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June 20, 1956

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Uh-Oh, Here Comes That Old Technology Again



This is just a small note designed to warn you of another impending sneaky development aimed at the destruction of what we have laughingly come to call Peace of Mind. To be truthful, it must be admitted that most products of twentieth century technology tend pretty much toward that general goal, but some are more direct than others. We now have one that promises to gnaw away at us rather efficiently within the next few years. Right now there are just a few lonely straws in the wind, but it is wise to remember the words of the immortal Fred Glombeck regarding straws in the connection. Just repeat them to yourself occasionally. It helps. IT NOW LOOKS as though within an alarmingly short time hi-fi in the nation's automobiles will become a major curse. Already several manufacturers have put on the market units available as special equipment to be installed at the factory. This, as we have noted, is only the barest of beginnings. Actually, the hi-fi equipment now being used in a few cars is more or less experimental and is consistently being improved. Compared to what will be around in just a couple of years, it is as crude as a Lucille Ball gag alongside something by Bea Lillie. Even so, the current units are really a marvel of engineering, and some miserable problems have been partially solved. One of the most irritating things about the usual microgroove deal is the tendency of the stylus to jump half the allegro vivace movement everytime someone sneezes or drops a beer can on the Oriental rug. You can imagine what a rocker this was to lick when the stylus was mounted in the glove compartment of a light car in the hands of a teen-ager driving over a corduroy road with his date, after the prom and before the Big Deal. It took the engineers about five years to come up with a workable answer. The next thing to bother the boys was the record itself. It had to be small, unbreakable, and play a lot longer than the usual 45-r.p.m. disc, since changing records while muddling thru Seventh Avenue traffic could easily raise the insurance rates. Surprisingly enough, the final product of all this scrabbling in the labs turned out to be rather decent equipment. It won't compete with Altec-Lansing, but then it wasn't designed to do that. However it does compare favorably with almost all the stuff that is now labeled "hi-fi" by the people who turn out package units. But no matter how neat and finished the sets now in use seem, they will only be the merest shadow of the installations that are now being kicked around several very important development labs. FIRST OF ALL, it should be pointed out that this is no mere trend or fad, but it is in actuality the first stirrings of a really big change in American listening habits and will eventually knock several industries right out of business and will create several new ones. For several years the radio industry has been forced to recognize the fact that a large percentage of its listeners were drivers. As TV spreads to the more rural areas this percentage is getting larger momentarily. Every year around 5 million radios are sold in new cars or are installed in older ones. This figure yearly added to the already radio-equipped cars on the road, amounts to a lot of cash customers. It would be disastrous to radio if suddenly allcars were to come off the line ready to play records instead of able to pick up Ballantine spot announcements. There have been several wrinkled brows over this one. There hasn't been much talk about it, however, since most radio people aren't aware of the future of this interesting new development or , more likely, they prefer to ignore it. The most recent trends will force the issue and are bound to effect almost everyone within a couple of years. Some of the plans I've seen are really corkers, and if I had some ready scratch around, I know just where I would invest it. For example, one of the fastest growing companies in the country has just completed a couple of deals that could conceivably result in the same sort of changes that hit the country when TV became a commercial operation. And all of this concerns the automobile and reads like something by a science-fiction fan's dream on Saturday night. (This is the first of two articles on recent trends in hi-fi, by WOR humorist Jean Shepherd. The second article will appear in an early issue. - Ed.)


Copyright: 1956 The Village Voice

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June 20,1956
Village Voice Pic

Courtesy: Joanne Berg