Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gadget Retrospective

What type of gadgets did you use to carry back in the day? Ever looked back at them and think to yourself, "Wow, I can't believe how I used to think that was cool"?

Here's my trip down memory lane...
Late junior high years. I used to have a Sony Discman D-133. I thought it was terrible even back then. There was no memory buffer, so the audio would skip all the time. I remember I had to wrap a towel around it while I kept it in my backpack for shock-absorbing purposes. It had a tiny display which wasn't back-lit. It was overall ugly enough that taking it out to change tracks was embarrassing.

Early high school. I upgraded to a D-135 which had ESP (electronic skip protection). Basically, it buffers some of the audio in flash memory so that it can continue the playback even when the device was moved. This feature was pretty ineffective in my usage. I use to keep the device in my backpack and the audio would skip every time I stepped off a curb or went down more than 2 steps. To make matters worse, the ESP feature just absolutely kills the battery. It uses 100% more power than normal. Because of this, I hardly ever turn on ESP. It'll skip anyway, so I'd rather have long battery life. Oh, and the thing was a brick.

Later highschool years, I used to have a Sony MZ R-55 MiniDisc player/recorder. I used to love the thing. But now, the limitations of it are apparent.

  • Each disc was limited to 80minutes of audio which is stored in an uncompressed format. It would have made much more sense if it allowed for mp3 format. That way, you would be able to store 700 minutes of audio per disc.
  • The ability to record music digitally was a big deal back then. Previously, you would only be able to record analog via cassette tape. However, getting digital media on MDs was a hassle. They record in real-time so it was slow. And you had to have the proper equipment (ie, optical cable & CD player that supports optical out, etc).
  • Tagging music. Another big deal back then was the ability to label the audio tracks. But you had to do this manually one by one using a dial on the player. It was such a hassle but for some reason, I had put up with it.
  • Formfactor. The device was bulky. Display was small. Buttons were small. Battery performance was acceptable if it was used only to playback audio. Once you use it to record, battery dies down after 2 or 3 hours.
Right when I started university, my R-55 ended up dead. I moved back to the US; in my attempt to charge the device, I forgot about the voltage requirements and fried the thing. I then switched to the MZ-E80 MiniDisc player. By then the MiniDisc days were numbered as the MP3 format started to take over.

For most of university, I had this on me most of the time: Creative MuVo TX MP3 player with 256MB of flash storage
Actually, this is one of my favorite gadgets I've ever had for the following reasons:

  • Long battery life even though it runs on a single AAA battery (about 12hrs).
  • It has a built-in mic which I used to record lectures.
  • It's ridiculously small and light.
  • Has a backlit display.
  • It doubles has a USB flash memory drive.
  • No wires or cables.
Even if I subject it to today's standards, it's not that bad. The only things you can really fault are:

  • Lack of rechargeable battery.
  • Insufficient storage capacity at 256MB. (But hey, flash memory was a lot more expensive back then)
  • Tiny display
So, that's it. By 2006, I switched to iPods and then eventually smartphones. 

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