I bumped into a friend the other day who was leaving a supermarket with a pack of blank CDs. He wanted to burn a collection of music albums onto CDs for use in his van to keep him chilled whilst on long delivery journeys. We both agreed that CDs were awkward archaic things and that the world is a better place now we have less use for them along with DVDs as the world uses more flexible storage technologies such as flash drives and networked storage.
Until only recently CDs in cars meant trying to change an album as you travel, or being fixed to those tracks on CDs already stored in multi CD players in the boot of you car or under a seat, both ultimately resulting in less choice for long journeys than a modern day mp3 player. For those of us who can plug their mobile phone music or mp3 player into their car hifi, can you imagine returning to the days of reaching for the glove box to change an album whilst keeping an eye on the road ahead?
It seems to me that music systems in cars have been a little slow to develop alternatives to CDs. Initial mp3 plugin solutions meant systems for connecting mp3s would be obsolete as soon as the device manufacturers decided it was time to change proprietary plug designs. However, with Bluetooth becoming a choice for streaming audio to your car hifi, or devices to stream over fm radio, (and maybe even wifi within cars?) we now have a number of open solutions to enable users to bring their music libraries along for the ride & easily connect to car sound systems.
But looking back, let’s be honest, CDs didn’t really add much value over a tape cassette in the first place did it? Sure, audio quality might be better (subject to the rest of the technology involved in creating the analogue output) but CDs weren’t designed for the harsh conditions found in the average family transporter and so many a CD would find it’s surface scratched whilst tape cassettes were reasonably well designed to protect the delicate magnetic tape.
So I have to ask, what has the CD ever done for us?
My friend and I agreed we weren’t that enthused by the CD’s arrival; albums and artwork became a lot smaller and so there was less art for the same or more money. I recall the record labels insisting on higher prices for CDs even though the manufacturing costs were lower. Then there is that particular pain of ‘rolling your own’ in terms of creating CDs for your car because you knew the originals were so expensive you didn’t want them destroyed in the passenger’s footwell. The technology for burning, I have always found, was only occasionally successful in burning a usable CD whilst the various formats for CDs only increased the confusion and failure rate.
So, for my friend and I, the CD wasn’t a welcome new problem solving technology, and as we gladly see the decline of the CD as a major way to purchase music, it continues to show itself as a cumbersome item that most would rather now avoid and now we can purchase, download and sync to our music devices.
Ironically now for me, the only reason I would purchase a cd is for the album artwork which was the same reason I resisted CDs in the first place.