Monday, June 23, 2014

Voyager's Gold Record- Vintage Technology for Extraterrestrial Audiophiles

I'm a huge Sagan fan, and even today I am surprised at how well his words and the 70's series resonate gloriously.  But WTF is with the Gold Record on Voyager? 

The records were constructed of copper with a gold plating and contain Sounds of Earth.  They were placed on both Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 and now are somewhere out past Pluto.  Sagan noted, "The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space (that have a turntable)." 




Shot into space, any extraterrestrial can enjoy "Sounds of Earth".
If they have a good thrift shop they might find a way to play the damn thing.

Of course, back in the 70's we were pretty sure that the LP was here to stay.  I remember thinking they should have shot the KISS Alive II double album into space too. The problem of launching an LP into space is that the receiving party has to figure how to use it.  If such a thing were to land from space in some random locale in the USA, the finder would either grill it, rape it or pawn it. Unfortunately the utility of a 1970's style LP record is highly dependent on the sophistication of the receiver. 
On our next space probe we should include a turntable, one of those cool ones with that arm that drops a stack of records one-by-one.  Include that weird plastic swastika-thingy that you had to use to play 45's in case they find one on another space probe that liked a few Sounds of Earth but didn't want to commit to the whole album. This is a great idea for a Kickstarter campaign.

The B side is the lousy sounds of earth, like the kid screaming behind you in the airplane, that clicky noise your car makes when you turn the key and the battery is dead, and the noise the dental drill makes when it really starts to dig in. 
We also need to include a dime for them to put on the needle in case it skips. Nothing worse than the Sounds of Earth with an annoying "ka-thunk" every revolution. 
The whole thing is kind of charming in that it was the best we had at the time, and kinda cute that we'd see the LP record as a durable technology that might transcend the ages. It was gone in a decade. It is a reminder of how far we have come in a short time, and a prelude to how exciting our future must be.