Memory Lane: The time before everything was streamed

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Living, as I do, in turn-of-the-century London, it’s easy to become nostalgic for the long-ago 1900s. I know we’re just a few weeks into 2000 but it seems like forever.

I recall the first single I ever bought – Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ on 78 rpm. And the first album – the soundtrack to Doris Day’s ‘Love Me or Leave Me’. A ten-inch vinyl on 33⅓ rpm. The first twelve-inch – Johnny Cash’s ‘Now There Was a Song’. The first 45 rpm – Elvis Presley’s ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. I had eclectic tastes even then.

I remember thinking what a wonderful thing it would be to have a jukebox that had every song you wanted to hear any time you wanted. Never gonna happen.

I recall my first time at the movies – to see Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby in ‘White Christmas’. Then every Roy Rogers picture that came to town. And then every picture that came to town.

I remember thinking how incredible it would be to actually own a movie that you could run any time. Or, to have a collection of them, all your favourites, so that your living room would become your own movie house. Not in my iifetime.

Then came videos and CSs and suddenly you could buy almost anything you could afford. But you can’t have everything because, as Stephen Wright said, where would you put it?

Now, there’s an answer to that: cyberspace.

Pretty soon, so they say, we won’t need videos or CDs. Television sets will be computers and telephones will be video terminals and computers. Every song, every TV show and every movie will be out there available at the touch of a button at our digital demand.

There will be no need to line up for the eight o’lock screenings of the newest blockbuster; no need to hassle with the clerks at the record store to find the latest Randy Newman album; no need to check TV Guide for the airtime of ‘The Sopranos’.

It will all come streaming through the Internet and it will all be magical. And effortless. And too much. Be careful what you wish for.

Am I alone in wanting to see a movie in a crowd? Am I the only one who likes to stack CDs and wishes they were twelve-inch vinyl with beautiful covers and graphics and liner notes?

I know, those days are gone. So very Twentieth Century.


A version of this appeared as an On the Beat column in The Hollywood Reporter on Feb. 8 2000

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