version of the iPod touch. The new release has been given a higher resolution touch screen and a faster processor, meaning that games and applications will run a little more fluidly. Last year, rumors circulated that a camera would be placed on the newest version of the iPod Touch resulting from a large shipment of cameras Apple was importing from China. Fans were disappointed, however, when Apple unveiled that the cameras were to be used in the older edition of the iPod Nano. Many will be happy to discover that the new iPod Touch has been given a camera similar to that of the iPhone 4.
The new iPod is closer to the capabilities of the iPhone than its predecessors making the idea of an iPhone without the monthly phone bill enticing to fans. The new iPod is a significant improvement from a relatively disappointing generation of Apple products and a needed step with the onslaught of production from the competing Android market.