Am I a Luddite?

February 8, 2022 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Am I a Luddite? Rant to follow.

It began with the headphones. I like to listen to podcasts in bed to help me fall asleep, something a lot of neurodivergent folks seem to do. But my go to wireless earbuds, JVC ha-fx39, have seen better days, one bud is just hanging by a thread. I have some better wireless earbuds from bose, but they aren’t comfy enough for sleeping. And the battery of my previous pair of JVC ha-fx29’s doesn’t last long enough to make it through the night. I liked the JVC’s because they are the “marshmallow” style foam earbuds. They stay in place and are soft. A welcome relief in an age where most people seem to enjoy shoving pieces of hard plastic in their ears.

To alleviate the battery problem I decided to get a pair of *gasp*--wired headphones, which required me to get a usb-c dongle. (I'm trying my damndest to avoid complaining about the company that has been driving tech on a one-way trip to Dongleville) I then bought the cheapest pair of headphones I could find, JVC Gumy earbuds, $7.99 at Walgreens, in the same minty-teal green as my old ones. I mean, why not go cheap, audio quality is not that important to me in my hypnagogic sleep-dream state anyways.

BUT!

The first night I listened through these things I was floored! The sound is much, much better than the other jvc wireless earbuds, almost on par with my $150 Bose wireless earbuds! There's one podcast I listen to where one of the hosts has a deep, deep sultry voice which can be hard to hear on the wireless, but with the wired headphone's I am just shocked at how good the bass is. It’s as if the signal travelling through a conductive wire is stronger than the signal travelling 1 ft over bluetooth from the phone on my nightstand! Who’d have thought! This makes me want to take the next step.

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I am getting sentimental for the days when we had a pocketable dedicated device for playing music, which evolved into playing podcasts. I had an mp3 player, A sony NW-E505. It was 1gb, and with the rotary dial, you could control the music without taking it out of your pocket! Such a device would be grand--I could switch between podcasts without waking my partner with the 1200 nits of my phone. I long for the days when form and design had something to do with function instead of everything just being a g*ddam rounded rectangle. We had mp3 players that fit into our pockets when our phones couldn’t, and now mp3 players are out and most of our phones don’t even fit into our pockets, especially when we add the cases for our phones because “good design” has turned them into large, slippery, delicate rounded rectangles.

But I digress.

Surely technology has come a long way, and everything is smaller and the equivalent technology of those original mp3 players is cheaper to produce. Right?

A search for a current mp3 player is as quizzical as it is disappointing. The use-case for mp3 players has gone to audiophiles and perhaps a few other luddites like me, and from some of the texts I read it seems they are popular with people in some less-well off and oppressed countries that make use of America’s e-waste.

There’s still a myriad of no-name/weird name companies making ipod knock-offs and even a few that seem have a fresh take on the rounded-rectangle, but as this will be a storage device that I occasionally connect to a computer, I’d prefer it to be devoid of spyware from foreign countries. Then there’s the audiophile units. The first google result brings up a Tech-Radar article. Their top choice is from Astell & Kern and is $2500. You can still pay $300 for a 7th generation ipod touch.

I thought of maybe going to eBay for my original mp3 player, which ranges from $50-$180. Some even have the original packaging, with a cd for Sony’s Sonicstage software that I loved and everyone else seemed to hate. But it would be nice in addition to podcasts to have a home for my mp3 collection, which I liberated from google’s grasp after they canceled Google Play Music, and though I don’t have much, it is over the player’s 1gb storage.

So, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 options. (I’m not sure how much of a challenge it will be to get actual podcasts on these devices. but I’m a PC/linux nerd so I’m sure I’ll find a way, plus a lot of the podcasts I like to listen to are also linux nerds and make their podcasts as open-source as possible.) All three of them have expandable storage (what a concept!) and even FM radio. One of them even uses a AAA battery, and two of them also have a voice recorder. The RCA unit has a dial not dissimilar to the sony one that would give me tactile control even in the dark. Which would you choose?

Budget model: $26 https://www.amazon.com/AGPTEK-Supports-Replaceable-Recording-Expandable/dp/B01NAJ3KQB/ref=pd_lpo_1?pd_rd_i=B01NAJ3KQB&th=1

Mid-range: $35 https://www.amazon.com/Sandisk-8GB-Clip-Player-Black/dp/B0761ZWHNW/ref=pd_lpo_3?pd_rd_i=B00VXMY262&th=1

Full-price: $42 https://www.amazon.com/RCA-TH2014-4GB-MP3-Player/dp/B015S9NTLO

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