I got interviewed by Ynet, an israeli tech media
A few months ago I was contacted by the editor of Ynet, the largest israeli online news site. He told me that he wanted to do an interview to me, and I agreed of course.
If you know Hebrew you can read it here:
Now what? I guess many of you (like me) know absolutely nothing about hebrew… so here’s the translated version:
TechnoSTALGIA: The Walkman archive that makes us yearn.
The popular music players of the 80′s have become collectibles, but some still use them. One of them is Hugo Rodriguez, a photography professor from Barcelona who has an impressive archive: “The Walkman and the music I played there were for me a safe cave of happiness“.
Everyone loves nostalgia: the sensation that objects, images and smells can be restored for a few moments to a more beautiful time (and they are always more beautiful, simply because their memory is far and vague enough) is an irreplaceable feeling. For example, waves of practical nostalgia in the form of the return of ancient game consoles, cameras, records and recently tapes – are flooding the markets and will be surprised, even if they have buyers. Under the umbrella of the vintage, one can grab a history – even technologically, but there are people for whom this story is a bit more complex.
“When I was 11, my mother was killed in a car accident” says Hugo Rodriguez, owner of the Web site and the YouTube channel, the Walkman Archive, which mainly reviews portable music players from the 1980s. “My life changed from that moment on, we moved to another city and lost all the friends I had, and for me and my sister it was a very dark time in life – and it only got worse. Slowly, I began to become more interested in technology and music, My favorite Walkman and digital watch, my Walkman and the music I heard through it have become a kind of safe cave of happiness for me, and they have had a very important role in my life, and without them I do not really know if I could contain everything that happened to me in those years.”
Rodriguez’s story is a sad one, but one that can easily be identified with. Today, he is 45 years old, is a professor of photography and lives in Barcelona, but his almost romantic relationship with old gadgets led him to create an online archive that documents, reviews and is a platform for buying and selling Walkman, Discman and recorders that can not be found anywhere else.
The Walkman archive was set up five years ago and contains reviews of mobile devices, especially Walkman, but not only, along with detailed articles on the differences between different types of tapes, long posts, an area for buying and selling instruments and lots of nostalgic images.
Rodriguez says that over 60 percent of the instruments in his collection are completely active, and in the first years he did make sure to use them. “Now that I understand a lot more about audio technologies, I try to use them as little as possible – because it’s a delicate device that is hard to replace today.” Rodriguez also collects accessories such as antique models of headphones, stereo systems and recorders.
When asked about his favorite item in the collection, he wriggles. “There’s so much I like, because of their design, the quality of the sound or the story behind them, if I have to choose, I assume that the top of the list will be SONY Boodo Khan, Red WM-DD30, WM-D6C, AIWA HS-PX303, white“.
Do you think the Walkmans will make a comeback?
“I do not think they’ll come back, there’s been a recent experience with a product called Elbow that is supposed to play tapes, but it’s a product with all kinds of problems and I doubt it will bring the Walkman back to life. Too small a slice of the population for the Walkmans to come back.“
How was the idea of establishing the archive born?
“The archive was born out of inspiration from one of the biggest collectors I have known – John Edwards from a forum called Stereo2go. I remember that in 2012 I read his long posts, in which he described his collection in detail and went down to the smallest details of the history of any device. He told me that he wanted to buy a domain and set up a site devoted to his collection, and that inspired me so I looked for my own domain, and then I thought about the archive.” He said.
NOTE: I added the italic and a few links.
Yeah, I already thought of that, so here’s the full interview in English:
- Could you tell me a bit about yourself?
- I’m a 45-year old guy who is in love with 80’s gadgets, especially those portable music players.
- Where are you from?
- I was born in Madrid, Spain. In my life I’ve been living in many different cities, but finally in Barcelona for the last 22 years.
- What do you do?
- I work as a professor of photography techniques as well as an image quality consultant. Photography was my hobby for years when I was a teen and finally I could manage to convert it in my main job. But when working time ends I turn on my cassette decks and listen to some analog music.
- Can you explain your interest in walkmans?
- It’s a long story. When I was only 11-yr old my mother died in a car crash. My life changed forever. We moved to another city and I lost all my friends. My sisters and I were living the darkest time of our lifes, and it became even worse later. My interest in music and technology became bigger and bigger, bit by bit. And… guess which were my favorite devices? You’re right: walkmans. And digital watches. My walkman and my music was my small cave of happiness. It has been very important in my life. Without them I really don’t know if I could took over all that.
- Is it strictly walkmans or any kind of vintage tech?
- Mostly walkmans, but I also collect (although in small quantities) Discmans, Boomboxes, Casio rare watches and other rare and curious devices.
- Can you tell me how did you come up with the archive?
- Walkman Archive came by the inspiration of one of the most impressive walkman collectors I’ve ever met: John Edwards at stereo2go.com forums. The long posts I read in 2012 showing his collection, explaining many small details of every walkman he possessed and their related history impressed me so much. His photos, however, weren’t anything so special. He was my inspiration, so I thought I wanted to do something like his posts but with better layout and better photography. I remember he told something about he wanted to buy a particular domain to make his own website. I wanted that domain too, but for respect I forgot about it and started to choose a name for mine. Then Walkman Archive came to my mind.
- How long is it running?
- Walkman Archive was born somewhere around 2012, but I’m not sure when exactly…
- How many items are on it?
- Not sure, but I focus more on quality than on quantity. As by now there are about 13 walkman reviews, 2 deck reviews and lots of cassette-related articles and around a hundred of blog posts.
- Do you get traffic?
- To my surprise, yes. And a lot if we consider how small is this world of cassettes. I’m not a traffic freak at all. In fact, I rarely look at the stats, but the last time I did, I saw around 80 unique visitors each day, which is quite a lot in my humble opinion.
- Are people interested?
- It seems so. I get emails with questions, suggestions -and even compliments- every week.
- What is your favorite walkman?
- I’ve tried to find my absolute favorite one many times but I frankly couldn’t. There are so many that I simply love, because of their design, sound quality, tinyness or because its background story. Anyway, If I had to pick a few I think the SONY Boodo Khan, the Red WM-DD30, WM-D6C, the AIWA HS-PX303 and the White PX20 would be amongst them.
- Are you still using them?
- Although 60% of all them in my collection have been serviced and they work fine, I barely use a few. In the first years I liked to use many of them, but upon learning a lot about audio quality and becoming an audiophile, I’ve narrowed my selection. I have bought some of the finest decks and headphones ever made, like the Revox B215, Pioneer CT-F1250, Tandberg 3014 or the Nakamichi Dragon and the Sennheiser HD540 Gold Reference, HD800, SONY MDR-CD3000 or the Focal Elear and with their help I became way more exigent. Nowadays, only the best sounding walkmans fulfill my needs, and most of them are the best Disc Drive series from SONY (DDII, DD30, DD33, DC2, D6C, BoodoKhan and DD9) and a few AIWA (PX101, PX20, PX303, PX410 and PX505).
- Do you see them making a comeback?
- I don’t think they will come back again. There has been an attempt to bring them back with something really new and cool, called Elbow (link) but I doubt it really becomes a real thing. It has real design issues, as I discussed in my blog. Such a device holds dozens of complicated mechanic parts which are complicated to make and to assemble. All for a small demand… will it be worth the effort? Well, maybe if the demand grows exponentially…
- Do you hope for that?
- Well, frankly… not so much. There are a few walkmans that also serve to digitize cassettes easily and they are being made nowadays, but in my own experience they really are nothing but rubbish (link). In the other side, having seen the Elbow design and how different it looks compared to the original ones, I prefer the old ones hand down!