Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I've been coming to Toronto since 1987 mainly to attend an entrepreneur's course called Strategic Coach but also for fun.  Its a great North American city, now ranked #3 in terms of population after New York and LA, with lots going on.  In fact the Immigration officials find it difficult to understand why I like coming back here and are relatively disbelieving when I say its for fun. But it is.

This also means I've been witness to lots of things happening in Toronto, particularly the construction. But there's been lots of other change too that in retrospect seem inevitable but at the time came as big shocks.

Sam the Record Man

Who doesn't remember Sam's?  Touted as the biggest record shop in the world, when I first started coming to Toronto Sam's was a mecca for me.  I could always find hidden gems of music by artists that I couldn't find elsewhere and at great prices too. Living in Bermuda this meant carrying armfuls of first LP's, then cassettes and later CD's back home.  They weighed a ton!

Then came iTunes and downloading music and Sam's gone completely.

Other stores such as HMV made the transition to DVD's (and not music DVD's at that) more quickly than Sam's and so found a somewhat longer lease of life but with Apple TV, Amazon and Google everything, these stores are redundant.  Obsolete.  Some are hanging on but the opportunity for the mainstream has gone completely.

Some may survive in stripped down mode as niche players because vinyl really does provide better music reproduction but for the most part, the digital equivalent is well good enough… including myself.  I still have my records and a turntable but rarely play them.

Some of my records

Time has moved on and the industry has been decimated by digital with Apple's iTunes in the van now that pirate operations such as Napster have been closed down.

Book Shops

I love books and bookshops and have never thankfully made the transition to Kindles or other iBooks.  But I am a dinosaur.

Actually young people don't read these days.  Well not more than the headlines and maybe an executive summary, but certainly not Dostoevski type books where the central character, Joe the mujik, endures untold hardships and miseries before tragically dying or committing suicide on page 972. The type of books we were asked to read at school for our exams in fact (I still shudder when I think of Thomas Hardy's Trumpet Major -- a hideous book for a 14 year old).

Since Amazon sold books online and then Apple and others digitized books of all types, traditional book shops have been under pressure.  Barnes & Noble's owner is currently trying to take the company private as he figures all their high street real estate is worth more than the business.

I still set aside time to browse and immerse myself in the wonders of book shops and always, just always, come out with a couple of new treasures.  But as I said before, I am a dinosaur.  Virtually nobody else buys books.  Even professional qualifications such as CFA disseminate their required reading list in digital form so no longer do candidates have 4 or 5 feet worth of books to hold somewhere at home.

They don't cost any less though.

Sadly the biggest bookshop in the world near to Sam's just closed down too.

Photo Shops

Time was that I used to have much of my photo developing done in Toronto when I visited.  Bermuda was very expensive for this so waiting a few weeks was really no problem at all.  Photography shops such as Blacks proliferated.

Then came the camera phone and digital camera.

The first ones weren't so great that the quality was better but the ability to have your photos lodged on your computer instead of stuck in albums was a huge step forward for the new generation.  I still have a couple of dozen albums from before 1990 at home that I keep promising myself to transfer to digital format and put onto my computer so I can throw out the hard copies.

Furthermore with old technology you had to keep and develop the crummy photos too.  How many times have you had only a couple of good ones from a roll of 24 or 36?  If you're a lousy cameraman like myself, the answer is quite often.  The ability to take hundreds of shots without fear of running out of film therefore is compelling.

So is the quality today. I have friends who are 'real' photographers and say that the old film format produces better shots and as with vinyl and music I can believe it.  But I really don't care.  The new digital camera on my iPhone produces results that are just fine for me.

Blacks recently closed their megastore near the Eaton Centre and I happened to go in there a couple of times in the last couple of weeks.  The first for a picture frame and the second to develop some photos on an underwater camera where I have no idea what the results will be.  They are now niche players in a digital world again providing more services than simple photo development.

Copying and Printing

This is more of a work in progress as legislation hasn't caught up with technology yet enabling the use of digital signatures and storage at a total level.  Someone told me yesterday that Canada last year passed laws allowing digital signatures… so the need to print and physically sign has gone.

The only thing that remains is the ability to do absolutely everything digitally via computer apps storing paperwork in someone's cloud.  That is coming.

I attended an Apple workshop today discussing the role of iOS (their mobile operating system) for business all of which centered on the growth and diversity of apps available for all types of business.

Where is Kinko today?  Not around for sure.  Again the major office supply shops such as Staples and Office Depot are still around but most printers have been relegated to niche players providing specialist services generated by someone else's digital medium.

Scary prospects for someone who keeps a hand written diary!

And as for construction, the subway is still the same size as it was 20+ years ago crazily but the view of downtown is simply canyon walls everywhere.

The lake is somewhere over there...

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