Successful technologies often begin as hobbies. Jacques Cousteau invented scuba diving because he enjoyed exploring caves. The Wright brothers invented flying as a relief from the monotony of their normal business of selling and repairing bicycles.Freeman Dyson – English-American theoretical physicist and mathematician
Hobbies are strange animals. I have often heard that a hobby is something that you enjoy doing. If your “hobby” is also your “jobby”, you are a truly blessed person, as you will be happy all of the days of your life. My issue is that I have always been the type of person that can become totally obsessed with some hobby. I’ll then let that hobby run it’s course until an injury or catastrophe occurs. Such has been the case with motorcycling, harmonica, guitar, ukulele, baseball, golf, running, bicycling, playing in a band, hiking, church, school, blogging, and a plethora of other seemingly unrelated activities. I have let all of them run my life until they eventually blew up in my face or caused me so much stress that I tossed the whole idea out the window. And that may be the case with my current obsession that I will unleash upon your curious mind today. My hope has always been that something that I truly love will turn into something bigger than I had imagined whilst simultaneously causing me no anxiety or stress. That has not been the case, but hope springs eternal that the next hobby will mutate into that form. So what is this new hobby I speak of? Wait for it … keep waiting … it’s … “high end audio”.
When I was a teenager, I and a small cadre of friends got very interested in music and stereos to play said music. That music was heard by spinning archaic vinyl disks on ancient motorized turntables that were circumnavigated by a diamond stylus. The diamond stylus vibrated in a magnetic coil and transmitted a signal to a set of amplifiers and ultimately a pair of speakers. We were all technically minded, so we gravitated towards the nuances of sound reproduction. We all had part time jobs, so we’d save our pennies for the next great piece of stereo gear. It all started out so innocently when we were buying fairly low end systems from Radio Shack. But eventually, we fanned out and discovered a store in Colonie NY called “Sounds Great”. They had middle of the line gear that sounded waaaay better than the cheesy Radio Shack systems that we owned, so we started buying components from them. Some of the pieces that I fondly remember are Sansui receivers, SAE amplifiers, Advent speakers, Phillips turntables, and Shure V15 cartridges. All of these components were beyond the means of a bunch of part time dishwashing teenagers, but that didn’t matter. We pooled our money and stashed our paychecks until we could afford these pieces.
Well, as with any hobby, we would spend our time seeking the next big thing that’s more better than the last big thing. This hobby turned into an obsession when we discovered another store called “Creative Audio” run by a German fellow we christened with the name “Crazy George”. Crazy George had the most amazing collection of strange amplifiers, speakers, and turntables from odd sounding companies like Magnepan, NAD, Sheffield Labs, and McIntosh. He’d let us kids hang out in his store and critique these very expensive systems to our hearts content. It was obvious to everyone that all of these pieces were way beyond the means of some sixteen year old kids from the boonies, but George didn’t care, as he could see the gleam in our eager eyes.
We never actually bought anything from Crazy George, other than a direct to disk recording wherein an orchestra was recorded directly onto a vinyl disk, bypassing any master tapes. We would spend many hours ooo-ing and ahhhh-ing over this wondrous recording. I sometimes wonder where that thing is today. Probably at the bottom of our hometown dump.
Looking back on those years of audiophilia, i wonder what would have become of us, had we tried to turn that obsession into a profession. Most probably nothing based on my current knowledge and experience. I’ve recently gone back into that hobby with a vengeance. I’ve searched the world over and found just the system that I’ve always wanted. Superior sound in a digital age with some high end componentry, high bit rate digital sources, fancy digital audio convertors, and over engineered analog audio components that I thoroughly enjoy listening to. I’ve also realized that a career in this field might have had a chance if I had embraced it as a young electrical engineer. As it turns out, audiophile advances have been primarily accomplished in electrical engineering and computer fields, just like every other technology in the 21st century. I was just too dumb to realize the potential, yet another case of “if I had only known then what I know now …”.
So what is there to say about all of this? My conclusion is that you should jump into whatever you enjoy with an open mind and an enthusiastic heart. Only then will you know if it is a hobby that you can turn into a jobby. Another thing I have learned is that we all need to think outside the box. If you love some hobby and your background, training, or education is in some other area, there must be a link that you are not seeing. Somehow those two things are connected and you are just not seeing it. As with my case in computer engineering and high end audio, there was a connection and I just missed it due to a closed mind.
I should have taken the red pill …