Monday, June 29, 2009

A farewell to the compact disc

IMG_0978A few days ago I decided it was finally time to clean out my old, dirty, yellow CD case I received from my friend Scott W. back in the 8th grade. (I can't recall how I got the case, but it's possible that it was under dubious circumstances. I probably still owe Scott a lot of money.)

That CD case has been well-used and well-loved over the last 10 years, and it has the stains to prove it. That yellow case - once a bright dandelion color, now faded to a dark puke - is likely the least sanitary thing I own. Embedded in its vinyl cover are infectious diseases dating back to the late 90s.

But I love that case. Back in high school I organized the front CDs with all my favorites, and until recently, that organization was still there - my museum exhibit showcasing my previous tastes.

But as I said, it was time to clean it out. I needed to make room for more recent MP3 purchases which I had burned onto a CD to play in my car. While I was flipping through, though, I found an old compilation CD I had made back in high school, which I had called "Ultimate Happy Alternative." I hadn't listened to it in years, and when I popped it in I was transported back to an era when the airwaves were ridden by bands called The Wallflowers, Fastball, Third Eye Blind, Semisonic, and Better than Ezra.

After I had ripped this CD to my computer for eternal preservation, I realized that something had happened to me that many people have been bemoaning over the last few years. You see, I recently made the decision that I would no longer buy physical copies of music. There are just so many advantages to having digital copies, I can't justify spending an extra 50% on my music to get the CD.

But what I had just experienced - that moment of "finding" something by browsing, something I hadn't seen in years - couldn't have happened with a digital music library. That sort of thing only happens with physical copies, something you can put away for a while, perhaps lose, and then find later while cleaning out the junk under your bed. When you have digital copies, you often only find what you're looking for.

And so it is with great sadness that I bid farewell to CDs, perhaps the last physical form our music will take. From here on out in this brave new world, we'll be all iPods, MP3 players, and phones (probably all phones). But I hope in the future, someday when I'm surrounded by life-improving gadgets, that I'll stumble upon that old yellow CD case, pull out an old favorite, and be reminded of earlier times.


  1. I think my favorite part about finding old mixes like that is suddenly being able to remember the exact order that the songs are in on the cd. And it always makes me feel like I'm driving around in someone's foreverly old car, like Scott's fabulous old one.

  2. Yes, I completely agree! To this day there are a huge number of songs that, when I listen to them, I'm expecting a specific song to begin after it's finished, just because I used to have them in that order on an old mix CD.

  3. If a CD with 12 songs costs $14.99 and the same songs cost a dollar a pop on itunes, there's only a $0.25 difference, which is 25% more, not 50% more. Add a bonus track (which most CD's have nowadays) plus splitting the cost of the CD with uncle Rico, and physical CD's are still a pretty good deal.

  4. Songs cost a dollar, but an album is almost always $9.99 That's 50% more. Know your stuff!

  5. Again, if you split the cost with Uncle Rico that's only $7.50, still cheaper, know your piracy (Darn Applephiles)!

  6. Umm... itunes has a browsing view. If you make playlists, they'll still be there later. There are some interesting web 2.0 music services that do similar things.

    You're right though, it isn't the same

  7. The playlist feature in iTunes, while awesome, is not the same. You can't have the same experience of "losing" something to find it later.

    But I do agree. I think new technologies (like Pandora) are allowing people to still "browse" music in a world without physical copies. I think it will simulate the experience nicely.

  8. Of course, we'll always have vinyl.

  9. Isaac... we aren't old enough to get nostalgic yet. Those things that were cool in high school STILL ARE COOL. Don't tell me you've stopped listening to the Wallflowers! Don't tell me you've stopped listening to Third Eye Blind! Those are still great artists. Also, I still make hard copies of everything I own. Once I burnt my entire music library to 4 DVD's in MP3 format. I threw them away though... maybe you're right... no more CD's.