#461: From Dial-Up to Light Speed

GETTING MORE TALE #461: From Dial-Up to Light Speed

My my, how technology has changed!  The last 20 years have been a blur.  Let me give you some examples from the Record Store days!

Back when I first began slinging the rock in 1994, we only had one phone line (with call waiting).  Our VISA/Mastercard machine ran on the same phone line.  You couldn’t ring through a credit card transaction if you were on a call.  If the call waiting went off while you were doing a transaction, it would be cut off and you’d have to start again!  In ‘95, we got a dedicated line for the VISA machine.  Customers often seemed interested in the sounds our VISA machine made when connecting.  That digital “handshake” sound reminded some customers of connecting to the internet.  Same basic technology!

In the late 90’s, we finally got the internet!  It was dial-up.  But some of the staff didn’t know how to use it.  One store manager, Joe “Big Nose”, thought that the only way to disconnect from the internet was to restart your computer!  On a bad day, it was so slow as to be useless.  I remember I had one poor girl trying to help out a really bitchy customer.  She was trying to look up some info online and it was taking forever.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “But my computer is running really slow.”  The customer kindly responded, “Well I’m running fast, so hurry up!”  It’s that kind of customer that wore me down – wore us all down, daily.  If you’re in that much of a hurry, maybe you shouldn’t be stopping to shop for music?

Technology also changed how we backed up our data.  Our computers held a complete inventory of our store’s stock, which changed daily.  This had to be backed up nightly in case we lost it all.  As discussed in Record Store Tales Part 187: Closing Time, in the early days the technology wasn’t up to snuff.  We began by backing up to 3 ¼” floppy.   Our data grew quickly and that was not sufficient for long.   We “upgraded” to a tape backup system.  At this time, tapes could hold about 2 gig.  What we gained in capacity, we lost in speed and reliability.   Staff that were closing the store were supposed to wait until the backup tape had finished before they left, but as our data continued to grow, it took longer and longer.  45 minutes to an hour later, it might be finished.  Obviously you can’t make a staff member stay that long unpaid, so nobody did.  Thankfully we never had any critical crashes that caused us to lose everything.

This was later fixed, by backing up to another computer’s hard drive instead of a tape.  This became fully automated, so staff wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.  Ultimately this was the only real long-term solution, although we did also experiment with zip discs.

Before we had our own website, some customers were dying to be able to browse our stock from home.  If they could do that, we wouldn’t have to take so many phone calls, searching for long lists of CDs one by one.  When we first opened the store that I managed in ‘96, one customer asked me, “ Can you print out your inventory for me?  It would really help me with my shopping!”  He lived out of town and wanted to take a list home and browse it.

The problem, as I tried to explain, was that any list I printed for him would be out of date too quickly to be useful.  “By the time this is done printing, which will take a few hours by the way, it’ll already be out of date.  Used stock goes fast, and most of the good titles, we only have one copy of at a time.  A list isn’t going to help you very much I’m afraid.”  Plus, it would take all day to print on an old dot matrix printer.  More than that, we didn’t even have a way to print an inventory list that didn’t show our own cost on it!  Can’t exactly be handing that out to every customer that walked in the door.  He was really insistent and I actually had to get the Boss Man involved to explain it to him!

Am I ever pleased that technology has caught up with the needs of the on-the-go music shopper!  A couple clicks on Amazon, CD Japan, or Discogs and the music you need will be delivered to your door in days.  It’s actually quite amazing how quickly you can get your music in the mail.  With Amazon, I typically get my order within a business day or two, and that’s with free shipping.  A CD from Japan takes a week.  I never even dreamed of a day when I could have virtually any Japanese release within a week.  To an old timer like me, it’s unbelievable.

What’s next for technology and music sales?

  1. A way to beam music straight into your brain?
  2. Amazon will be able to read my mind and pre-order albums that I want as soon as they’re up. Then they’ll ship them to me by drone!
  3. U2 will find a way to upload their next album onto every device you own, and even ones you don’t!

I for one welcome our new music overlords!

LIGHT SPEED

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51 comments

  1. I remember sitting thinking one day I will be able to make my own CD’s and then it seems I turned around and was buying a CD burner for that old computer. Things have moved so fast and yet here I am walking across the room to flip the vinyl?????

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Yes, technology has improved a great deal the past 30 years. However, all the great things you say about Amazon, if you don’t use their Prime, then you’re stuffed. I ordered CDs by Queensryche and The Darkness last week and my order tracker says it will be a couple of more weeks before I actually get them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Having worked a few years retail I can appreciate many your bad customer stories from your assorted posts this one included, and your pre-internet stock listings. In the large/busy Newsagents I worked and at times co-managed, monthly returns were many hours penning through pages and pages of each companies lists, whereas no doubt now they simply scan each mag into an online system whenever they choose (with one of those scanning things), and presto done!?

    Having said that however, this was toward the late 80’s early 90’s during what was arguably a heyday for our music, and being one of the biggest Newsagents in our area we got ALL the import metal mags such as RIP, HitParader, Circus, MetalHammer and Kerrang which served me well during metal discovery years \m/

    While all this can now be had at the click of a few buttons, I do miss those days. I’m not too proud to say too for all the love I have for this technology and the many benefits of it, I am starting to struggle in the ‘keeping up with it’ stakes of late LOL.

    Fun read Mike cheers :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Wardy! Maybe this will ring a bell. We only carried two mags — Rolling Stone, and Spin. At the end of the sales period we had to cut out the bar code and send them in to get credited for the magazines we didn’t sell.

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        1. Oh yeah for sure! In my parents’ basement I had an entire box full of “cut” Rolling Stone and Spin magazines. I eventually gave them all away, but there was never any shortage. We rarely sold out unless it was a pretty major issue. We may have sold out of the one that had Christina Aguilera naked with nothing but a guitar, for example. LOL

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        2. No doubt not the only magazines in yer parents’ basement hmmm!? ;) Again likewise, had an absolute swag of great mags, many in full too though if those I had my eye on were selling I’d ensure to purchase one of the last copies of course.

          We were always a month or two behind though by the time said mag hit the shelves here it was couple months gone for the US UK or wherever. But that kinda turned out a bonus of course most articles were pre-release promotion then but by the time of reading here DownUnder the record had just hit the shops ready fer your hard earned coin :)

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I never had any dirty mags and that’s the truth. The closest I had to that was tattoo magazines. Hahah.

          The big problem for us with the magazines was that the staff would sit around reading them! That used to bug me.

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        4. No? Fair enough… Ya know thinking back I don’t think I did either!? Actually come to think of it we didn’t have a basement either so that probably explains why LOL ;)

          Besides, discovered girls about the same time I discovered metal and to be real honest, think I put more effort into metal so there ya go \m/

          Liked by 1 person

        1. I remember working for a company in Orillia who wanted us to try this messaging stuff out. ICQ and Powwow were two of them. Creeped me out, actually, because I connected with some weird guy from the states that wanted to meet up. …Uh, gotta go!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’m not from the States but I forgot to ask you if you wanted to hook up some time?

          J/K!!!

          We had our own in-house one, and you could set your own sound effects for it based on the Windows sounds built in. Usually it was a doorbell, but we had it a machine gun too! Whatever sound we used it always freaked out customers. “What was that?” Oh just an order came in from another branch, nobody’s shooting.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah I guess it’s Windows 8 because I always hold off on the upgrades to the next version for at least a year. It’s just compatibility issues. Sometimes it can’t detect my scanner, which is an older one and needs to be replaced soon anyways.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’m still on Windows 7, and I think I’ll hold on to it for as long as possible. Microsoft are becoming too ambitious. They think everyone has a PC tablet, so their operating systems are fashioned with that in mind. It’s worse with 10, as they are obliterating the word “program” to “app” when MS Word is not an app, damn it, it’s a program!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Right — that’s another problem I have with the new Windows. It wants to force you to use the new “tablet” format rather than the old familiar look. But the old familiar look doesn’t work so well all the time. WIndows media player crashes every few days. You can’t edit photos on the old photo editor — it’s garbage. You’re forced to use the new one, which is a completely different interface that gives you fewer options, I believe. Having said that, WIndows Movie Maker has NEVER worked better and that is crucial for what I like to do.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I have some bad news about Windows 10 – WMP is gone, and so is a DVD program. They go bye bye. As for Movie Maker, no idea. I also doubt the photo editor is there too. They are pushing everyone to apps. I wish they would stick to what works instead of fussing.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I bought the first CD burner drive amongst ny friends. It was EXPENSIVE, and it was a rockin’ 2x. But I gotta tell you, that first CD mix we burned was a moment to reflect on the implications for our futures…

    I still miss that dial-up modem sound. I wish my computer would make that sound.

    As for this: “Amazon will be able to read my mind and pre-order albums that I want as soon as they’re up. Then they’ll ship them to me by drone!”

    should have a subtitle: Or, How To Go Broke In Ten Frickin’ Minutes!

    Cool post, dude!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jings! I remember getting the shout from the living room when my mother picked up the phone! “Are you on that internets!?” Obviously I shouted “No”, while swiftly logging out …

    Liked by 1 person

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