A Small Hi-Fi Set

May 19, 2014


I was re-reading Arthur C. Clarke’s classic science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey for the umpteenth time Saturday night, and was struck by the description of the contents of the standard six foot by ten foot by eight foot living module for personnel at Clavius Base on the moon:

“Each room was attractively furnished and looked very much like a good motel suite, with convertible sofa, TV, small hi-fi set, and vision phone.”

This, I think, underlines not only the importance of music in our lives, but the primacy at the time of the hi-fi set as a central element of well appointed living quarters. Even the astonishingly prescient Clarke could not foresee its demise as such, and its relegation to the province of a niche element of the lunatic fringe known as audiophiles. Little did he know that the TV, small hi-fi set, and vision phone would actually be combined into a handheld device known as a smartphone. Even if he had, I suspect he never would have described its sound quality as that of MP3s and cheap earbuds. Technology is supposed to be improved in the future. Surely we can do better.