Digital reproduction of aluminum

1. Aluminum Siding
In the German film epic HEIMAT, an unscrupulous brother brags about the lucrative post-war business of aluminum siding. Barry Levinson’s 1987 TIN MEN depicted the same competitive salesmanship arena stateside. In Germany the aluminum siding industry was more of a scam because the aluminum wasn’t covering clapboard houses.

In Germany the salesmen were offering aluminum siding to replace historic decorative trim. Modern aluminum doors and window frames were being offered to replace old-world crafted wood pieces. The same salesman installing shiny new aluminum were warehousing the original antique pieces for resale to more savvy consumers.

Aluminum has been the wonder material with the cache of being aeronautic light and rust free. But took a hit when aluminum cooking ware was linked to alzheimer’s.

Element Digit2. Digital a new aluminum
Is digital the new miracle element on the alchemist’s Periodic Table? Is it better than its representative predecessor, analog? A digital watch might be easier to read than an analog dial because you don’t have to learn how to convert the information. But digital time is not really as versatile from a distance, or at an angle, or upside down.
But so it began. Digital is cheaper to manufacture, no mechanical parts, and without it we would not have computers. Computers rung in the digital age. Thus the digital halo.

Next up for the consumer, digital sound, and next, digital visuals. That’s where digital’s ascendancy may stumble.

Are digital compact discs indeed better than vinyl records? Music audiophiles will tell you no. Let’s revisit that question in a moment.

Who is convinced that digital cell phones are better than analog? Cheaper to make certainly, cheaper to broadcast, the recordings are easier to archive. Better for the telecoms, but for you? Digital cellphone service means more drop-outs and degraded signals. Remember when you could say, “wow, it sounds like you’re in the next room”? That wasn’t digital. Digital is the age of “can you hear me now? Um, how about now?”

I am not sitting in judgment of the potential of digital representation obviously, merely of cheap digital representation. With the technology of digital processing came fuzzy logic and compression. Each innovation was designed to reduce the digital reproduction to its most efficient lowest quality necessary.

CDs reproduce music for the average not so discerning ear. Sony’s Minidiscs reduced the complexity of the signal for what they determined the average ear could discern in the midst of car or jogging noises. MP3s filter out further signals based on the user’s own sense of what quality is good enough.

3. Digital is unnatural
It turns out we’re all a little more discerning with our vision. We can easily tell the difference between film and video. The film image is richer, warmer and more lifelike. Video is higher contrast and more stark. On the Internet we can all recognize compression artifacts and noise, even if we don’t know it by name. We see it because it does not look natural. That’s digital compression and it’s creeping into TV and DVD products because it’s cheaper for someone along the line.

Do we mind digital images? I guess not. Do we prefer them? No.

Musicians prefer the more natural sounds produced by analog amplifiers. Of course everyone is trying to represent the original, natural sound.

We can see the unnatural aspects of digital imagery. It may hurt our vision or it may not. Perhaps we can deduce that our ears are being assailed with similar digital mediocrity. So far it’s only the discriminating audiophiles who liken digital reproduction to nails on a chalkboard. Until it’s linked to Alzheimer’s.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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