No Attachments

One night last week, I sat at my desk in my home office loading CDs into my computer. The CDs came out of a long-neglected cardboard box. After the music from each disc went into the computer, the actual CD went into the trash. I saved only discs I knew were out of print, or those with sentimental value--given to me by the artist or by someone close to me.

In the end, I threw out over 300 CDs. There are three more cardboard boxes to go through, with hundreds more CDs in each. There's simply no room for this stuff anymore, and it's just plain silly to keep all these physical CDs around. By my estimation, digitizing all of these CDs might fill up half of the USB hard drive I bought, which is about the size of two packs of cigarettes laying side by side. That hard drive cost a hair more than $200, and it is unlikely to be filled by even my entire music collection.

After I bought my first MP3 player (a HanGo Portable Jukebox), and even after I got my first iPod, I was still attached to my physical CDs, even though I had digitized most of the stuff I listened to most often. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them for a number of reasons, first and foremost that digital storage was expensive at the time, and there was no way I could affordably obtain a single drive to hold all of them. So I was forced to cherry-pick songs I liked from my CD collection for storage on my hard drive. (Another reason was that I felt a sense of attachment to them. More on that in a bit.)



Storage is dirt cheap right now. You can invest in a reliable 200GB hard drive from a name brand manufacturer like Western Digital or Maxtor for US$50. That's a measly quarter a gig. And there are better deals to be had.

I'm late to the game in chucking out my CDs. My cousin Al used to run an independent record label and had a collection that made mine look tiny by comparison, and he digitized most of it in the late 90s. I have younger cousins who have never owned a CD and have all of their music stored on their computers and in their portables. The concept of becoming emotionally attached to an album cover is completely foreign to them.

That was the thing that, for me, took some time to get used to. It's not so easy to throw out that Van Halen album you played at your first beach party, or that Journey tape that accompanied your first kiss. It makes me wonder if kids growing up today will get attached to the players themselves.

I think I'm beginning to understand something that stumped me at my first advertising job--the reason why so many people had trouble adjusting to the notion of the digital office. They had been used to physical documents for so long that it was a part of how their brains were wired. There was something they had trouble completely letting go of when documents became digital--and that thing was part emotional, part conceptual and part psychological.

Kids adapt easily to new ways of doing things while they're in their formative years and are still learning how to learn. And yeah, I guess it makes me feel old that their media experience is fully digital, while I'm sitting around lamenting the loss of a few hundred pieces of plastic. Wait ten years--none of those kids will have owned a DVD, and today's kids will feel as old as I do now.

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