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Columns > Rob Kallick

Published: 2001/08/20
by Rob Kallick

The Greatest Invention Of All Time

[editor’s note: this month, we offer the musings of our newest columnist, Mr. Rob Kallick. Enjoy…]
Im here to make a bold statement. There is a new technology among us that is, in my mind at least, so revolutionary and amazing I would put it up there with any great advancement in recent years. If youve experienced it already then I have no doubt you will agree with me if you havent then read on and learn.
Im surely no expert on what is and what isnt amazing on a grand scale, nor can I analyze specific technology and say that its technically better than anything else. All I can do is look at how certain things affect my life and my well being. I have yet to reap the benefits from wireless Internet access, but I do most certainly enjoy the ability to burn free CDs from my good pal Napster (who is now also on hiatus). But a recent trip to Borders made me look at actually buying CDs in a whole new light. And I may be a little late on this too. My sister said she saw The Greatest Invention Of All Time (TGIOAT) months ago at her local Borders in downtown Chicago. Where had I been? Oh yeah, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, thats where. Anyways, TGIOAT works like this: There are little stands at Borders (and Barnes & Noble) where you pick any CD and scan the barcode. You are then free to listen to, in most cases at least, the entire album on headphones. Now, this may not sound so amazing, but to a self-professed music nerd like myself this is the holy grail of toys.
My first encounter with TGIOAT was shaky. I looked at it and passed it off as just your typical listening station where most of the time you could choose one of ten pre-selected albums. More often than not these are the run-of-the-mill new releases that the store is being paid to actively promote which usually equates to one giant suckfest. As I browsed I noticed a fellow shopper pick up a CD and scan it at a station. Curious, I thought to myself. What is this guy doing? After a few seconds of listening he put the CD back in its place, picked up another one from racks and scanned that one. My palms started sweating. My knees went weak. This couldnt be, I thought. He didnt just do what I thought he did. I turned around and saw an open station. Nervously I put on the headphones. I was ready to scan a random album myself and watch nothing happen, concluding all along that I had been imagining what I had just seen. Find the most obscure CD you can find, I told myself. I looked around and picked up Oui by The Sea and Cake, one of Chicagos finest underground jazz outfits. I scanned the UPC code and heard a beep. On the display read the name of the band and through my headphones came the hip sounds of xylophones and synthesizers. I started laughing uncontrollably. People were staring at me. I had a smile the size of Texas. I dropped the CD to the floor and jumped for joy. I was, quite literally, in heaven. Memories of frustrating visits to local record stores flashed through my mind along with names of albums and visions of album covers that I longed to hear, but was always too afraid to buy. Every time I would go CD shopping I would look at the My Bloody Valentine disc, but never once had the courage seal the deal and make a purchase. Now there was hope. The world was my oyster.
I began to envision the day where I could confidently walk through the jazz section and select the perfect album without apprehension. TGIOAT would make my dream a reality. But not just my dream millions of dreams. I believe TGIOAT has the power to save the world from the current period of stale music that is ruining the airwaves. Young music lovers the world over will now have countless albums to taste and sample and decide on their terms what they want to hear. There is simply no excuse for not seeking out good music instead of waiting for what radio and MTV spoon feeds you. Millions of ears will be exposed to sounds never before available to them. If I had it my way there would be a TGIOAT in the home of every American. So do yourself a favor and tell everyone you know about this, give them a list of CDs and send them to Borders, especially your lame friends with bad tastes in music. Everyone has at least a couple of those.

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