BOSTON — As the plane descended, I found myself recalling when I first came here for college. Which reminded me of my first dorm room. Which reminded me of the first thing I did in that dorm room. Which reminded me that nobody hooks up a stereo anymore.
A recent piece on cnn.com lamented “the death of the home stereo system.” Kids today listen to music on laptops or through earbuds. Why bother to wire up racks of equipment?
How sad. As I looked out the airplane window, high above Harvard, Brandeis, Emerson and Boston College, I felt as if I’d lost an old friend.
And if it died, I must speak on its behalf.
Kids at universities — yes, you with a miniature MP3 player — you don’t know what you’re missing. You don’t know the joy of unpacking two giant, wood-encased JBL speakers, lugging them up six flights of stairs, feeling the envious eyes as you grunted past mumbling, “Uh-huh, 15-inch woofers, two-inch tweeters, that’s right.”
You don’t know the thrill of carrying your “components” like newborn babies up to your dorm room.
You won’t know the joy of bragging over new equipment, comparing watts per channel or signal-to-noise ratio.
You’ll never know the exquisite labor of wiring all that equipment together, which only took, oh, four hours.
Trust me. It was an art.
You began with your receiver — maybe a Kenwood, a Craig or, if you were a rich kid, a Yamaha.
Then you ran wires (line in, line out) to your tape deck, maybe a Technics, a Panasonic or, if you were a rich kid, a TEAC.
Then you ran wires (line in, line out) to your turntable, a Dual, a Linn or, if you were a rich kid, a Thorens.
Wait. You don’t know what a turntable is?
Of course you don’t. That’s because you don’t know what a record is. That’s because you think you are supposed to carry your entire music library in a one-inch, 64-gig jump drive when, in truth, you are supposed to carry your music library the way God intended man to carry his music library: in milk crates.
That’s how we transported our record albums, which many of us kept in the original plastic wrapping.
Who cared? You had your stereo system. Today, you were a man. And if that tradition is dead, it should indeed be mourned, along with the preamp, the eight-track and metal cassette tapes.
What’s a cassette tape?