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Retro Resurgence for CD?

I was talking with a friend recently and we were musing about the future retro-fetishist collectibility of CDs. Most music enthusiasts know that turntables and vinyl records are enjoying a pleasant boutique rebirth in recent years. In fact, vinyl is at the moment the only recorded music format experiencing any kind of growth.

When I finally bought my first CD player in 1990, it was unthinkable that vinyl records would ever be popular again. Analog was pronounced dead as music fans embarked on a brave new digital journey. Now that CDs are considered a dead format (suffocating at best) I wonder if/when the CD will enjoy its “indian summer.”

My friend offered an interesting analysis. While not a vinyl-head, he appreciates the pleasantly mechanical nature of vinyl records. Said he, “I can imagine The Professor on Gilligan’s Island cobbling together a device from coconuts, cactus spines and Mary Ann’s bandana that would play a vinyl record. I just can’t imagine The Professor crafting a laser out of sand from the lagoon.”

I quite agree. CDs seem fussy and fragile compared to vinyl records. The compact disc is an interim digital technology that promised indestructible, high-fidelity music for life and never fully delivered on its lofty claims. CD packaging is similarly fussy and fragile, with jewel case center spines and hinge tabs brittle and prone to snapping. Vinyl ironically seems, in retrospect, like the more robust format.

Still, now even the humble cassette has some hip, retro cache. Perhaps CDs’ flaws will eventually endear them to us again, and remind us of a simpler time that had the pungent smell of teen spirit.

What would Professor Roy Hinkley, PhD think?


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