Kindle, Fire…Ash?

I went to the loppe again yesterday.  More CDs and DVDs were bought.  Why not at those prices?  One charity shop even had a sign up saying they were holding a clearance of all DVDs / CDs.  Take that as a sign, if you will, of where the world has gone, never mind is headed.   I took it as a sign that at 5 for 20kr, I may as well stock up and found 15 items to buy.  I’ve been idly browsing fb marketplace occasionally, looking at hi-fi separates that used to sell for hundreds of pounds with comments such as “we’re moving to a streaming solution instead” (I can almost hear the sighed lament of the man who wrote it) and come to the same conclusion – people are removing the hardware from their homes and trusting in the internet.

When I refer to hardware, I should clarify here that I mean everything that has been historically the basis of knowledge and cultural enrichment.  Audio, film and books.  People have been spoilt the last 100 years, at no other time in history that is known of, have people had access to so much information, so much cultural enrichment, so cheaply and so immediately than at this point in civilisation.  Think back to 100 years ago, people were forced to rely on newspapers or whatever books the local library might stock – and remember, reading libraries for the masses were themselves only a late Victorian introduction.  For music, you had to attend the music venue, or gather round the piano and hope that at least one of the family was up to turning out a tune.   Families often invested a lot in making sure at least one member could.  All that changed – books, electricity, radio, gramophone, Television, record players, cassettes, VHS, Betamax, CDs, DVDs and now finally, the internet.

At first, it meant a great thing – people could invest in the cultural items they wanted to enjoy and bring them into their homes – a bookcase of relevant books, a CD rack of relevant CDs and a line of DVDs of what they enjoyed watching and rewatching again.  In my case, this would mostly be Auf Wiedersehen Pet 1 and 2, nothing comes remotely close in terms of being something I’d happily watch again and again, tirelessly.   I have a problem sitting through long films and even gave up on the 2.5 hour long Green Mile – apparently it has a good ending, but I’ve never seen it and I’ve always resisted watching Lord of the Rings, surrendering 13 hours of my life feels daunting, even if individual clips I’ve seen are well made.  Each to their own though.   Apt phrase, since each to their own is exactly what this kind of freedom meant happened.

The internet seems the next logical step then, as it allows homes to enjoy the benefits of a greater array of media publications than ever before, without the clutter and space consumption a good music unit, DVD player and Books, CDs and DVDs inevitably require.  However, I found myself wondering yesterday if that’s a good thing and concluded perhaps it isn’t, in the long term at least.   The internet was of course sold as a place of freedom – could be that was the only way to get people to use it in the first place, but more and more people are being herded like sheep into the official channels of facebook, twitter (where you can’t even write proper sentences), youtube, amazon, netflix, etc.  Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself, maybe not but the internet is becoming heavily policed.  So many youtube channels I know of are being demonetised if their opinion doesn’t fit the official narrative on something, or simply being deleted.   Another voice shut up, another media disappears.

I previously alluded to another of my favourite books, The Machine Stops.  A futuristic world where everyone is reliant on a machine to control their lives.  The machine network becomes too complex for people to reverse engineer and repair when things begin to go wrong.  It certainly could’ve been predicting the internet.  It’s not hard to see, with the complexity of the network that things could go wrong sometimes in future, or that in the event of war bandwidth could be rationed or even blocked off to non-essential services.  Then what are you going to do when that ever-so-elegant streaming solution can no longer be relied on?

The interesting thing here is that of course this couldn’t happen if you actually owned the media yourself and had it in your home and this is where I find the names of the Amazon devices for reading e-books interesting.   Censorship in days gone by meant actually burning the books that were deemed not acceptable to the prevailing leadership and train of thought.  The Nazis themselves did this in the 1930s, as did Stalin and indeed, so did the UK government with David Shayler and the Spycatcher book.  Censorship happens, but it was so, so much harder to do then than it is now, where burning a book doesn’t need to happen in order for a publication deemed unacceptable to simply disappear from the online shelves.  I’ve already seen it happen myself with several publications.  So to take it to a logical conclusion, Amazon’s first device, the Kindle, started the book burning process.  Their next device, Fire, got it truly underway.  So what’s next?  Flame, Ash?  I really have no idea, but I’ve concluded that having a good stock of physical books and CDs to feed you during possible harder times is well worth considering.   Just got to hope the electricity holds out if that happens.

I guess the personal thing that brought these thoughts to the fore was my own mini-burning this past week.  Recent events led to me having a major clearout, personal items with a relevant past needed to be discarded so I can move on.  I simply couldn’t carry them over my head any more – quite literally, in this case, as most were stored in the loft, but there were also others – a picture, drawn for me, placed on the fridge door that felt like the start of something big, but instead was just the beginning of the end.  I sent emails asking if anyone wanted these memories – a photograph of 5 generations of a family together is impossible to replace in my opinion.  Clearly just my opinion though.  I only got one reply and that was a clear, saddening no.  I even found an old tortoise garden ornament I’d held onto – I remember this one because my son really wanted it when the deceased great-grandmothers house was being cleared.  My daughter accidentally dropped it one day and to ease the tears, I spent a whole evening gradually superglueing it back together.  Spild af min tid, as they say in Denmark.  The fire burnt well yesterday.  Even Sunderland stripes were put to the flame.

So here’s a question to finish on – does a book, CD or film still exist if all copies of it have been burnt and all digital traces of it erased?  If the answer is no, then you might want to save hard copies of your personal favourites just in case the Machine Stops.

Footnote : I reread this and will add blog posts to this list.  I’ve read some great ones over the years that are now consigned to the digital dustbin, never to return.  I best export this blog again…

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