And there is another pleasure, too. It's the warmth of the technology. There are surely downloadable versions of "True Blue Lou." But unlike the MP3, whose magic is incomprehensible and thus boring, the wax cylinder is viscerally miraculous. It's staggering to think that lungs and plucked strings could vibrate the air, wiggle a stylus and capture a song for 100 years on a fragile thing that looks like a toilet paper roll. Compared with the iPod, it's a lot more human, a lot more accessible, a lot easier to love.Downes has it backwards. The cylinder technology is very simple and provides a mediocre reproduction of the original music. Meanwhile the MP3 and other compression schemes use beautiful computer science ideas to make a strong digital copy, easily produced and portable, superior to cylinders in every way.
Luckily Downes is the outlier. He can enjoy scratchy music on his "toilet paper roll" while the rest of us enjoy music that sounds like the original on devices we can carry in our pocket, even if most people don't understand the details of technology involved.