In 1990, I got a HMV voucher when I got my student railcard. We didn't have a CD player, so I had to trudge round London to find a shop that still sold vinyl. I got a copy of The Pogue's Hell's Ditch. So even by then, CDs had pretty much displaced vinyl. CDs had a more convenient form factor and better sound quality (although how much that should really matter for pop music is another matter), although there was the supposed issue with cliping of the high frequencies.
By 2006, when I went to the big Virgin (or whatever it was called by then) on Oxford Street with Nancy, the shop had quite a big vinyl section, so vinyl fetishisation was well underway a decade ago. Once you have MP3s, CDs are pretty much redundant, Innovator's Dilemma and all that. AS I said, how much does the low bitrate really affect the listening experience. And now we have Spotify and it's possible to access huge swathes of the back catalogue of recorded music if you have an internet connection for free (with ads, natch). You can't do that for books or videos.
So anyone who is young and into vinyl is probably also listening to music from online sources, indeed, is probably mainly listening to it from such sources. As an object, it is easier to fetish an LP than a CD. It's got more physical heft, a larger surface area and you get the crackle of the needle in the grove. Not so great, of course, if you have to move a few thousand LPs. Or if you house burns down.
The early 1970s Doctor Who annuals I have contain a couple of articles predicting that in the future people would be more in handicrafts. People have being trying to get back to basics for millennia. The greatest pleasures of life are analogue. Shooting the breeze down the pub with your mates. Food. Sex. Virtue isn't its own reward. You might be stop Icelandic teenagers from drinking, smoking, taking drugs and having sex by getting them to play football for hours a night, but I'm not sure how that works a 48. The rainbow seen on the walk in the woods is a joy, but it only goes so far. The moment passes.
Hipsters seek authenticity, but so did hippies. In the 1990s, David Foster Wallace was pursuing the New Sincerity. We know things it's terrible that the kids are spending so much time online. Virtual relationships aren't real relationship. People were bleating that in the 1980s. Then we were worried about the very analogue technology of television. People spend hours a night watching American primetime TV. Wallace himself did. They were passively consuming brain-corroding material. Now, we're passively consuming brain-corroding material on Facebook and Twitter. Although surely there's a degree of symmetry on Facebook at least. Content is not king and people will always want to talk to other people as Paul said.
I don't know if Wallace saw The Wire, but he did live into the start of the Golden Age of Television. (Second? Third? But not in Britain with the possible exception of NuWho.) Would we want to wish away the boxed set and Netflix. Television is digital now. We might hope that people will magically give up their iPhones and Fires, but we don't really expect them to give up television after more than sixty years. Not now, not when it has finally got good, not when the tv drama has established itself as the C21st art form. (at least for the time being). But then Wallace might have seen binging on a boxed set as little more that what the characters do in Infinite Jest with the Entertainment. Then again, isn't that supposed to be a mindless pleasure (to get back to Pynchon). Would Wallace have felt so bad if we had been inhaling hours a night of True Detective and Breaking Bad in the 1970s?
But a lot of this comes down to Kids These Days. I'm 48. I had a telly in my room at Oxford and, by January 1987, a colour one. Colour is better. Bigger is better. High resolution, it turned out in the end, is better. But it was still fairly unusual then to have one. We had to engage in healthy outdoor pursuits. Not so much in Oxford, of course, but who knows what it's like to be teenager. Well, teenagers. People were playing computer games in the mid-1980s and look were that landed us. Brexit and Trump. But there's always going to be something corrupting the kids. Penny dreadfuls, gangster flicks, horror comics, US cop shows, first person shooters, Snapchat.
When I was a kid, I wanted the Doctor to come to Preston in order to take me away from here. Russell T. Davies wants to set the series in Swansea. (Cardiff in the end.) But, of course, I want to write my Preston novel and here I am back in the Infinite City, thirty years on. Ulysses on the Ribble is set in Preston on 1 October 1986, but that is a world that is completely lost to us now. But it's just the same. Or not. And what of 2047? I will still be younger than my mother. I come from somewhere, I lived in my childhood in the same house, I am there right now typing this. I can't get away from that even I wanted to, nit entirely, that weight of time will leave a mark.
As we've said (and, yes, I do need to do more on this), the past is always both more and less like the present (and so the future). At 48, I get night terrors and one of the causes of that dreadful existential nausea is the lack of searoom. At 18, you might still be anything. But surely at 48, you should be that thing that you are going to be. I think Bill McKibben even says that in one of his books (probably Enough) and that didn't help me in the early 2000s in Waterston's Piccadilly. (We have been talking here, indirectly, of McKibben's NYR review of David Sax's The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.) In your early twenties, you might not know what you want to do with your life. But the time you get to your early thirties, you've gained the wisdom to know that it is whatever you are doing and you are happier because you no longer have to worry about all the other things you could be because you are what you are.
I don't feel like that. I'd be better if I did. Sure, I'd be better writing my novel in long hand with a fountain pen on the creamy pages of a Moleskine notebook, rather than wilfing. That's a given. But there's a lot of object fetishisation there. I don't think McKibben would like that. Perhaps we would be happier in a post-apocalyptic society in an Oregon valley telling one another stories (but with washing machines). Always Coming Home came with a tape of songs to accompany the novel. Now, there's an analogue technology.
Too much is never enough. The hipsters probably aren't going to give up their iPhones no matter how artisanal gin they distill. We don't yet know if Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will be the Next Big Things. AGI will be one in the eye for the materialists. We might soon enough be non-random fluctuations in the quantum vacuum. Until then, we and the kids will have to be content to be ineluctably both analogue and digital.