Where’s my eight-track?

Just when did Compact Disc players disappear?

Sure, I know that kids these days don’t buy CDs anymore. In fact, they won’t even accept them as gifts!
“Gee, thanks for that shiny plastic platter, Gramps. I’ll keep it with the writing paper you gave me last year.”

But it was a real shock over the holidays to find out that you can’t even buy a CD player in stores. I was visiting my parents in Canada. They had a ten year old CD player attached to their stereo receiver. Remember those? The kind that doesn’t come with earbuds or an iPod dock? Anyway, the player went all Theremin on me – generating otherworldly noises when I waved my hands above the unit.

Like the helpful son I am, I volunteered to go buy them a new CD player, and install it for them. “Should only cost 30 or 40 bucks”, I assured them. “A bit more if you want a multi-disc player”.

The first sign of trouble was when I consulted Amazon for some quick product reviews. Sure, they list CD players in their electronics section. And you can find cheap portable CD players, or integrated compact stereo systems, or extremely expensive high-end audiophile players. But you can’t buy basic single disc players.  Unless you want to try eBay.

So off I went to the local mall. In an ice-storm. And this was just after Boxing Day – the busiest shopping day of the year. The big-box stores were still mobbed with bargain hunters, and looked like New Orleans convenience stores after looting. But they hadn’t sold out of CD players. They just never had any. And the retail drones just looked at me with disdain. “Maybe you should get them an iPod instead”.

No, this is my parents we’re talking about. They’re not exactly cutting-edge. They value ease of use, and consistency. My mom is still using a 20-year old coffee maker. And a film camera for gosh sakes.

After going through four stores, I finally found a reasonable alternative. I bought them a small Sony DVD player. Sure it had component video outputs and upscaling, which we’ll never need. But it had stereo audio output, and a nice bright LED display.

I brought it home and hooked it up to their old system. Hopefully this one will last until the next big consumer electronics revolution. And in the meantime, they can still listen to Billie Holiday. I just hope their turntable doesn’t break down next.

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