The good old days? You never had it so boring

No 192: SONY MINI-DISC WALKMAN
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The Independent Culture
In a time gone by, we made our own entertainment - and was it ever dreadful! This is the burden of a simple and elegant commercial for Sony's Mini-Disc Walkman. They illustrate their point with some amusing old footage - though since Mr Cholmondeley-Warner we've learnt to be suspicious of amusing old footage - that appears to show to what lengths desperation might drive a bored couple in the Thirties.

Thus we have a lady pianist in profile banging out a familiar melody on a piano that seems to have been tuned for the rolling pub sounds of some precursor of Russ Conway or Mrs Mills. Her gentleman companion, who has something of the low-body-fat-ratio look of Lord Tebbit, is accompanying her in a most singular way. You know you can make a squidgy distressing noise by placing your palms together, locking your fingers and trapping some air for compressed exhalation. Well he's got that down to a fine art; he can play the tune that way.

All this is rendered with a graveyard expression, an expense of spirit in a positive waste of shame compared to the pleasure of the lovely little Mini-Disc player. The product is demonstrated without recourse to graphics or effects in a nice under-played way.

Meanwhile a message strip runs underneath telling the story with equal economy. "In the 1930s this was considered entertainment ... people were pretty desperate back then. You, however, have come to expect more. That's why Sony makes digital products like Mini-Disc ... Making the good old days ... seem even worse."

They close on a lovely plain graphic, a black screen with just the Sony name in its familiar elegant typeface. I don't normally get moist about typography but this is a particularly good and durable example - and they know how to use it. How very clever of Sony to take the credit for the last 50 years of human happiness.

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