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The Anti iPhone Contest.


Yes, the iPhone’s out and I can’t read anything without having to wade through all sorts of iPhone crap. I’m sure our readers have had enough about the iPhone as well, so in the spirit of antiquated-technology-as resistance, I offer you a contest. If you’re game, read on.

When my wife and I got married in 2004, a friend of ours got us a subscription to Make magazine. Sometime in early 2005, they ran a story about a toy Gramophone made by the Japanese toy company Gakken:

I had to have one, and sensing my existential longing my wife just up and bought one for me (which was cool). It was fun to play with for a day, but we both decided that although it was kind of a neat toy, wasn’t a great one. (One way it COULD be better would be if the groove tracked more consistently, dammit!) For a music nerd, though, it’s a neat if somewhat cheap looking conversation piece that promises more than it delivers. (Let’s just say it doesn’t compare with the totally working Victrola VV-IX a friend gave me.) I’d buy it again, though.
And now I think I have another opportunity in Gakken’s Edison-style cylinder recorder kits. I’m aware of two models. The first is, shall we say, both awesome and beautiful:

The other is similarly awesome, and beautiful in a different way:

They are probably not particularly functional either, but they look as cool as can be. I’m going to order one and when it arrives I’ll put it together and do a little demonstration-review here on the Blogoschmeer. What I love about these kits in particualr is their idea to use plastic cups as the cylinders. The first one uses the kind of cup I’m used to drinking wine out of at graduate school functions. The second one cuts onto the kind of cups I remember drinking out of (and I assume people still do drink out of) at high school “keggahhs” (or “keg parties”) which I think is pretty awesome. I really, REALLY like the way the first one looks (and will probably end up getting that one), but I think the idea of making keg cup into a kind of recording media is hilarious.

Can you imagine going to a party and having the entire thing documented onto the keg cups that were used? I can. I totally can. In fact, I’ll give a case of Moxie soda [that’s 24 cans, kids!] to the first and second person who uses a Gakken cylinder recorder toy to document the sounds and conversations of an entire party on keg cups, and then sends the collection into the ARChive for preservation and documentation. [Update: the contest has been suspended until further notice!]  In order to qualify, we will need a minimum number of cups – let’s say 12 – but I think that a really dedicated entrant will want to exceed the minimum number for documentation’s sake. (I happen to think if this contest is going to work right, a four hour party will need unusually substantial documentation.) For archival purposes, the cups should be numbered chronologically and we will require information about whose voices are on the recordings and what they drank out of the cups. Don’t worry if as the party wears on documentation becomes somewhat “loose” – if it’s as good a party as I would hope, I would expect some laxity in its later stage documentation. (Contest only extends to those living in the lower 48 – shipping Moxie is costly business!)

Great contest? Or Greatest Contest Ever? You be the judge, but I think the latter. I really do.

Do you know what the irony of all this is? It’s that I bet keg cups are more archivally sound than compact discs. Yep, you heard it here first – I think that keg cups can be the wave of music’s archival future. And with your help, we’ll be on that leading edge.



  1. jonnymia

    Nice one Dan! I’m down in the lab right now trying to adapt this gizmo to cut a groove in my fave party-going lampshade. I figure I’ll have to take it off my head to record, my head won’t spin at sufficient revs, but I’m confident the bugs can be worked out.

  2. pfgee

    Very insightful Dan! As I spend the 4th of July trying to set up my new Razr cell phone, this looks much tastier to me. Love the potential recycle-ability of the cup phone, not to mention the potential ease of replacement parts. Is sugar-coating or leftover liquid a help or hindrance in sound transmission?

    Can’t wait for the further experimentation report!

    P George

  3. arcmusic


    I can’t rightly say how sticky-ness might affect sound’s transmission, but I can say with some certainty that part of the ARChiving process will be to stabilize any submissions through a careful de-stickifying process to maximize their ARChival longevity.

    Also, to any potential entrant reading this: I have received word that my cylinder recorder has shipped. Stay tuned!

  4. GaGE

    So I thought I was the last university dean on the planet without a crackberry, and I was desperately holding out until Mac brought their new shiny gizmo to the boonies up here in Canada, and now you’ve gone and left me feeling bad about craving the soon-to-be ubiquitous mac god machine. You really know how to hurtsomebody’s feelings.

    I mentioned something in a blog last spring about a performance using bubble wrap fed through an old-fashioned wringer machine — kind of like a giant kegger recording device, except that the bubble paper functioned like a player piano roll. For some reason I’ve been fascinated by a range of giant cylindrical playback machines that are part toy music box and part player piano… an odd obsession. There are a few of these kinds of experiments out there.

  5. Diana

    Here’s a thought: kegger at the ARChive, we record it on keg cups and then stow them away for posterity. An archive of the ARChivists. Petty meta, right?

  6. jonnymia

    Thanks, Diana, for that. I was waiting for someone ELSE to make that suggestion so I wouldn’t be the first, and hence seal in perpetuity my reputation as the biggest alky at the ARC. (But who am I kidding?)

    Point of order: in addition to a keg of the good stuff (Brooklyn Lager?) we’ll need to lay in a six-er of O’Doul’s to keep the Phast One under control. Or maybe Dan’s case of Moxie will fill the bill?
    Any way you cut it, it sounds like a party.

  7. arcmusic


    No. YOU should have whichever PDA you require – especially if it’s a PDA/phone mounted on a bubble-wrap wringer machine that you have to wheel around. The phone part’s gotta look like this, though: http://www.genuinerecordingsaustintexas.com/images/old_phone.jpg

    You could call it an “iWringer.” Get it? An “iWringer?” Because it’s a wringer and telephones “ring?”

    (Wow…tell a joke like that and you hope it comes with a free bowl of soup!)