Sunday, December 30, 2007

Change is...well...everywhere

Amateur radio is not the only technology area undergoing unprecedented change. National Geographic recently published an article about how technolgy is changing the way we get our music and other entertainment. Did you forsee our being able to download tunes to our cell phones? Or a day when you didn't have to buy an entire vinyl record or CD just to get the one or two songs we really wanted? And are you a curmudgeon like me who enjoyed holding that big 12X12 album cover, reading the liner notes as I listened to the record?

Here's a
link to an interesting graphic from that article, illustrating which technology people have used to get their music over the last few decades.

Not surprisingly, the chart shows the 8-track tape suddenly appearing, becoming popular, then disappearing when the cassette tape came along. Then, when the CD makes its debut, it rockets to huge sales, virtually eliminating the cassette, but has been lagging in the last few years. Some say, based on the lifespan of similar media today, the last CD will be sold in 2015. Of course the LP album (vinyl record) is almost extinct. You have probably seen music stores like Sam Goody closing in malls all around you. Digital downloads is just now getting traction and promises to be the way most of us get our music in the very near future.

The point of the article is that successful new technology usually takes off rapidly, first with "early adopters," then with more casual users. Then it remains strong until something seen by the consumer as better comes along to replace it. Of course, there is plenty of marketing money trying to persuade those consumers that whatever is new is also better. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Look at the Beta vs. VHS war. And watch with interest the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray battle.

Does this parlay into similar cycles in amateur radio? I believe we can see it, though not on nearly so rapid a timetable. And does it mean that in order to attract a younger ham populace, we have to mimic what they have grown up with in the music-buying world? Is our only hope to baffle them with new technology or will they be as enamored with the smell of warm tubes and distant, fading signals as we were?


Don N4KC

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