physical media: it ain't so bad!

Sat, 27 Jan 2024, 06:10:34 PM

by tyler, yes, the tyler!
waddling animated ducks

Physical media: it ain’t so bad!


as the internet has grown and grown and grown, and we have access to every single piece of media we want digitally, it’s easy to forget the value of media that you can hold in your hands.

this isn’t just some misguided notion because i’m trying to be contrarian and rebel against the web. this shit makes life damn easy. not returning to jungle or some bullshit. ted kaczynski pretty much blew fingers off for nothing. i’m happy to be able to watch shit online and i can do this while disliking a lot of the bullshit that comes with it. (see: dead internet theory)

notably of these, the CD. “erm…. i can make playlists on spotify! i can blah blah blah” shut up!!! it’s a damn interesting piece of technology. a laser pokes tiny little holes in the disc lacquer in the burner, then the reader reads these indents and turns it into music.

part 1 - CDs are pretty fucking cool

i find the enjoyment in music can sometimes be attributed to the rituals around it. i wake up, turn on a playlist, shower with music on, walk outside with it, smoke with it and sleep with it. sometimes it feels like digital media platforms can in a way take the joy out of this.

shopping around

this is not to mention the ritual of finding CDs itself. I like heading down into town, and sitting down by a massive shelf flicking through 100 pieces of absolute trash until i find something really personally meaningful, or an album i haven’t really had a chance to fully explore.

i found this to be the case with a CD i found in my last haul. it was “tears for fears - songs from the big chair”.

recently though, other albums i’ve found within my hauls have been the colour and the shape by foo fighters, adrenaline by deftones, decade by duran duran, and in utero by nirvana.

dopamine (evil!)

i could’ve just as easily turned on spotify and listened to any of these. actually no, it would’ve been far easier! not to mention losslessly and all of this bullshit.

but for a few reasons, that would’ve made this series of events, this ritual i have crafted for myself, a completely different experience.


spotify will certainly not last forever. what will it matter when all of this music you have collected disappears into the ether?

but, god willing, i will NEVER allow my hifi to ever die. if it does, i will drop £20 and get another. CD breaks? i’ll burn it from a ripped copy.

overlistening (dopamine, yet again!)

you find that PERFECT song, or revisit one that you know you damn love. you play it constantly on your headphones. then one day, maybe a week later, you realise that listening to it this much has ruined the song for you forever. maybe it’ll take a whole year for you to like this song again.

but the thing about a hifi is that i cannot and will not be able to always have it on. i have university lectures, work and otherwise cannot always be home. on top of that, i have about 100 CDs now, and i burn lots every month so it keeps growing.

keeping this ritual, but dialling it back means that i never tire of the songs and albums that mean everything to me. music has always been so important to me, and i have killed numerous songs overlistening like this!

at the end of the day, i love the special occasions where i can play a couple of albums while getting my work done.

holding stuff and making stuff is pretty damn nice

i’m superficial, i just like holding stuff that i own. this CD, if stored properly and ignoring the imminent solar flare, i could listen to this until the day i die.

i like making my own designs for discs i’ve burnt. i love making tracklists on my typewriter, and this again falls back into this ritual pattern i mentioned. humans love patterns.


i have overlooked so many albums, because of one bad track i’ve heard from them. there are so many albums i have not paid attention to by artists i love because i just didn’t think much about it. diamond eyes and gore by deftones, live and loud by nirvana, concrete and gold by foo fighters (you should listen to sunday rain, by the way)!

(and yes, the irony of sending a link to this song over the internet is not lost to me, but fuck you! i’m not posting you a damn cd! i dont even know where you live!)


i love making shit. i love writing software. turns out all the linux GUI frontends for disc burning are damn broken. solution? write my own little workaround.

these projects always renew my joy for writing software. there is no motivator like actual personal interest in seeing through a project until the end. luckily, this one was short. here’s the repository!. send a pull request (if you dare) (please do.)

part 2 - cassettes (magical magnet boxes)

cassettes are pretty special. gen x hoarded a lot of music on cassette while they grew up, and they’re very effective time capsules.

lots of unheard music is ONLY on tape, because during the 90’s and early 2000s it was the easiest way to record from analogue.

contrary to popular belief, they’re not low quality. cassettes are actually very good mediums for high quality audio recording, it’s just that a lot of tapes were recorded direct from the speakers of radios, rather than from analogue or through a hifi.

CrO2 tapes are always fun to come across. most tape in a cassette is made of iron oxide (or other ferrous oxide). chromium tapes are an awesome deep black colour, and provide incredible audio quality on par with lossless.

tapes, if you don’t know, work by threading a reel of tape from one spool to another. this tape is split longways in half right down the middle. the tape heads inside your tape deck read the tape from the hole on the bottom of the cassette, where the tape is exposed, before it is spooled around the reel. when the tape finishes, you can play the other half of the tape by flipping it around and putting it back in the tape deck.

the way tape recording works is pretty complicated. you have to cover two holes on top of the cassette, and at this point, you can press the record button and tape via the line in port, or from other sources like CD if you have a micro hifi.

i cannot explain how the process actually work because i know fuck all about electromagnetism, but essentially your music is zapped onto this tape using magnets. pretty cool (?) i think so.

part 3 - floppy disks, who the hell uses floppy disks?

me. this one is a little niche, but they’re a pretty fun toy. as a developer, they’re great to use to challenge yourself. as a writer, i love writing little stories onto these and distributing them. i have written lots of poetry and short stories onto them.

it’s hard to work with 1.4MB of storage, but limitations make for the best solutions sometimes. fucking around with audio codecs to fit them onto floppies, making games in old versions of C, and playing with old DOS versions is always fun.

albeit impractical. but at very least they’re good decorations!

part 4 - vinyl (boo!!!)

unpopular opinion, but i don’t love vinyl. they used to be a cool option that you could buy on the cheap from grandmas and at charity stores for cheap, but as this trend grew, the music industry happily grabbed onto it and commercialised it.

you can’t even buy a new pressing for £30 any more! taylor swift (who i would never listen to) supposedly charges upwards of £100 for some limited pressings. this fucking sucks.

i also dislike the lack of hackability of the medium. nobody is pressing records at home, and since they’re an analogue medium, they’re pretty hard to write software for (nigh impossible)

not to mention the swarms of people claiming that they are a superior medium. no offence, but CD is quite literally magnitudes higher quality than vinyl. don’t forget that the sound is produced by scratching a needle on grooves!

i won’t deny that there is a difference in sound when you play vinyl, i even own a few albums that are important to me. but i do consider it to be a toy medium appropriated by those with far too much money to spend (or too few brains to spend it well).

not to mention those who buy them without players to display them on their walls! i shudder at the thought.

part 5 - VHS (huh?)

VHS are big big cassettes which also store video data. often associated with the CRT monitors of the day which are actually better at rendering retro video games!

these are definitely only here for the nostalgia factor. i spent a lot of time with my gramps watching horrifically racist loony toons cartoons. i liked the episode where bugs fucked with the dude playing baseball for like 30 minutes. also loved all the wile e. coyote segments. sadly these are all back home, same as my VCR.

recently i picked up liar liar and have i got news for you (funny english talk show) on VHS. they go for free in a lot of marketplaces so it’s worth picking some up at very least for the joy of it


owning shit is pretty nice! i’d love to see some of your latest hauls, be it old floppy software, cassettes, albums or vinyl LPs. email your photos to me at looking forward to seeing what you’ve picked up!!

back home!