Comebacks we'd like to see: #11 -- 45 rpm vinyls

This post is part of our series ranking the top 25 bygone products and trends we'd like to see return.

I've always loved the year I was born -- 1970. To me, it was this perfect time when the world was modern and advanced, and yet still with one foot in this quaint and old-fashioned universe. What do I mean? Well, on one hand, we had traveled to the Moon by this time! Yet the country was still using rotary telephones, there were only three television networks, MTV was just letters in alphabet soup, and, yes, we were listening to vinyl albums.

I almost missed that era -- I didn't really start buying music semi-regularly until the early 1980s and 45 rpms, the small version of the big vinyl records, were going out of style, as were the bigger vinyl albums, being replaced by cassette tapes. But vinyl records were still selling in the 1980, and I clearly remember when Bruce Willis, then star of TV's Moonlighting, came out with a single, "Respect Yourself." I probably bicycled over to my local K-mart, or embarked on one of my early drives in the family car, bought the 45 and happily listened to it in my room, taking a brief break from listening to my favorite artists, Huey Lewis and Debbie Gibson.

Ah, good times.

Anyway, the beauty of the 45 was that -- unlike today -- you could buy a song for a buck and you didn't have to purchase the entire album. That's sadly something that kids... er... oh, yeah. Downloadable, often for free if illegal, music.

So you may well wonder, especially if you're under the age of 30, why anyone would want the 45's to come back. I do think I have one good argument.

Aside from the little things -- when you got tired of them, they made pretty good Frisbees -- buying a 45 was a special experience. As noted, I had to go out and physically get the record. I know how the 45 felt, this black, 7 inches in diameter, recording.

Sure, it sounds corny, but when you had to make an effort to go get your music, there was something kind of special about it. I used to routinely download music -- always, um, paying for it, of course -- heh-heh, why I would I not pay for downloaded music? -- I mean, it's illegal to do so -- so, anyway, yeah, I've downloaded music, and I've always enjoyed listening to songs I had forgotten about and probably wouldn't have gone out and purchased. But it does lose something when you can just download a song, listen to it, and four minutes later be onto something else in your life.

I also remember shooting the breeze with a cousin of mine, listening to her 45's, some of which, I think were songs her father had sung (he was a respectable musician in his day). Granted, downloading music means you can share it with friends far and wide, but now that they don't have to, I half wonder if kids and teenagers get together in a bedroom and just spend an afternoon listening to CDs. Maybe they do, but I'm guessing they aren't in the same room when they listen to Amy Winehouse's latest song. They're doing it in separate houses, texting each other on their cell phones and blackberries.

It's a great world we live in, but I miss the little things in life, little things like 45's.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

What do you remember when you think of your first disc of vinyl?
Read Full Story