Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The only way to CD future

The first article of journalism I ever wrote was a piece for my middle-school paper about audio formats when I was 13 (which, to my surprise, is on the blog). While working on something else just now, I harked back to it and to what I was thinking when I wrote it.

At the time (1993), I was pretty sure CDs represented the apex of technology. Part of what compelled me to write an article chronicling the evolution of sound media was that I thought it was over. Though I wrote that the industry "will continue to rock" (a line inspired by a writing buddy), I was pretty sure all that meant was that CDs would probably sound better at some point. Even by 1995, while listening to Darius Rucker sing "nothing lasts forever" on Hootie and the Blowfish's "Goodbye," I remember thinking, "Well, CDs do." (Ironically, Hootie's Cracked Rear View is the only CD I've ever bought twice.)

I had a similar thought that same year when Louisiana upgraded its driver's licenses to the computerized, holographic stock. Before that, the licenses were basically Polaroid photos with information written out either in typewritten or dot-matrix letters. The change represented such a huge technological jump in my mind that I assumed they'd never change again. Where else was there to go?

As it turned out in both cases, there were plenty of places to go. CDs eventually gave way to mp3s, and nowadays physical formats of any kind are largely quaint. Louisiana driver's licenses advanced further in late 2001, with other states' Real ID-compliant cards making them look outdated now.

For better or for worse, change is all around us, and it often manifests itself in ways foreign to us just a few years prior. The job market is also morphing this way. Really, what isn't?

Our biggest collective mistake is to approach this world the way my 13-year-old self saw CDs — with the certainty that things had finished changing, and there was nowhere left to go. In the words of another Ian in 1993's Jurassic Park film, "Life finds a way." 

And always, so should we.

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