Anniversary Post: CD Player

Sony CDP-101On this day in 1982, the first commercial CD player, Sony CDP-101, went on sale. It cost roughly $730 (equivalent to $1,800 today). As I recall, when they first came out, what most people were interested in was the fact that they didn’t skip. And then radio stations started using them, and they skipped all the time. They finally got that under control. It seems to me that it was due to a major misconception about the discs: they couldn’t be scratched.

To this day I’m amazed at the way people treat their CDs. Everyone treated albums very carefully, because they understood how easily they could be damaged. But CDs are treated the way cassettes were: people just throw them on the floor on the passenger side of the car. I suppose that’s really why people are so cruel to CDs: they play them in their cars. That would explain why people aren’t quite so bad to DVDs.

Another early myth about CDs was that they sounded better than albums. That certainly wasn’t true. What people meant was that there was no scratching sound. But the truth is that most people are not audiophiles. I’m certainly not. I think audiophiles often miss the music for the sound. And ultimately, CDs were useful to people because they were convenient. If you treated them with the smallest amount of respect, they did last and didn’t scratch. You could easily find a particular song and skip one that really annoyed you. It was nice.

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