October 19, 2009

On the Appeal of Static

We're headed for a day when static will be a thing of the past. Signals will all be binary, either there or not with nothing in-between. I couldn't be more sad about this.

Radio Static
Truly local radio was once one of the great appeals of a long backroad drives. Dime store preachers in Texas. Blues in Alabama. Punk whenever you hit a college town late at night. Ranchera down along the border. Almost as good as hitting a great station was listening to it fade away. It gave you a sense of that you were going places and it made you feel you were traveling from someplace known into the unknown.

Record Static
When I play a record I often imagine the stylus bouncing up and down along the grooves of the vinyl moving the magnets that send vibrations up to be amplified. Part of me knows that each play will inflict tiny scratches and bits of wear. One day the records will sound like like grandfathers' obscured by a warm blanket of noise. Play a record enough and noise is all that will remain.

Telephone Static
It wasn’t so long ago that most local calls were as clear as a bell, but long distance calls were progressively degraded depending on the distance you were from the caller. It made long distance calls seem special. The static volume determined the importance of the call and as those calls were often from people you loved, the high noise to signal ratio made the love seem that much stronger.

Walkie Talkie Static
We were kids in the woods with walkie talkies exploring alone but together just out each other's of visual range. The static was the tether that kept us safe.

posted at 12:50 AM by raul

Filed under: night musings

TAGS: driving (2) long distance calls (1) love (5) static (2) walkie talkies (1)


11/12/09 08:25 AM

Also to be missed… TV static barely tuned cross-border stations. To be replaced by sharp blue screens possibly even sporting the branding of your TV or digital receiver.

11/12/09 08:40 AM

After reading this post I found myself so completely lost in thought....memories of trips, and childhood. It is the transitions that appeal to me too. I don't like things to be on or off, black or white, this or that. I find the gray areas in between to be the most interesting and defining.

Thank you for instigating that bit of static pondering. Now, back to my regularly scheduled work day.

11/12/09 11:20 AM

Very nice points. Static is a little like the patina of digital that we're losing. Very sad. At least I'll still have the crackle on my records...

11/15/09 01:12 PM

There's a whole conversation about obsolete and extinct sounds that my radio friends and I have. Add static to the list, which current includes the sounds of: a needle dropping on a record, a modem connecting, a rotary phone dial and, subtly but importantly different, the sound of radio stations being tuned in and out.

The BBC did a funny story a few years back where they played a whole bunch of endangered and extinct sounds for a group of seven- to ten-year-olds. The funniest comments were about the needle-scratch-on-the-record sound. Kids knew it meant "surprise" or "something important is happening," but they had no idea the source of it or why it means what it means.

I can't find the link to that story, but there is this:

11/15/09 01:55 PM

David Byrne wrote a post a few days ago that is related in a sideways sort of way: http://journal.davidbyrne.com/2009/10/102409-internet-antichrist.html

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