end user blog: the slacker media player (or, the good kind of nostalgia in the palm of your hand)

This month’s column for the End User Blog is now online for your enjoyment:

Kids, I want you to take off your jetpacks, and step out of your flying cars for a minute. Come sit down over here, and let Old Man Wheaton tell you a tale of a time when television didn’t have a pause button, renting videos meant actually going to a store – during hours that they set – and listening to the radio meant hearing the same 27 songs every two and-a-half hours, with ten to eighteen minutes of commercials every 60 minutes.

Now, I realize that some of you think I’m just making this up to scare you, but it’s true. We didn’t have any control over how we got our entertainment back then. We couldn’t skip songs we didn’t like, and we couldn’t tell the radio how frequently it should play certain songs. It was a different time, when nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them and the King of England would just show up at your house and expect you to make him a cup of tea.

Those of you who have grown up in a world where you have unprecedented control over your media (DRM, which is beyond the scope of this story, notwithstanding) may have a hard time believing that we who came before you would actually wait for a song we hated to go away, or sit through loud and obnoxious commercials and DJs because we knew a song we loved was coming up. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true; that’s just how the world worked back then, and we accepted it without question.

Then it gets weird. Well, not really, but I can’t think of a better segue. Anyway, give it a read if you want to know what I think about the Slacker portable media player.

Warning: it’s way longer than I thought it would be, probably because I spent so long fighting my brain to actually let me write it, and once I beat my brain into submission, I couldn’t turn it off.

16 thoughts on “end user blog: the slacker media player (or, the good kind of nostalgia in the palm of your hand)”

  1. Oh, sure. You post this AFTER my birthday. Now I have to wait til Fathers’ Day to convince someone to get it for me. *grumblegrumbleoffmylawn*
    Actually, it’s ok. If my son had known about the Slacker player, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my very own dead-tree copy of the Watchmen. :)

  2. Instead of wanting to have Pandora on the go, you can have Pandora on the go. The iPhone app is fantastic. I hear they now have a windows based version too. It’s the same thing as the web-based pandora, but requires you to be in the ATT data network or be connected to a wifi.
    I suppose it’s all based on whether you prefer your gadgets to be like Inspector Gadget (the all in one) or 60’s TV show Batman (a new toy or five per episode).

  3. “and listening to the radio meant hearing the same 27 songs every two and-a-half hours”
    Actually that part hasn’t changed. We’ve just stopped listening to the radio. Unfortunately the byproduct of that process is a lot of good radio is being killed off and replaced with even MORE bad radio. Sigh.
    –chuck

  4. Yeah, I know a bunch of people who love having that on their iPhone and iPod touch. What I like about Slacker, though, is that I don’t have to be connected to a network, and I also don’t have to buy an iPhone or iPod Touch. :D

  5. Wil, I told my husband (who was at work at the time) about this post and he emailed me the following response, asking me to post it to your blog since he couldn’t do it from work.
    (His response)
    “Gimme 5 bees for a quarter,” you’d say.
    Oh, but Mr. Wheaton (can I call you Mr. Wheaton?), we could pass by the songs we didn’t like – if we were lucky enough to be listening to an audio cassette tape, which was the style at the time. All we had to do was press the Fast Forward button, and kinda sorta guess how long it would take to get to the song we wanted. Then press Fast Forward again because you didn’t go nearly far enough. Then again. Then Rewind because now you’re into the 2nd verse of the song you want. (And you kids… you won’t believe this. The button was more like a lever – it stayed in the down position while the fast forwarding was happening, and that function was released by pressing a different button… what’s that? How did we 2x, 4x, 8x fast forward? We didn’t. There was no such thing. We had x. You could either fast forward, or not fast forward – that was it.)

  6. Wil, I have to say, yours and my experience with that device have been identical. I also purchased it off of Woot (although I think I bought it pre-woot-off) and fell in love with it. My iPod is now just a repository for hours and hours of Podcasts.
    The only thing I miss with that player, and say Pandora, is the ability to shuffle through playlists, but being portable is a huge plus.
    Edit:
    WTF happened to my name, $20 to the first person who can pronounce it.

  7. I didn’t realize that the shithead media companies in the US had decided to lock these things down at the US border. That’s just … well, about what I’d expect from them, I guess.
    Hopefully, the companies behind these things will figure out a way to embrace the rest of the world and bring this cool stuff to scary far off lands like Canuckistan.

  8. Now that Ive had time to compose more than a couple one liners…
    Plain ol radio was the reason my music tastes are so eclectic in the first place. Like every one else, I hate commercials. However, I also dislike DJs. I just want music. Any time either of them came on, Id switch the station. Id go through everything from country (what was usually on)to top 40, to (occasionaly) hip hop, oldies, alternative, and classical. Only thing was most of the station coordinated so commercials were on at the same time.
    I too, could plug in my MP3 player and surf through 4k worth of songs, but sometimes I just want to listen to the radio or stick a CD in. I have eight CDs Ive burned entitled ‘Random X’, and am currently plotting the ninth variant. Why? Uhm…cuz?
    On the topic of slacker, Ill definitely have to look into the basic subscription. Only 6 skips an hour wont do. My creative Zen Vision gets an attitude with me when I skip too many songs and freezes on me. It does one of those “if you cant find something to listen to, you cant listen to anything” things. Yay.

  9. The day they figure out how to put streaming internet radio into my car is the day my terrestrial radio is turned off and never turned on again.
    I can listen to streaming internet radio, Pandora, et al all day long on my home and work computers, but the second I get in the car I’m stuck listening to whatever crap I can tune in….
    Help me gadgeteers!! I want my phantom.fm radio live in my car!

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