Digital Killed the Video Star

We’re all feeling very cute today, noting Blockbuster’s demise with the witty riffs off the 1978 song titled “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The song is fondly remembered by a certain generation of Americans because its music video was the very one first played on MTV. Time: 12:01 AM, August 1, 1981. The song has a nostalgic tone, lamenting the loss of radio while celebrating the brave new world of video. And now we know how briefly that lasted before the video store was displaced by Netflix, which itself is being displaced by digital distribution. It won’t be long before all content is free, pre-installed on your smart ear pods while you sleep.

We are living in an era when people are self-aware of the evolution of the technology on which are culture and society exist. That’s awesome but weird. Humans weren’t aware of progress for most of human history — 99% of the time, that was because there was no progress. The other 1% of the time, progress was too slow to be noticed. Now: human society is self-aware but not altogether self-confident.

But you have to wonder if the kids get it. My sense is that the young have an even better grip on the dynamism of the era than the rest of us. They understand the short life cycle of gaming platforms, even though they missed out on the whole communism thing. Strange.

The question I find myself asking is a revision of the Zen If a tree falls in a forest with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?  My version is: If I remember something that no one else remembers, did it really happen? Well, I remember going to Blockbuster with my young daughter to pick out movies on Friday nights, but she doesn’t. We drove by the old corner store at the nearby strip mall ten days ago, where a bank now resides, and she had no idea that it used to be a Blockbuster. Our Blockbuster. We rented all of the Star Wars movies there, kiddo!

Maybe change is so cheap that we don’t have to pay attention.

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