His master’s voice – he wasn’t just listening, he was smelling
Karl Meinke, professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm once said – “Computers allow us to shrink the world. Before we know it, we’ll all be living in matchboxes”. I paraphrase slightly. He won’t remember that he said it. It was it circa 1975 when he was 13. I remember it was very funny at the time but remarkably, there’s a ring of reality in what he said.
The world we occupy today is unthinkably different to the world that existed then and while we don’t live in matchboxes in a literal sense, who would have thought that the shops we used to frequent would have shrunk to the size of a letter box?
There was a record store called Probe in Liverpool. It was close to Mathew Street, as I recall, just near what used to be the Cavern Club. A band called the Beatles used to play there. For me, in the 1970s, Saturday’s were spent browsing through the records for sale in Probe. It was a really exciting time to be a teenager.
I had no time for the British punk music that blasted out of the speakers at Probe but I’ve since come to embrace it and have a great affection for it as part of the sound track of my life. The smell of incense in the store, designed in part to mask the smell of marijuana, combined with the musty essence of cardboard album sleeves gave the whole experience of buying music something more than a simple transaction. So it is with great sadness that I hear confirmed, what was always going to happen, that HMV the UK music retailer is to close.
I have no problem with the evolution in supply chain technology that allows us to buy stuff that we like, shipped without leaving our house, but do we really want a world where we buy without smelling first?
Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin