Analog vs Digital; gradual replacement of daily devices by digital products

As things become more and more digitized these days, we find more and more of our daily devices being replaced by new digitized mediums. Please note that when I use ‘analog’ I mean the original medium.

Vinyl vs CD:
An example is music players. Back in the old days, we used a device called the record player to listen to music. This device used a medium called vinyl which is an exact copy of the soundwaves pressed into it. What you hear from each LP is the exact reproduction of the music; there are no compressed bits of audio, no 16-bit compression, 320kbps streaming, or whatever. This is as close as music gets to a live performance (which is pure analog because you hear it with your ears at the time it plays). It has since been replaced by CDs and MP3s, which basically takes samples of the sound and compresses them. Whether or not it sounds worse depends on different people. Which would you choose? Vinyl (analog) or CD/MP3 (digital)?

Vinyl and MP3
Vinyl and MP3

Film vs Digital photos:
Back in the old days, we used a film camera to take pictures and record movies. film is available in different mm (35mm, 16mm, 8mm) which represents what kind of film format is used. Similarly, movie projectors depends on the size of the reel and the film its using. Film has been superseded by Digital Cameras, DSLRs, Camcorders, and even phones(!) today. But some still say that old film cannot be replaced. It’s the ‘analog’ medium. There is no sense of megapixels or size of movie in gigabytes of whatever. Light is focused and captured onto photographic films which is developed in a dark room. There is no concept of dark rooms or film negatives in the digital age today. Instead, there is only how many megapixels, what is the storage size, aperture size, lens size, HD quality, etc. In addition, digital photos cannot be physically shared unless they are printed, which may not result in the same feeling as film. Which would you choose? Film Camera (analog) or Digital Camera (digital)?

Film vs Digital
Film vs Digital

Other trends
Although Cameras and Music players are the most prominent, digital products have been replacing almost every product that we produced in the 20th century. Radio has been replaced by Spotify, and Pandora. TV is gradually getting replaced by Netflix, Hulu and Youtube. Ebooks using Amazon’s Kindle and Nook readers have been replacing traditional books. iPhones and Android devices have been replacing landline (old school) telephones. How often do you see pay phones nowadays? What about painting a picture using oil or watercolor? Now you can do that on a tablet! What happened to board games? Now we play Angry Birds on the phone. An entire drawer of documents can now be fit onto a small USB key. Shopping no longer needs to be done at brick and mortar stores, just go to Ebay and Amazon. Who needs Encyclopedia Britannica when you have Wikipedia and Google? Asking friends for reviews has been replaced by Yelp. Nobody uses Maps anymore when you have Google Maps. No need to hire expensive stock advisors when you have Google Finance. Who uses typewriters when you have Google Docs? No need to cut out coupons when you have Groupon. Who reads newspapers when you can just go to CNN? What used to be handwritten letters sent across the world to an eager penpal months later has now been replaced by email, typed in an instant and received in an instant. And face to face contact is gradually being replaced by Skype, texting, instant messaging, and Facebook. Heck, I”m even writing a blog post that only two decades ago would have warranted a small diary! (blogging never existed back then, unless you count newspaper articles).

While I do like how there are new, more convenient ways of living, sometimes I long for the more meaningful ways that life used to be lived. Living without a phone for a few weeks has taught me to enjoy the simpler things in life rather than commenting on someone’s Facebook wall (like for example, actually going up to the person to wish them a happy birthday). And I kind of miss that, now that digital products have replaced everything. What do you think about this topic? please leave your comment.

I also took the opportunity to take some pictures with Instagram. I wonder if Ansel Adams would be proud of me. Would he have thought that one day, a miniature sized phone in my pocket would be able to take a picture of this quality? and share it without actually handing it physically to anyone?

Sunset at SF's Ocean Beach
Sunset at SF's Ocean Beach
Sakura at Golden Gate Park
Sakura at Golden Gate Park


2 responses to “Analog vs Digital; gradual replacement of daily devices by digital products”

  1. I cannot tell the difference in sound quality between vinyl records and CDs. I walked into a music store a while back, and the store owner said that there was a resurgence in vinyl sales because people think that it sounds better. However, I do know that vinyl records deteriorate with use, so if you want to listen to something over and over again, I think that CDs are the way to go. That’s why vinyl records started to phase out in the first place.

    I never really felt that digital things were always less meaningful than the analog. What is meaningful is standing out. Wishing someone a happy birthday in person stands out because everyone does it over Facebook. Before Facebook, making a birthday card stood out because everyone wished it in person without any more effort. But in my opinion, nothing is as meaningful as face-to-face contact. Sometimes, Skype and Facebook are the best you can do, but it’s always more fun to be with someone in person. And that will never change, and I don’t think that anyone will choose to Skype over meeting in person, though I could be wrong.

    However, I personally hope that Google Maps replaces most physical maps because most physical maps are a complete eyesore. And Hulu and Netflix are awesome because it means that you don’t have to decide between watching two TV shows, and you don’t have to worry about being at home at the right time. Also, cable TV nowadays is quite a ripoff. It used to be much less expensive than now.

    The people who lived at the beginning of the 20th century would recognize the 1950s, and the people who lived in the 1950s wouldn’t recognize the world today. The world will keep changing. I have faith that people will throw out old technologies (like paper maps and wooden plows) when something new is strictly better, and that people will always find ways to maintain meaningful relationships. Sure, there are old people who say that email is ruining people our age, and there are probably people our age who don’t understand the childhood of kids a mere 10 years younger than us. But that’s okay, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

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