petermorwood: (Default)
BBC-4 is currently running their Electronic Revolution season of documentaries (and the drama Micro Men) about design and technology development over the past 40-odd years: interesting, sometimes fascinating, and occasionally able to make a viewer (me!) feel really old!

Take Upgrade Me, for instance, where writer, poet and gadget-fan Simon Armitage is trying to understand why the camera, phone, MP3 player and/or laptop you bought in February and still works perfectly is now not only out of date, but why your life won't be complete until you've replaced it with a new one. (He doesn't come up with an answer, by the way, apart from the obvious ad manipulation and Need to Shift Product.)

During the show he presented a class of tech-savvy (or at least gadget-canny, as in owning all the usual stuff and knowing newer is better, never mind why) 12-year-olds with a 1960s-era portable record-player, to see what they made of it. I wonder if he expecting the result - which was that they didn't even know what it was...

"Is it the first-ever portable computer?" asked one. Good guess: it looked a bit like Diane's ancient Osborne 1, but I'd have thought 21st-century British schoolkids, or late 20th-century ones, come to that, would have seen even fewer luggable computers than record-players.

"Is it a radio you sit on?" ventured another: again, fair enough, because like the one my parents had (and which was still in Mum's sitting-room last time I saw it, a couple of years back) this had a padded vinyl leatherette lid. Once that lid was opened and they could see the turntable, things became clearer since DJs still use turntables - but I think the record-stack changer still baffled them a bit.

It made me wonder: do sound effects (SFX now, but long ago, GRAMS) still use clich├ęd audio shorthand even though the listeners increasingly don't know what those sounds mean any more?

You've all heard them: the screech of a needle pulled across a record as inappropriate speech or music comes to an abrupt stop; the windinng dowwwn noiiizzzze of an unpowered turntable as a drug or time dilation takes effect; the tick "a few words" tick "a few words" tick "a few words" of a broken record after a character forgets something or has been hit on the head...

Does anyone still say "You're like a broken record" if you repeat something too many times? "You were vaccinated with a gramophone needle" if you talk too much?

Or will anyone saying that get "What's a broken record?" back at them, or "What's a gramophone needle?" - or even "What's vaccination?"

April 2017



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