Friday, September 11, 2009
Last month, there seemed to be another Big Anniversary almost daily.
First Moon Landing, 40th. Woodstock, 40th. Manson Gang commits the Tate/LaBianca Murders, 40th. Hurricane Camille, 40th.
All these 40th commemorations overshadowed a Big Anniversary for Groomers. Lost in the shuffle was July's 30th Anniversary of SONY's Walkman. A watershed event for Groomers and Audiologists World-Wide. July 1979 was busy just like August of '69.
Remember the Susan B Anthony Dollar? 30th. NASA's first Space Station, Skylab fell to Earth, 30th. Saddam Hussein assumed power in Iraq, 30th.
The Walkman made Grooming a Career Choice. Back in the days of Tucker Sno-Cats, Car Stereos hadn't been ruggedized enough for Grooming Duty. AstralTunes were the MusicLoving Groomer's Choice.
Those of a certain age may remember AstralTunes. These were personal cassette players that pre-dated the Walkman. They were like a car stereo, but came in a chest pack. The wearer listened with headphones.
I never owned AstralTunes, but I jumped on the Walkman when it was offered for sale in the USA. I paid full pop...$200! In 1980 Dollars! What's that worth today? $600? Do they even publish the CPI these days? I bought the Walkman a year before I started grooming...I wanted tunes when I was skiing, the Two C-Notes seemed reasonable at the time, but I was still young and stupid...who knew?
My original Walkman lived for a handful of years, which is pretty remarkable when I think about it. Even in a padded chest pack, it was Severe Duty. Skiing with the Walkman added impacts as well as moisture. Then the little cassette player would pull an all-nighter, five nights a week. I think the Walkman did Dog Years. I'm thinking that it did about fifteen years of service in five or six Winters!
I had several more Walkmen over the years, though by the mid-80's Car Stereos could serve in grooming machines. I still have a SONY Walkman, it's a cassette machine with an AM/FM Radio. I take it with me to the tire store, when I go Dock Fishing at Donner Lake, and when I'm doing Air Travel. I'm not a total Trogdolite, I got an iPod Nano last year.
I always liked radio, and early in my grooming life, FM Radio did the trick. Back then every FM Rock station had it's own sound. Programming hadn't consolidated into the One Giant ClassicRock Cartel we endure today. This dismal development in an otherwise creative medium, gave rise to AM Talk Radio.
I was always a Talk Radio Listener, starting right out of High School. ChicoDupre and I painted houses for a couple of summers, and listened to Don Chamberlain's "California Girls" Show, along with NPR's Radio Dramas and Info-Tainment Programs. It was destined I think, because I grew up listening to "The World's Greatest Radio Station" KSFO in San Francisco. KSFO in the late 50's and thru the 60's featured some of the most creative pioneering On-Air Talent ever assembled.
KSFO in those days had the great Don Sherwood, Jim Lange, and Terry McGovern. I remember staying up late listening to my old table radio during the "Cuban Missile Crisis" I was 10 years old, and KSFO reported what little there was to report as I waited for the worst.
After the Dawn of Free Form FM Radio and a decade and a half of rockin' good FM Music radio, I found my way back to Talk Radio. FM Rock was starting to ossify, just as portable electronics were making big strides in quality vs price. Reception was all important up on the Mountain, too.
Overnight, radio can be magic. Reception morphs into something remarkable when the Sun is active. The magic is Geophysical mostly, though the Art Bell Show did provide Jaw Dropping Listening over the years. Back in the late 90's the Sun was in it's last Maximum Cycle, Sunspots numbered in the thousands, and the Solar Magnetic Effects on the Ionosphere, made DX (Radio GeekSpeak for Long Distance Listening) memorable.
In 1998 I was doing some cabinet work in my garage one Sunday afternoon, I tuned up and down the dial trying to find something I could listen to on my GE SuperRadio. Finally I found a Gardening Talk Show, and settled in to get my sanding and prep work done. As I listened to the Garden Show, I noticed that I didn't recognize any of the plants the hosts were talking about. As I listened closer, I couldn't draw a bead on any of the automobile models they were advertising either. Piqued I paid rapt attention until I heard a Station Check...It wasn't an American station, not Canadian, and not from Mexico.
I flew downstairs and fired up the internet and searched the Call Sign...Australia! It was the middle of the afternoon in Truckee, which put the Australian station in the dark, so the over-excited ionosphere was reflecting the AM signal on the 2nd harmonic of their frequency. It was coming in like it was a 50KW Blow Torch in the next county! I emailed the station with a listener report, and requested a QSL ( a little certificate from the station verifying my DX listening, but I never received one from them) It was the longest DX I've ever done on AM radio. Shortwave listening is truly World Wide with just a decent set and a Long Wire Antenna.
So, what about the iPod you ask...the Nano doesn't have a radio. I get Podcasts of radio programs I can't receive on my Mountain, or that I sleep through. With Art Bell's retirement, I can't count on good Talk Radio every night anymore. Enter Apple's iPod. What a Fascinating, Modern World we live in.
OK, I looked up the CPI. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics still issues the CPI numbers, though in that obscure way that all Big Government Bureaucracies bury the lead. It's worse than I thought. The CPI for July 2009 is 645...that makes my old Walkman cost $1290 in today's US Dollars.