Sunday, January 06, 2008

Technophobe Blues

The one kind of geek that I am not is a tech geek. I'm always wary of new technology. I don't have a home theater--when I watch a DVD, I just watch it on my TV. I have no interest in getting an HDTV, much less in upgrading to a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player. Trying to figure out how to use new technology makes me very nervous.

So with that as a background, we've been redecorating the house, and finally 86'd a rickety old entertainment center. And the receiver on my stereo has been dying, so this seemed like a good time to upgrade. I thought it would be good to get some wireless speakers. I've never seen them, but they must exist, right? A transmitter you plug into the speaker outlet, and then you just place the speakers whereever you want. At least, I could get a unit where the speakers plug into an RCA jack. It's been 12 years since I bought this one, so I'm sure they're not still making these fire hazard speakers where you have to wrap the bare wires around the little knobs, right? And it'd be cool to get one with an iPod dock.

I tried looking at some stuff online, but it was just too confusing, so I went to Best Buy, where you can at least talk to someone about that stuff. It turns out that nobody has stereos anymore. They barely make receivers for stereos. Mostly, they're for surround sound systems. The sales guy showed me the one model that seemed to actually be for a stereo, and I was about to buy that when I realized that, contrary to what the guy told me, it didn't have an iPod dock. So I got the next one up, which was more of a complicated surround system. When I got this home and looked at the back, I almost had a panic attack. There's about 400 jacks on it! And of course, the "wireless speaker" fantasy I had doesn't exist (they did have one wireless unit, but it was just to be the back end of a surround system, and it was bulky and...just not what I was looking for), and even worse, they're still making speakers with those stupid bare wires! Why wouldn't they just put a simple RCA jack on these things?

So after a few tries, I manage to get the speakers, CD player, cassette player and iPod dock all working, but the turntable is giving me trouble. If you turn the volume way up, you can just faintly hear the record. OK, I think, I remember this one. It's the grounding wire. Turntables have this little grounding wire that has to be plugged into something or it sounds like shit. I try connecting it to the AM antenna jack, then to one of the unused speaker jacks. Nothing. So in the end, I said "fuck it," moved the turntable and the old receiver into the office to hook up to the computer so I could just use it to digitize vinyl, put it on my ipod, then play it on the dock. In fact, now I think I want to just move the cassette player in their, too.

Zane eventually informed me that it wasn't the grounding cable that was the problem, that I have to make sure it goes into one of the jacks marked "analog source," but at this point, the idea of fucking anymore with the back of the system (which of course you can't get to for shit when it's in the entertainment center) just seems like an annoyance. He also told me I wasted my money on the ipod jack, and could have just plugged it into an input jack with a wire adaptor, but I think it's nice having a dock for it.

Despite the bitching, it is great having the ipod incorporated into the stereo. For our holiday party, I went into itunes, made a 7 hour mix that started with a mix of bebop, bossa nova and cocktail lounge stuff, went up through some reggae and Native Tongues stuff, then 4 hours of hip hop, funk, punk and rock and roll, then about an hour of Zeppelin/Hendrix/Zappa/Black Sabbath-type stuff, and ending with some Coltrane, Miles and Nina Simone. Then I went through and made another playlist for the backyard, just threw a bunch of blues stuff on there, hit "shuffle", put that on the other ipod to put on the portable dock in the backyard. One less thing to worry about during the party.

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