The Death of the Compact Disc

I saw it coming long ago.  In my high school Physics class in 1987-1988, a dude brought a cool new sound medium to class — a Compact Disc, which was better in many ways than the vinyl records we all had been using.  He said, you could throw it around and scratch it all up and it would still play (well, the truth is you have to be more gentle with the scratching), and it was much smaller.  Not to mention, and it was shiny and required a laser to read.

I’m not sure when it was, but back when I started replacing my cassette tape collection with CDs, I began to wonder what the next meduim would be.  Maybe a chip that you would plug in to a player, take out to add/remove songs, then plug back in – potentially hundreds or thousands of songs could fit on this chip of the future.  Well, the chip of the future came about a few years ago, with the iPod and then any number of brand names of media players which would play WMAs, MP3s, etc.

Fast forward to Christmas Shopping Season 2009.  Ginger’s gift wish list included 3 or 4 CDs, complete with links to the product info page for each on amazon.com.  No problem… of course instead of paying for shipping, I would just go to any number of local retail stores and pick one up or look for something similar.

Not so fast.  A local mall used to have a Virgin Megastore right in the middle a few years ago.  There’s no such thing anymore — I suppose they’re out of business or got bought by someone else.  CD Warehouse has a sorta-nearby location.  Instead of being a Warehouse, it’s a little store in a strip center sandwiched between a nail salon and a donut shop, or something like that.  I get coupons for Borders every week, so how about there?  Neither Borders I visited even has a CD section any longer — all the CDs they have fit into a couple cardboard displays in the aisle.  The most promising visit was to Best Buy, who still has a pretty large selection of CDs.

About two visits into these trips, it struck me — the CD is dying.  For years, now, really, people have been getting their music online, downloading MP3s and retrieving music from iTunes and such for storage in their digital libraries, for playback on-the-go on their portable players, with adapters to let them plug them into systems with speakers, like docks or car stereos.

Who needs a collection of four shelves worth of CDs that can scratch or break or warp, and require players with spinning parts, when all those songs will fit onto an 8GB SD card and slip into your media player or phone?

Yessir, the death of the CD is upon us.  What will the next form of media be for music?  I suppose it won’t be stored locally on a portable player, but likely be stored centrally in a worldwide repository, with real-time streaming access across a fast and reliable wireless data stream.

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