Thirty Years of the Compact Disc

Remember these crazy contraptions?

On October 1st, 1982 the first CD player was released to the public. And despite what some may think of this supposed archaic music-transmitting device, it is still being used today at the premier physical musical playing device (besides of course, the computer). Sure we have, as a society, moved away from  objects carrying our tunes and digitalized literally everything. But that is not to say that the CD does not have another thirty years ahead of it! As Megan Garber rightly points out in her article over at The Atlantic:

In retrospect, in a world of iTunes and Spotify and Pandora, it’s easy to make fun of a technology that is, to 2012 sensibilities, bulky and unwieldy and pricey — a machine whose principal failing is, like so many other machines nowadays, the fact that it is made of atoms. But it’s also worth remembering that the commercialized CD ushered in nothing short of a technological revolution in the music industry. It brought about the shift from analog to digital music that would lead to the MP3 and the many innovations that came with it. It facilitated the move away from LPs by allowing individual tracks to be displayed more readily as singular units.

And along with its revolutionary achievements in the past, I would offer you four reasons why the CD will never truly die.

1. It will never be replaced.

In a world where everything is digitizing, there is very little effort being put into producing physical products in this field. As more and more of our music goes online, Artists will still need things to sell at shows and your dad will never start buying his Kenny G albums on iTunes. Which brings me to my next point:

2. Laggards.

While the culture can usher most of us into the new technological age, there will always be holdouts. You know, those squares who still read “books” and buy compact discs because that is what they have always done.

3. You can’t replace atoms.

Can you remember the sensation of purchasing a new CD at your local record store? It is kind of like waiting until a new album releases on iTunes, except you actually have to work a little bit for it and you actually get a tangible item! iTunes can put the liner notes online and cars can have auxiliary ports, but nothing will replace the flesh and blood of CDs. Just as records have not yet completely died, CDs will continue to hang around.

4. CDs are digital too.

Did you know that you can go to a used record store (they still have those, you know), browse through the CD bins, grab a three dollar Third Eye Blind disc and then PUT IT ON YOUR iTUNES! Yes, CDs will survive as long as the format is transferable and compatible with our digital music. Because sometimes CDs are cheaper than online music, if you know where to look and sadly, this formatting disconnect is why records took a nosedive in the 80’s and 90’s. But not CDs! Unless the Macbook Air catches on…

But regardless, the CD is 30 today and we should celebrate! It isn’t everyday that technology makes it to thirty! (Remember MySpace? Me either.)

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