Analytical 25: Nostalgia

8 April, 2018


What do Vinyl and CDs and Candles and LED Bulbs share in common? We explore the differences between better, and simple nostalgia.

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. If you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculated choices, carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. This episode is sponsored by Makers for Good and their impressive Helio solar-powered light, flashlight and power bank that's perfect for camping hiking emergencies as a nightlight or for wherever your adventures may take you we'll talk more about them during the show analytical is part of the engineer network to support our shows including this one head over to our patreon page and for other great shows visit today nostalgia well i've heard that vinyl is making a comeback lately people are claiming generally to anyone who will listen or anyone who cares, that it sounds better than a CD, that'd be compact disc. Unfortunately, the human ear can't really tell much of the difference between a sampled CD even at 16 bits unsigned, that's 65,535 potential levels taken 44,100 times every second. So in the conversion there is no doubt that some of the information is going to be lost. And beyond that when it's reproduced some noise is going to be created in that conversion process so that will be present that otherwise would not be present in the analog version. But the question isn't that. The question is can a human being actually tell the difference? Because no one can jump into someone else's head and do an honest comparison from within the other person's eardrums. And when someone says that they can tell the difference, there's no objective way to tell if they're being honest with themselves or with you. There have been many noise tests that suggest that an average person in their teenage to young adult years simply cannot tell the difference between the quality of a CD recording over a vinyl recording. In fact, most people can actually pick the vinyl recording because of the vinyl sound. And it's not better or worse, it's just that there's obvious cues that the recording is vinyl. Subtle little things like pops, cracks, and then there's this reported sort of warm sound that vinyl has, which is actually just a by-product of the lacquer that they used when they make the record. But the irony is that people will pick the CD out when they're doing a blind test because it's clearer and it's devoid of those defects. It almost sounds a little bit clinical. So, why do people prefer the vinyl? Well, some people. Okay. Another example that may not be quite so obvious, but it's a similar kind of idea, are candles. Now, you may think, "Okay, candles, that's a bit but candles are considered by many people to be far more romantic, much more to have dinner by a candlelight dinner, but then again there's no question that a compact fluorescent or more recently an LED light bulb is going to provide you with superior light, it's generally going to have less heat, it won't ignite any nearby flammable gases, and it won't flicker. Flickering is so annoying! But, oh hang on, no wait, no flickering and gentle warmth, that's romantic. Now, to be perfectly honest, I am not really convinced one way or the other when it comes to candles versus LED lights. But it's an interesting thought process to go through. And because I'm not really convinced one way or the other, I have to think that our emotions and our memories play into our perception of what is actually better rather than some factual analysis. So far as candles go, I think that a memory of when we've lost electricity and a candle provided some light in the darkness, that memory plays into how we feel about a candle. It's almost reassuring. It takes us back to that place. But it's not just that. I suppose it gave hope or security and there was a light in the darkness. And that was the comfort that we remember. With vinyl, memories of listening to music when there were only records, before CDs, before cassettes and 8-tracks, the records remind us of maybe less stressful times when we were younger. That distinctive sound of vinyl takes us back to those times. And sometimes it's not necessarily the sounds or the light, it's the memories of what we did, how we listened, how we gathered around the candle in the darkness, how we listened to the record player in the room, how we selected the music and had to listen in a certain sequence. But another interesting effect in all of this is that I think you could call it of sort of like an inherited fondness. See many people, they weren't alive when records were the only form of recorded music or playback and yet they still claim that vinyl sounds better. Heck, I fall into that category. I mean, yes, I did listen to my older sister's vinyl records when I was a kid, but by that time, cassettes were quite commonplace and records were fading out. And yes, I listened to some of my father's records and so on, but I haven't owned a turntable in years. Certainly when I was growing up, I had cassettes, I didn't buy a single vinyl record. But many people that have heard other people that are heavily interested and invested in reliving the vinyl of their youth, their passion and their love for that vinyl influences other people's perceptions. So if enough movies tell you that candlelight dinners are romantic, you're far more inclined to agree with it, intangible thing, though it might be, even if you've only ever held a battery powered torch during a blackout. Now, if you were to disregard everything you'd heard other people say, and if you were introduced to candles and LED bulbs or CDs and vinyl and objectively assessed each, which would you actually choose? Before we go any further, I just want to quickly talk about the sponsor for this episode, and that's Makers for Good, normally exosensory devices. They're an innovative company based in Palo Alto, California. They've recently released the Helio. It's a solar-powered lantern light, flashlight and power bank. The Helio has an intensely bright flashlight at 150 lumens, but if that's too bright or you want longevity, it has a medium and low light settings as well. The same too for its lantern light, but as a bonus, the lantern light also provides a red light as well as a white light. There's also an emergency flashing mode in case you need to signal for help. The Helio takes 17 hours of full sunlight to fully charge from flat and yes it would take a couple of days to charge but after that you'll get 15 hours of lantern or flashlight at full brightness. At 5200 milliamp hours a fully charged Helio can recharge an iPhone X about one and a half times from flat. Now if that isn't impressive enough I mentioned low light performance before, well if you're using the medium light output you'll get five continuous days worth of light that's still bright enough to read from and in the low light option you'll get a whopping one month of light without needing to recharge it. Now if solar isn't available it can be charged from the standard USB port from flat in 6 hours using a standard micro USB connector if you need to. The Helio comes in a variety of colours, Redwoods, Moonrock Grey and Adventure Green and all models come with a convenient flip out stand and hook that can be used to suspend the Helio from a hook or stand it upright on any flat surface. It also comes with a convenient lanyard for carrying and three low-powered LEDs indicate its overall charge level. All the ports are protected by a tight water-resistant cover and the stand is all metal with a solid metal ratchet mechanism that holds it in place. The first thing that strikes you about the Helio when you hold it is how solid and strong it feels. It's made from a high-strength polycarbonate case that's impact resistant and the unit weighs about 370 grams, that's 13 ounces. All of that and it's not much bigger than an average-sized Maglite measuring about 8 inches long, 2.5 wide and just over an inch thick. For a solid product like this, it's not built down to a price but rather to its performance which speaks for itself. The Helio is only $89.95 but there's something different that we really need to mention. Makers for Good have a non-profit arm and as part of that, all profits from the sales of Helio are used to support non-profit organisations through their ShareLite program. Their ultimate goal is to help bring renewable and safer light and energy to parts of the world that are still relied on kerosene and candles, in a package that's just as at home anywhere in the world. So if you'd like to check one out, just head over to MAKERS4, as in the number 4, good, or to learn more, and enter the coupon code ENGINEERED for 20% off your Helio, in your choice of color, and shipping is free anywhere in the continental United States. Thank you to MAKERS4GOOD for sponsoring the Engineered Network. So which would you choose? Because if you think about candles, candles drip wax, they can start fires and they run out after a few hours and then you need to replace the whole thing. You need a match or some other way of lighting them and frankly they really aren't very bright, at least not in one in isolation. Vinyl, it has this distracting background warmth that changes the way the music sounds. It collects dust, it gets scratched and then it skips. It can't handle being bumped when it's being played. A full-sized LP is two to three times the size of a CD. You have to flip it halfway through to hear the other side of the album. It's heavy. You can't listen to a record outside of a house because you can't carry it with you. It's a portable. The list goes on and on and on. So, the thing about this whole nostalgia discussion is that it actually has nothing to do with whether or not what's better or worse. It's about what we're used to, the nostalgia that we feel from our own experiences or inherited fondness from other people. So I can't tell you how to feel and I wouldn't dare do that. If having candles at the dinner table with your significant other or listening to vinyl makes you happy, then do those things. Please do those things. Be happy. Just please don't try to tell me that vinyl is better. It's technically and practically and feasibly much worse. I'm sorry, it just is. I threw mine away years ago and I don't miss it one bit. Now, why don't you go light a candle, Listen to some vinyl and chill out. Or not. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can, like some of our backers, Chris Stone and Carsten Hansen. They, and many others, are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at or one word. Patron rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to pages of raw show notes, as well as ad-free, higher quality releases of every episode. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards, and beyond that it's all very much appreciated. I'd like to thank Makers for Good for sponsoring the Engineered Network. Visit makers4, as in the number four, good or one word, .com/engineered for more information about their impressive Helio solar-powered light, flashlight, and power bank. Use the promo code engineered for 20% off exclusively for Engineered Network listeners. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network and you can find it at and you can follow me on Mastodon at [email protected] or the network on Twitter at engineered_net. Accept nothing. Question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Chidjie. Thanks so much for listening. (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (dramatic music) (dramatic music) (dramatic music) (upbeat music) [MUSIC]
Duration 12 minutes and 55 seconds Direct Download
Episode Sponsor:
Makers4Good: Makers4Good are an innovative company based in Palo Alto, California and they’ve recently released the HELIO: A Solar Light, Torch and Powerbank that’s perfect for camping, hiking, emergencies, gazebos, use as a night light or wherever your adventures might happen to take you. All profits from the sale of the HELIO go to providing light and power for those in need. Visit and use the Coupon Code ENGINEERED for 20% off the total price of your order.

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.