Embracing Old Technology with a New Record Player

In the tech field, what’s new (and smaller) is what’s interesting and newsworthy. Yesterday’s technology quickly becomes obsolete. Sometimes, however, old technology can be more interesting than the latest gadget or about-to-be-released mobile app. As is the case with Judaism, we can embrace change and still revere the Tradition. Perhaps as a way to pay homage to the technology innovations of yesteryear and to feel nostalgic I keep a collection of old tech gadgets on display in my office. Hanging on the wall in glass cases are a panoply of laptop computers, personal digital assistants and mobile phones from a much slower and much bulkier time. On the wall in the conference room hang several enlarged framed magazine advertisements for computers from the 1970s and early 1980s.


My grandmother shows the old record album with birthday greetings from her childhood

Quite often I’ve had to dig into storage to find that old CD-Rom install disk of the software that was needed to open a certain file. Or someone has asked me if I have an electric charger for their old organizer so they can find a contact from their phonebook or a long lost photograph of a loved one. It’s fun to use the tech gadgets of today, but sometimes we yearn for the nostalgia of turning on a laptop computer from our college years or performing a HotSync with that PalmPilot that’s been collecting dust  in the basement just to see what data is still on there.

So sometimes we seek out older technology as a nostalgia trip, and sometimes it’s for more practical purposes. I recently witnessed its use for both reasons.

Ever since she was a young girl my grandmother, Adele Gudes, has kept a small 78 record with her. It was a birthday gift from her father over seventy years ago. On the record were audio recorded birthday greetings from her mother, father and sister. She never listened to that record – not even once. And then last week, at 92-years-old, my grandmother ordered a record player from the store and had it shipped to her home so she finally be able to listen to her family’s voices after all those many decades.

My grandmother is no stranger to tech. She uses her computer to surf the web; she has a cellphone and she could teach a class in programming a DVR. But in order to listen to this birthday record, she needed a phonograph.

Together with my children, who had never even seen an audio record before, we watched as my grandmother took the record out of its sleeve (with a handwritten note from her mother telling her to “preserve this”) and gently placed it on the turntable. Her sister’s voice immediately came on. It was the first time I’d ever heard my great-aunt speak as she died long before I was born. And then my grandmother flipped the record over and set the needle on it as her father’s voice emanated from the speaker wishing his young daughter a “Happy Birthday.”

As I was recording this event on my smartphone, I tried to make sense of it. I was listening to my great-grandfather’s voice for the first time, using an antiquated form of technology, the phonograph, as recorded my grandmother listening to birthday greetings that were seven decades old. Tradition and change.

I had flashbacks to when my grandmother would play music on a record player for me when I was a child. And here I was now, as an adult, sitting with my own children as my grandmother demonstrated to them how a phonograph works. Thanks to this very old technology my children were able to listen to their great-grandfather’s voice. And thanks to the new technology of my cellphone’s video recording capability they’ll be able to show their own children – my grandchildren – the video of their great-grandmother finally hearing her recorded birthday greetings.

Sometimes it’s the old technology that is just what we need. But new technology is wonderful, too.

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Posted in Jewish Techs Blog

Jewish Techs: The Jewish Technology Blog

This blog looks at how modern technology affects Jewish life, particularly the impact of the Internet on Jews across the globe. The Internet has made the Jewish community seem smaller. The Jewish Techs blog, written by blogger Rabbi Jason Miller (The Techie Rabbi), explores the places where Jewish culture, education and faith intersect with technology. Of course, like anything, Jews will continue to ask if technology is good or bad for the Jews – the age old question of our people. Good or bad, it is undisputed that technology has changed Jewish life. If you’re Jewish or interested in technology or both… you’ll enjoy the conversation. Thanks for reading the Jewish Techs blog.

The Techie Rabbi – Rabbi Jason Miller

Rabbi Jason Miller, the Techie RabbiJason Miller is NOT your typical rabbi. Known as the Techie Rabbi, he launched Access Computer Technology in 2010 and has grown it into a full-scale technology firm that provides social media marketing consulting and web design in addition to IT support. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary a decade ago, Rabbi Jason has made a name for himself as a popular blogger, social media expert, educator and entrepreneur. Based in Detroit, his congregation includes more than a million people who read his blog and follow him in Cyberspace. He began the Jewish Techs blog in January 2010 as the New York Jewish Week's technology expert.

An entrepreneurial rabbi and an alum of Clal's "Rabbi Without Borders" fellowship, Jason Miller is a rabbi and thought leader whose personal blog has been viewed by millions. The Detroit Free Press called him “the most tech-savvy Jewish leader" and the Huffington Post ranked him among the top Jewish Twitter users in the world. A social media expert, Rabbi Jason is a popular speaker and writer on technology and its effect on the Jewish world. He writes the "Jewish Techs" blog for The Jewish Week and the monthly "Jews in the Digital Age" column for the Detroit Jewish News.

Miller won the 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and is one of the winners of a Jewish Influencer award from the National Jewish Outreach Program.