Categorizing Things

Back when I was 10 or 11, I got a cassette recorder (this was around 1970, folks). I immediately commenced recording (what they now call “burning”) all my “records” (those black vinyl discs, remember those) to tape. I then had to organize my tapes… and that’s the subject of this post.

My first organization system was simple sequential numbering. I numbered all my records, 3″ reel-to-reel tapes, and cassettes. This lasted until I had around 40-50 tapes. By that time, I had gotten into computers, and I came up with a complicated hexidecimal system. Music cassettes were all Axxx, with appropriate subcategories (A0 was popular music, A6 was show tunes, A8 was prerecorded cassettes) and comedy cassettes were Cxxx. I recall that reel-to-reel tapes were Exxx, 8-tracks were Dxxx. I forget what I allocated to Bxxx and Fxxx. Records had a more complicated system 00xx(yyy.n), where xx was the EBCDIC of the first letter of the artists name, yyy was the first three letter of the artist, and n was a sequential numbering). I’m looking right now at an old Blood Sweat and Tears album that is numbered 6, 22, and 00C2(BLO,1). I kept a full index file with the contents of everything, except for the records.

This lasted, surprisingly, until I got into college. By then the hex system was too cumbersome. So I created version 3.0 of the numbering syste. This got rid of numbers, sort of. Everything was put into broad categories and relabled. “*” was popular music; “B” was Beatles, “SS” was Stage and Screen, “:-)” was Comedy, etc. Tapes also had a sorting code, so John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Double Fantasy” was catgory B, sorting code L1. That system lasted until I gave up on cassettes.

Nowadays, I’m still “burning” records, this time to CD. But unlike the past, I don’t number things. I keep things on my CD shelves in alphabetical order… but still divided into rough categories. There is popular music, show tunes, comedy, Jewish music, folk, etc.

Perhaps I’ve grown out of the categorization, although being organized is still important to me (ask anyone who’s transferred stuff to me and had me regularize filenames). Perhaps it is what is behind my highway pages (as I’m into the numbering more than collecting route photos). Perhaps it is behind how I tag posts, or how I color-code people on my friends lists (yes, there is a rhyme and reason behind it). But numbering and categorizing things is an odd comfort. It’s also something I think kids today will miss, as they don’t have “physical” collections of their hand-recorded music anymore: they have MP3, organized into folder by their iPods and iRivers, that they can sort everyway from Sunday on artist or genre or the color underwear the band wore when they recorded the album. Yet another part of childhood killed by technology.

So what was your categorical obsession?