It's not only interesting to watch (and there's worse things than having your son ask you to turn up "Live at Leeds" in the car) but it also suggests a new approach to music — even a new way of approaching the world — being developed by this generation.
In another year or two, all music will be available all the time. Imagine following digital trails back and forth through time, tracing the history of a particular song or singer, or instrument (say, the Fender Rhodes guitar). Or going sideways across a genre, or tracking the development of a vocal style, or theme (U2's Joshua Tree back to Gram Parsons back to the Byrds back to Greenwich Village folk back to the Weavers back to Leadbelly) — and all of it downloadable in seconds.
All history becomes contemporaneous and accessible — an extraordinary thing.
An Accelerated Moore’s Law
While I was musing on all of this, I also started thumbing through the gamer magazine.
I'm not a computer game player myself. For one thing, it strikes me that there are really only about four different game types — none of which are especially compelling.
Second, life is hard enough without wasting thousands of hours on an activity that doesn't have enough real-life reward. And finally, virtual killing doesn't do much for me. I've been around enough guns and dead things to respect both in ways I've never seen in a computer game.
Needless to say, both my boys completely disagree with everything in the preceding paragraph. They are hard-core gamers on everything from Gameboys to Playstations to personal computers.
As such, they also subscribe to what might be called the Accelerated Moore's Law of Computer Games. This law holds that every six months the computer or box you are currently using becomes, in your eyes at least, hopelessly obsolete.
The same machine might still easily run the entire accounting system for a small corporation, but for your purposes — playing the newest games — it might as well be an abacus.
Souped-Up Hot Rod Computers
Lately, both boys have been making the usual noises about how their current PC, with only 1 gHz processing speed, is just a pokey piece of crap, utterly incapable of playing the latest version of Morrowmind, or whatever.
In the past, they would have begged to go down to the computer store to check out the newest mainstream boxes. Not anymore. This time my oldest, who like every other six-grader in America, seems to effortlessly tap into the Zeitgeist through some invisible wavelength, began talking about Alienware and Falcon and Quakecon.
Huh? Now, I've been watching the personal computing industry as long as anyone alive — it helps to have grown up down the street from Woz and Jobs — and I'd never heard of these companies.
But here they were in the magazine, offering souped-up hot rods of computers, specifically designed for the superfast processing speeds and ultra-high graphic displays of the latest computer games.
Expensive, too. But very cool — some even have aluminum cases with custom automotive paint jobs.
Triumph of the Slackers in the Auto Shop
No one, except Steve Jobs, remembers that personal computers started out looking cool. Some of the very first machines even had wooden cases and looked like stereo systems.