Tuesday, August 21, 2007

CD's Silver Anniversary

The Compact Disk celebrated it's 25th anniversary on Friday of last week. The first ones rolled out of a production plant in Germany in August of 1982, and the world of music (and data storage) has been forever changed.

I remember the days of vinyl and cassettes very well. As a teenager, I would love rushing to Record Giant in the plaza to spend hard earned money buying the latest 45 singles or albums. When I was in college and didn't have the space to be hauling around turntables and large boxes of records, cassettes were the cheaper alternative. My co-op job in New Jersey during the summer of 1985 was really when I got a lot of new music on tape. But tapes would break, and vinyl could get scratched easily.

I remember when CDs started to appear in local record stores I'd visit post-college in 1989. At the time, they still only took up a small section of the stores. Christmas of 1990, the first Christmas after my wife and I got married, she bought me a six-disk CD changer component for our home stereo system (she spent a lot of money for it too as they were quite expensive at the time). One of the first CDs in our collection was the four-disk Led Zepplin box set that had just been released. I was hooked!

Initially I focused on replacing albums that I had on vinyl or cassette - to have the better recording quality. Prince was one of the first artists whose whole catalogs I quickly sought. Most other folks I would get greatest hits collections as they were released to suffice - to have those most known songs in the new format. I joined my share of CD clubs too (remember when they were called 'record clubs'?) - BMG and Columbia House. It was very easy to build a collection quickly when you were getting 14 disks for a dollar.

When the CD-RW drives started showing up on computers in the late 90's and beyond, that just opened up a whole new window. No longer would I need to worry about hundreds of floppy disks which too easily got messed up (one good magnet and boom - data gone). I could burn lots of data onto a single, shiny disk. I don't know how we ever survived without them?

Today, a CD player in the car is a must (the week I had to drive my in-laws car, when my Suzuki Sidekick was on it's last legs, I nearly went bonkers because their Suzuki did not have a CD player. I was forced to listen to the radio the entire time.). My clock radio for years has been one with a CD player in it - I wake up every morning usually to the first notes of whatever song it is set to on the disk. Every boombox we have in the house now has a CD player in it. And I'm sure a lot of people can relate to all this too. There is a whole generation out there who do not remember a time when CDs weren't around (I seemed to have said the same thing a few weeks ago about MTV too).

Will there come a time when CDs will go the way of the 78rpm record (or vinyl in general) or the beta tape? Probably. But in the meantime, I'll just happily enjoy this wonderful little invention of the last quarter century.


apachedug said...

Hi Martin--hey, just letting you know you have a typo in yout CD blog (about the first ones rolling outta Germany in 2005);

I was going to say something yesterday, but figured you'd see it for yourself--but just in case you haven't...

You're the Pop Culture Man!

Martin said...

Thanks, Doug. D'oh! How did I miss that math? Must have had something on my mind. I appreciate the catch - it's corrected.