Deep Thoughts: Everything's Available

Note: This post was published last week, but Blogger erased it when they were resolving some technical issues. All comments were lost as well - which is a shame considering there were some rather good ones.  Anyway, I've resurrected it since it goes along with the next deep thoughts post.

Let's pretend it's 1982 and you want to look at a 1975 back issue of a magazine, maybe an Ebony or an Easyrider. You are basically S.O.L.  It's just not going to happen.  There's no ebay and there's no Internet, so you're just going to have to live without it.

Today, I can easily grab a back issue, and more than likely I'll find it for free online somewhere - possibly Google Books or a newsgroup or a torrent, etc.  The same holds true for books (and music, movies and TV for that matter).  It's certainly interesting to muse upon, but the real issue is how this has affected our culture and what can we expect in the near future?

For one, the past is a lot more accessible than it ever was.  The seventies are over, but the images and sounds of the decade are instantly at our fingertips.  Records long out of print can be downloaded.  Magazines that haven't been in circulation for fifty years are available as PDFs.  Movies that hit a handful of drive-ins are now arriving in millions of mailboxes in red envelopes.  You could almost say the past is more accessible today than it was in the past!

The fact that the present is marinated in the past has got to have societal consequences.  I doubt we are aware of most of the repercussions, but they are there nonetheless.  And this is only the beginning.  The floodgates have only just opened.

At Retrospace, I every so often offer a sample of an obscure song from the seventies, or maybe a scan of an old Dynamite magazine.  It won't be long before these old posts look sadly quaint.  You'll be able to get any song, movie, book, or magazine that your heart desires at the click of a button.  You'll be literally drowning in choices and selection.... and yet, we humans only have a limited amount of days and leisure hours to spend.  So, where and when is the limit?

It's an interesting thought.  I'd be interested to hear any of your comments on the matter.


  1. Gilligan, you are absolutely right. I recently purchased an ipad and i cant begin to imagine how long it would take me to actually look and really use all the free apps i keep downloading. The claymation 'Santa Claus is coming to town' or the Peanuts specials don't have to wait an entire year to show their face. There is really no more anticipation for anything. Its great that its all availale but its like when you are on a diet all you want is food and when you arent you can sit in front of sweets 24/7and not want anything. Dont get me wrong I love ebay, shopping online and being able to find the answers to anything that pops into my head but its sort of feels like an empty victory at times.

  2. We take so much more for granted now. I still recall vividly the 80's, when I would troll around used record stores looking for obscure vinyl and being so gratified at finding it. Ditto goes for the second hand book shops where I'd buy old magazines just for shits and giggles. Now, everything is just too convenient. If there's going to be a consequence of this it's the shrinking down of generational culture. Soon, culture will seem like a byproduct of technology. It's already happening in films and television. The gadgets tell the story. I was watching a mid 90's film with my 16 year old just recently and he kept laughing at how hard they were plugging technology in the film and how ridiculous it all looked now by today's standards and current tech sensibilities. Interestingly, I was able to focus on the film...while he was completely distracted by how ancient the technology looked to him. It's a small but large statement on current and future trends...

  3. "You could almost say the past is more accessible today than it was in the past!" Yes, we know more about the old days than when the world was young.

  4. You're on to something here concerning societal consequences. I for one can't stop living in the past. I trawl through 'retro' blogs like this one, I watch old movies a hell of a lot more than new ones and my i-pod is mainly filled with hits from the 60s and 70s with almost nothing post-2000. This is all down to everything being at our fingertips.

    Sometimes I feel like I should step back and try to enjoy the decade I'm living in, but somehow I just can't.

  5. When will you have time to watch it all? I made the point to a friend who was rather involved with making VHS tapoes of this program or that for more than 8 years that now all that time wasted setting those recordings up and $$$ spent on tape and replacing another VCR is all moot as we move to a YouTube/Vimeo/Hulu world from a soon to ber gone multiple DVD set world to a Star Trek-like 'Computer, show three season one begin" world... Then I look at me, who collected records from literally the cradle ( i WAS 2 AND I still have my first record, Sparky & The MAgic Baton a Capitol 2 disc 78 Album from 1953) TO 1993 when I sold off 250,000+ pieces (45s, 78s, LPs) and left myself with about 3000 choice selctions on vinyl and an equal amount of CDs and cassettes. 20 years later I'm back to 20,000+ pieces again only now I have 367,000+ digital music files. It's insnae yet I'm still looking, doinjg my best to reassemble all the music i sold off physical pieces of b ack in 1993. I turn 60 next month and now I'm thinking of my 50 year old wife and NOT wanting to leave alll the physical pieces for her to have to deal with. Next five year I digitize all and sell off, so my collection is all on hard drives. Much lighter moving and storing and easier to forget when I die. We're all soon obsolete.

  6. I recommend reading PAtton Oswalt's thoughts in Wired about this. It was a good read.
    Back in the day you'd scan the classifieds, find someone selling old records, magazines, books, and go for a road trip on the weekend, pay a few cents for random copies of stuff. Or if you were really lucky, you had a bookstore that hoarded old comics, books and magazines.

  7. It's a dilemma: on the one hand those of us who visit blogs like Retrospace are in love with the past yet to be able to access it we rely on the most modern technology.
    And by the way, I'm very grateful for all those Dynamite magazine scans.

  8. I'm happy to have an opportunity to comment on this post, which I thought was great the first time around.

    I'm 50, and I have so many garage-sale VHS tapes and used books and so many thousands of vinyl LPs, that I know I will not live long enough to enjoy what I've already got before I die.

    That thought really makes me want to stop buying stuff and just start listening to an album every day, and watch a movie every night, and sequence the books I have in order of, What do I want to read next?

    When I was a pirate DJ, I collected thousands of MP3s I'll never listen to, and I still download movies I don't have time to catch in the theater - so glad I saved 9 bucks on The Green Hornet!

    Having the entire 20th Century cultural output laid available at my digital feet does make me think about what I really want to spend my time on.

  9. The conclusion seems right, i.e. this easily accessible knowledge will affect our weltanschauung. But how?

    The surplus of information leads to its devaluation. Before people had to dig through books in libraries - they "searched", their effort was not of leisure kind. Now with a click of the mouse you have access to almost everything. How much information can you really process? You can't really read all the books and listen to all music albums. Our knowledge will be still really fragmented, even more so. Before it was a hard labor to put things together, now it seems much easier and um... less affecting then?

    What is interesting is the youtube and social network cultures: a lot of things happened in the past without witnesses, now lo and behold - and it's on youtube (be it a teacher's rage, politician's verbal abuse, etc.). People still react to that, but will they always? Soon we'll be recording literally everything we say or see, like in sci-fi movie. So our court hearings will be as quick and simple as a youtube video.

  10. very well put- junglebook.