Last week our kettle gave up its ghost to the machine god and we needed to buy a new one. Kettle is an important part of our household. It not only does coffee and tea but accelerates the process of making proper food, soup and macaronis.

To buy a new one I decided to go to Doğubank Business Centre. For the uninitated, this was the place you could buy various types of electronics much cheaper than the official stores. Reason? The young me would readily answer this question with a chirpy “Smuggling!” word but now I do know what parallel import means and this is what they do. You import a product, with no strings attached.

I still want to think these stores getting their electronics in midnight runs though. People dressed in post-apocalyptic or cyberpunky attire; smuggling plasma tv’s, discmans and blenders over the Iraqi border on camels and donkeys.

I’m weird like that.

Last time I was there, I bought my first brand new discman. This I remember clearly. In those days when cassettes and cds were a thing I was an undergraduate astronomy student in Istanbul University. For some reason I didn’t think this dept would involve “too much maths”. The reality smacked me hard with a trout involving multidimensional geometrical calculations and derivatives.

Anyway, I was working in the university’s computer laboratory and earning some money in addition to the pocket money. My passions were music and technology. All this money went to cassettes, games and, if they were affordable, some electronics like usbsticks which were 128mb big.

In those times the age of cassette was pretty much passed. The most common way of playing music was cds and they were quite cheap if you knew where to look. So I decided to buy a new discman replacing my battered Sony Walkman. I asked around where I can buy a discman and vox populi of the student body answered as Doğubank.

At that time I knew what the place is but never thought it in conjunction with the small electronics like portable music players. This was the place when you want to buy vacuum cleaners or tv or music sets for your house with leds and multiple cd holders. Basically it was a temple of electronics accepting monetary sacrifices in large amounts for procurement of the holy items.

So I grabbed my electronic ticket, shaped as a metallic button. I make it copulate with the counter on the bus, making orgasmic sounds in melody indicating yes my credit was good and hoped it was good as for ticket as for the counter. After 3-4 stops I hopped off to a bustling square – trying to find my orientation to find that centre and go there while not be a victim of robbery. It was a common thing back then, pickpocket I mean. I assumed that I was showing the signs of “having discman money, easy mark, grab the wallet”-itis.

As you can imagine nothing like that happened on my way to the centre. It had 5 floors above the ground and 2 under it. The place I was planning to buy my discman was one of the underground floors – friends I’ve talked recommended the same guy without knowing each other so I decided to go with the flow. But the sights that greeted you on the entrance and in the center was breathtaking for a technological voyeur like me. I mean I always feel captivated by the feature listings and the photos on the boxes of the electronics. The 8-bit consoles which imply that they can play Tomb Raider 1’s Playstation version with pictures, the music players with bright digital displays, showing off their capabilities, stuff their buyers will never use.

Store was small, smaller than I expected. I think 4 people would have a hard time standing together in that small area but it didn’t matter. I saw that it carved a specialized niche in selling portable musical equipment. There were various logostickers of brands from Sony to Aiwa, from Panasonic to Philips. Until then, I think, I never realized how many choices I had.

On a superficial glance they all looked the same – form factor doesn’t change when you had to play a cd shaped object but features were making them different. Some of them had cable controllers, you could pause, play and move between tracks from the listening cable, some of them had the ability to play mp3s yet their prices were astronomical from where I stand financially. I bought a Sony, dark blue casing with shock protection to make it able to play while you are walking with no skipping. A lie, or my feet weren’t using the same paradigm as their Japanese counterparts, because I always experienced that when I tried to listen a cd on the go. But hey, now I could buy music cheaply right?

The way home as a blur. I like reading the manuals they put in the boxes. The detailed warnings about it contained a Class 1 laser and it can be harmful and so on. I still wonder what it is so dangerous about that. How much damage you can do with a laser which powers up less energy than 2 AA batteries.

I also like the puritanical point of view of the manuals. They assume you are a careful consumer who will take care of this new apparatus like a pet or a very fragile thing. And the list of technical services. And, of course, the empty warranty card. The downside of getting an electronics from a place like this is you had no warranty. Of course the dude behind the counter says “If anything happens, do bring it back. We’ll see what we can do” but nothing happens except buying a new one.

The downsides of Discman appeared shortly. You could keep using your walkman when your battery is low and you can use ways to decrease its mechanical movements – like using a pencil to make the cassette go forward or backward. But discman shuts off on the nanosecond it detects your battery is unable to run it. And boy did it eat batteries like a fratboy eating potato chips.

Another thing that’s not marketed was it chose cds. Okay they weren’t legal cds to began with but I think it is a particular kind of curse to have a cd which can be played by everyone else’s cd players but yours. And finally, you couldn’t make mixtapes with cds. Sure, you COULD if you had a cd burner but at that time they were not as readily available as of now. I think I bought one with 2 speed which wrote a cd in 30 mins (I kid you not) and even those cds can be regarded as garbage only by my discman.

I think it hated me.

Photo by Oleg Sergeichik on Unsplash