I’ve always been fascinated by huge clunky pieces of machinery: refrigerator-sized computers, punch-card machines, ancient 8mm film cameras with little cranks to turn on the side. There’s just something so reassuring about the crushing weight of these objects (a professional war photographer told me once that he still used his old heavy manual Leica out on the field ‘cuz it doubled as a weapon.) And the PHONOGRAPH!! I’ve been listening in on this fantastic program on the history of the technology of popular music that aired last year on American radio. Early listeners of the phonograph couldn’t tell the difference between the sound of a phonograph and a live performance. No, it wasn’t because the early phonographs had bad-ass audiophile stylings (hardly), but because early phonograph listeners didn’t have a modern listener’s frame of reference for listening to recorded music. Recorded music being a relatively new invention, after all. Before electrical amplification, bands had to play REALLY LOUD into a tin recording horn to force a thin membrane inside it to vibrate using the power of SOUND WAVES!! (and the poor band’s lungs.) The thin membrane’s vibration made a needle inscribe grooves on a rotating piece of wax — hey presto a record, through an entirely mechanical process! It doesn’t get much old-skooler than that.