In spite of practically re-making the music industry in favor of digital music on iPods, Steve Jobs preferred to listen to vinyl records. I discovered that the usual digital file of a song on an iPod may have only five percent of the content that’s stored in an original studio recording tape. To match even an old-fashioned vinyl record would require gigantic digital files. The biggest advantage of a digital file is its tremendous dynamic range, the difference between the soft and loud parts; vinyl could never match that range.
While I was thinking about vinyl records, it reminded me of the tales told by a friend I knew while working at a TV station when I was a teenager (I was called “The Kid”). He had been a DJ at a 500-watt daytime AM radio station in Fresno in the 1950s. He said the greatest invention for DJs was the LP (Long Play) record. The station where he worked consisted of two small rooms on the fifth floor of an office building downtown. The restroom was on the second floor. He loved coffee. You can guess why he loved long-playing records.
The radio station staff was small. It consisted of the owner/manager/salesman, the pretty receptionist, and the “talent” who spun the records and did everything else. Once he even had to climb to the top of the broadcast tower to change the burned-out bulb of the red warning light. He hated that even more than having to run down three flights of stairs to pee.
He had the gift of gab to such an extent that even though he never went to college, he ended his career as the head of public relations at one of America’s top private universities. One time I corrected him after one of our late-night local newscasts; he had mis-read the word “debris” as “derbis.” When I told him the word was debris, he said, “So that’s how you spell debris! I could never figure out what derbis was.”
Update: After I finished writing this piece, an email from The Economist popped into my inbox. It was an article that gives a very good rundown regarding the differences between recording methods, and is worthwhile reading.