Today was a very nice day for thrift-store shopping. I would say “great,” but it could only have been great if I’d had more extra cash– but alas, this was not so. Regardless, I managed to pick up what may be my coolest thrift-store find ever!
No, I didn’t take the picture, but yes… I’m now the proud owner of a shiny red “Phonette” hand-operated record player. It’s a very nifty device. The lid is hinged in such a way that it can function as a “tabletop” for the player when open, and protects the player when closed. The crank is able to be pushed in so that it becomes hidden in the side of the player, to protect it from damage during transit; a significant feature when you consider the ugly history behind these little wonders.
You guessed it– or you managed to read the words “Gospel Recordings” off the handle– these are the now-outdated tools of missionaries worldwide. It amazes me that nobody ever bothered to make something like this for people without electricity to just listen to music… but my hope is that a large number of them were “re-purposed” by native people globally for non-Jesus use.
Since I’m on the topic, dig some of the other neat-o devices the missionaries need to let me play with:
This is the “CardTalk,” a super-low-tech record player. You are supposed to use a small stick to push the record around in a circle. See the black dot off-center in the label area? That’s where the stick goes. I have to say, if someone showed up to tell me about god, I’d be fairly unimpressed about the “pushing a record with a stick” show.Equally unimpressive in the revival tent of my mind is the “Messenger II,” whose creators earn a few points in my “inadvertent irony” category for the use of Roman numerals:
Again, this is a fully human-powered device, which is pretty cool. One or ten of these would surely find a lovely home in my collection of things that make noise, so if you’re looking for the perfect gift to give me for all my hard blogging work… Oh? You say you’re hint-blind? Here’s a link to the order page. Feel free to surprise me in the quantity column.
My initial suspicions about “re-purposing” of these audio devices are probably right on the money. Witness (har har) the “MegaVoice Messenger,” a fixed-message digital audio player.
The key words here are “fixed” and “message,” meaning that the end-user can’t tamper with the evangelical nonsense, and insert his own name in place of Jesus. Sorry, “Bob Christ,” you’ll have to stick to iPods. Still, I have to totally drool over this device. It can hold up to 160 hours (goddamn!) of stereo listening with headphones (or use the internal speaker), although your 9-volt battery will wear out in about 10 hours… for this purpose, you can purchase a solar-power attachment. Sony, take note. These people are on to something.
Back to those pesky fixed messages, though. How do they get on the player in the first place? Enter… the “MegaVoice Scribe”:
The “Scribe” is basically DRM taking physical shape. Instead of allowing “tampering” of the amazing messages contained within the “Messenger,” the Scribe allows privileged operators to port audio from a computer to some sort of flash media setup, and then on to the Messenger. It is also able to run a smart-detect feature to determine the operator’s skin color, and will only turn on for whites. I believe a pith helmet is used as a dongle.
Just kidding! (But this may come up in future models, so watch the MegaVoice product page, eh?) Obviously, all this stuff is just begging for oddmusicians to put everything to better use. If you happen to come up with anything, feel free to leave a comment or two– and if you record it, I’d be extra happy to link to your mp3 file!
As a side note, check out how the charm of these players has totally been lost along the years. The record-on-a-stick thing is kinda ugly, but maybe a little fun. The Phonette is downright loveable, with its goofy, round tone arm and pleasing red paint job. The Messenger II is beginning to become ugly, but at least gets a few points for color-coding the buttons for illiterate folks. The you get to the MegaVoice line, which all look like ugly garage door openers with an iPod-wannabe complex. Yuck.