Tomorrow is Yesterday

The title sounds like a good name for a Star Trek episode. Wait, it is. Oh well, it still captures my theme for this message: that some of the answers to our current-day dilemmas can be found in the technology of the past. Case in point: the Digisette MP3 cassette player. Better than your iPod, let me explain.

I still remember the days of the big debate between two different types of automobile CD-changers. Some folks preferred the type which mounted in your trunk and would beam the sound to your FM radio. “No fuss, no wiring muss” was the battle cry. You could just plop this product in your car and it would work instantly. Instantly, through your dopey, static-filled radio. Audiophiles rightly decried this monstrosity and preferred the wired models. Sure, they were a hassle to install, but they delivered crisp sound to your speakers, sound that was carried on shining, 12 gauge copper wire. The difference was apparent to any ear, whether refined or not.

Which brings me back to the current dilemma facing iPod owners: you now own a device that carries your entire collection of music (and more), but you can’t easily play it in your car without using an FM transmitter or some sort of cassette adapter plugged into your car radio. Either of those solution introduces a tangle of wires and a headache both aesthetic and operational. Do you dare risk a car accident while trying to find your favorite music or trying to reach your windshield wiper controls over a tangle of wires?? And how about the poor quality of FM-transmitted music ?? How easily the masses forego the high quality of car stereo sound by selling their souls to the ever-increasing capacity of the iPods of this world !

The elegant solution to this dilemma lies in a product from the past, one of the first breed of MP3 players which is now, sadly defunct. The Digisette MP3 player looks like a tape cassette that has been dipped in aluminum alloy. It is heavier than its analog cousin because its innards contain a fully workable MP3 player and a tiny amount of flash memory. Add a MMC memory card (a totally redundant name!) and you have yourself a bit less of 1Gig of memory for the road. And I do mean “for the road.” Pop this baby in your cassette player, and you have yourself a good 10-hours or equivalent CD capacity, easily accessible through your player’s FF and REW buttons. Elegant. The player pops into your cassette player (out of sight, out of mind) without a single wire in sight. And the sound: it is played directly to your car stereo’s cassette playback head. It is wonderful. If you wish to walk away from the car, you can always pop this beauty into the belt-clip holder provided with the player and plug-in your favorite headphones for a similar, portable sound experience.

Sure, the memory does not allow you to carry the Virgin Records library in your pocket. But the provided PC interface allows you load up a gaggle of MMC cards with your favorite tunes for a swappable library of surprising capacity. I use mine to listen to hours and hours of podcast material in my car; it is an invaluable ally against the poor FM reception I encounter on my way between Orange and San Diego counties.

Good luck trying to find this beautifully designed and amazingly geeky technical wonder. Although it fits my needs (and probably yours) to the fullest, it does not fit with the model that Steve Jobs and all of the iPod copycats are foisting on you: “Bigger is Better.” Don’t believe them. Size does NOT matter when you can’t use it where it counts the most: in the back of your car. The Digisette may be small, but that is its charm. It can do the job you really need, not the one you think you need. And it looks right at home in your car cassette deck. Just remember to buy a couple of spare batteries for it; you may be listening to it for hours and hours on end…….