The Last Space Shuttle Launch And Obsolete Music-Delivery Systems

Jul 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

Friday morning's scheduled space shuttle launch, the last of 135 missions flown by the orbiters, marks the exact moment at which a space-travel technology from 1981 finally becomes obsolete.

That's right: If you'd just overbuilt your music collection like NASA did with Atlantis, you could still be using that day-one Walkman you bought to play Peter Frampton's Frampton Becomes A Jokey Reference About The Seventies in 1979. But you didn't, so here are the five obsolete music-delivery mechanisms into which you probably invested time or money between 1981 and this morning.

1. Walkman. One day in the distant future I will tell my holo-children that when I got my first music player I had just one album for it, and that if I had wanted another album I would have had to go to something called a Sam Goody and exchange currency for a physical object, which I would then have to carry around with me all the time. Then I will tell them what an album was.

I will not tell my holo-children that that album was Kriss Kross's Totally Krossed Out, because in the distant future the increased gravity of our warped and supermassive red sun has made jumping up into the air extremely inadvisable, even for holograms.

2. Discman. When I was 13 I felt really great about how my Discman had both Anti-Skip Memory and Super Bass Boost, but what that really meant was that two separate teams of Japanese engineers had worked shockingly long hours for months at a time, neglecting themselves, their families, their children, so that I could listen to Tragic Kingdom over and over again even on an airplane experiencing turbulence.

My favorite song was "Excuse Me, Mr."

3. Napster. Or, as today's potential Napster users call it, "Googling an album's name and waiting for one of the largest companies on planet earth to suggest you add 'Rapidshare' to the end of it."

Napster died having accomplished two very important things: It's now way easier to buy music, and it's now way easier to steal music.

4. CD-Rs. The decline of the CD-R mix has been bad news for people with no AUX jack on their car stereo, but good news for every 17-year-old boy who's ever considered writing a serious message in Sharpie on the Dashboard mix he wants to give the 17-year-old girl he's too afraid to ask out.

CD-Rs are useful, especially in mp3-CD form, but nobody, if he can help it, actually wants physical proof of the music he was really into five years ago to exist longer than it must.

5. The radio. If I got into your car, began playing the same Lady Gaga songs over and over on your stereo, and then invited my friends The Banger and Sweaty Steve into the backseat to make explicitly sexist jokes one after the other over the entirety of your morning commute, you would probably not invite me back into your car the next day. And that's why people buy cassette adapters for their iPod.

Incidentally, in the future my holo-children will call TV on the Radio "Old Thing on the Other Old Thing," but though I will laugh at first I soon will realize it's actually just an incredibly convenient speech impediment caused by increased exposure to our warped and supermassive red sun. Which you'll hear more about after this last space shuttle launch.