The glitch that won’t go away!

A healthy way of travelling long distances by car with friends is to get each person who will be sharing the car to choose a number of tracks (say 20-30) to be included in a number of travel mix CDs (or if you have a modern car: one MP3 CD or even a pen drive, or simply hook up your iPod with a travel playlist playing on shuffle!) The case is that in this way, everyone’s tastes are covered and you can play “Guess who chose the track!” Everyone happy, no fights about the music…

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Anyway, listening to one such mix CD on a recent journey, EMF’s “Unbelievable” started to play. Though I actually danced to this tune quite a bit at the time, it wasn’t one of the tracks I’d chosen. The point, in this case, isn’t quite who chose it but the fact that the file that was playing had the same digital audio glitches than a file of the same track I’d downloaded, oh so many years ago! (Much before the advent of iTunes; probably when Napster was a thing, before Limewire, Carracho or Soulseek, or more recent eMule and bitTorrent downloads.) Anyway, without going into the good download/bad download discussion which isn’t the purpose of this post, I found it intriguing that such a file would haunt me so many years later.

In the world before DSL or cable connections, searching for and downloading music was time-consuming enough to make you think twice about looking for a track again, even if the one you found was a bad rip. Given the meagre amount of files shared back then, the odds were you would find and download a copy of the same bad rip again! Of course, the odds nowadays are that you’ll purchase the digital track legally if you really want to own it, or that you’ll use a streaming service like Spotify to cover your momentary yearn for a given tune (not that Spotify is free of bad rips, mind you!)

However, this incident only goes to show how naïve I can sometimes be about the internet’s reach and how interconnected the world really is. Though not completely sure about this, the track playing in that mix CD was probably downloaded a few years after I’d downloaded mine and on a different continent. Or, it may have been downloaded in a similar location but almost a decade later than mine. In any case, this bad rip has been riding the ether waves for a long time; it may even still be.

I wonder how many times these glitches have been played worldwide? It makes me think: how many people can’t actually listen to the song without humming those glitches in their heads (even when they’re listening to a glitch-less copy)? And further still, how many people will never actually listen to the ‘proper’ version of the track and accept that bad rip ‘as is’?

One last question: is whoever spread that bad rip even aware of it? I’d love to put a face to that person, so if by happenstance you’re reading this, say hi! 🙂

Photo Credit: a shot from Vanishing Point (1971) taken from believermag.com

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