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home : opinion : columnist October 19, 2019

9/25/2019 12:11:00 AM
CD Players Going The Way Of The Stereo Console

Tammy Wilson
Guest Columnist


For those of you who haven’t traded for a new vehicle lately, I have news for you: There are no CD players. Zero. Zip. Nada.

I learned this ugly truth last fall after purchasing a new Equinox and transferred my paraphernalia to the new vehicle. Sadly, there was no need to move my CD collection because Chevrolet discontinued CD players a while ago. Other automakers have done the same.            

And how dare they? Nobody asked me if I wanted a CD player. It was not an option, which makes the loss more stinging. Yes, it had been four years since we’d bought a vehicle. The transition had happened while we weren’t looking. No option, gone, cold turkey without giving me a chance to say goodbye.



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There I was, driving around with buyer’s remorse, lamenting my new CD playerless life, wondering why artists still sell CDs to fans at concerts.

I know the thing these days is to upload music onto “devices.” But that’s not as simple as popping a CD into the dashboard player. I grew up with a photograph in the living room that played 78s, 33 1/3 LPs and 45s in mono. Then came the stereo console for LPs produced in “stereophonic sound.” In the 1960s, these must-have music players were uptown.

Since I began driving in 1970, I’ve been doing the music shuffle from AM to FM radio, 8-tracks to cassettes and CDs. And satellite radio. I get the fact that technology changes, but how are can we music fans enjoy our prized CD collections on the road?

My husband suggested I look for a portable CD player that would plug into the speaker system of the Equinox, but to my amazement, there aren’t any good options available. Woe be to us music lovers who still want CDs in our driving life.

So what of audiobooks? Don’t people usually listen to those while driving? I suppose there are ways to upload books onto a “device” and take them in the car with ear buds attached, but I don’t want to deal with all that. Companies are still manufacturing books on CD and the library still has scads of them available for checkout, presumably to people who drive vehicles that are at least three years old.

The technology disconnect prompted me to stop by my mobile phone carrier and ask the stupid question: How can I replace my missing CD player? One of the helpful young people who works there introduced me to Spotify (a monthly subscription) and how I can download albums and such on my cellphone and link that to my auto’s speaker system through the USB port.  The catch here is “subscription.” I may pick some favorite songs or albums, but I never get done paying for them, which is the point.

I tried Spotify on a long drive last spring and learned that the setup would allow me to talk hands-free on the phone, “listen” to email messages and the like, which creates far more distractions than my CD player ever did.

The future shock of it all—how the world suddenly dropped CD players--brings to mind that novelty of record players in the car. Yes, those were options for the affluent in the early ‘60s, but they existed because auto manufacturers assumed drivers might want to skip AM radio static and listen to their own records while driving. The key word is “option.” Drivers had a choice. The auto record concept didn’t take hold until the. 8-track era of the late ‘60s, eventually replaced by cassettes that were often found with their clumps of audiotape spaghetti discarded along the side of the road. 

Vinyl records went the way of the stereo console in the 1980s, only to reappear 25 years later.  Young people, I’m told, like the nostalgic, scratchy sound of a record player needle on vinyl grooves. In fact, record stores have cropped up in Hickory, Lenoir, Valdese and elsewhere.

I suppose I could wait 25 years and see if CD players return to new vehicles. I know what goes around comes around, but I’m not hopeful.

---Tammy Wilson is a writer from Newton. She co-edited Idol Talk: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives, in 2018. Message her at tamra@tamrawilson.com


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