Friday, May 16, 2008

Castaway Playaway

A while ago, I was in the library looking to feed my audio addiction. My eyes lit on this attractive cover of Robinson Crusoe, and I grabbed it, since I’d never read it.

It felt strangely light; judging from the shape, it should have contained a bunch of tapes.

I opened it up, after some struggle, and saw that it contained a little calculator-shaped gadget, and a battery in a separate foam slot.

I was annoyed. I felt old and cranky. I thought, “What in the world am I supposed to do with this? It probably goes with some machine I don’t have. Now I have to look around for something else acceptable to listen to?”

Then I made myself calm down and look at it. It was called a Playaway, and it was, of course, a digital version of the recording. It had a place to plug in your own headphones or earbuds (how hygienic), and instructions on how to turn it on and navigate through it. So I decided to check it out.

You may already know about this, but if you don’t, I recommend the format. You don’t have to change tapes or CDs. The navigation is pretty simple. And when I paused it to get out of the car, when I got back and turned it back on, it started right up where I had stopped it.

The only trouble I had was when the battery ran out in the middle, and I didn’t recognize the signs until it had flaked out a few times.

The only major design flaw (and I can deal with it) is with the volume—you can’t decrease it directly. You have to keep pressing the button that increases it until it gets to the loudest (pretty loud) and then jumps down to the softest and starts the climb again.

As for the book itself, I’m happy to have read it, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as The Swiss Family Robinson.

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