Today: The End of Days for CD Players in Cars & Software in General

As a little kid I faintly remember my parents having odd-sized 78 RPM vinyl records….

I didn’t understand much about them, other than they played at a rate of 78 revolutions-per-minute on a turntable versus the standard long playing record album of the day that played at 33 RPM. Then my older siblings struck teen, I learned about 45 RPM records. They were tiny by comparison, but packed a powerful punch in that they held only the very best songs. No filler.

At some point later in the 1960s do-it-yourself recorded music hit the mainstream marketplace.

They came before my time, but have you ever seen one of those old reel-to-reel tape recorders with giant spools of audio tape? They were pretty cool looking. Kinda like the old bicycles with those giant front tires on them were cool.

But like the gigundo-tired bikes, reel-to-reel tapes were unwieldy

So somewhere around the mid to late 1960s came a breakthrough and 4 Track tapes hit the scene. They were expensive – really expensive at first – but you could record the exact songs you wanted in the exact order and play them at home or….if you had more big bucks, in your car.

Four track didn’t last long though because before it could take off it was replaced by a lesser technology that was cheaper to make, the 8 Track tape.

However 8 Track tapes were problematic. I can’t tell you how many of them flew out of my car window in disgust while traveling down the highway at high speed. I know, I should have waited and disposed of them properly but it was maddening. And all too frequent.

Around that same time another technology, Audio Cassettes, was incubating in the marketplace.

Trouble was, cassettes musical fidelity was awful because they traveled at a speed of 1 7/8ths inchesper-second over the tape head producing a noisy, low quality sound.

And just like with cars and computers, speed is everything in music reproduction. By traveling so slow cassette tapes produced an inferior sound considered incapable of reproducing listenable music.

Eight track tapes ran at twice that speed at 3 3/4 inches per second. And reel-to-reel tapes could play at 7 1/2 inches per second, so cassettes were considered mere children’s toys until something called Dolby came along, that  eliminated much of  the noise and distortion inherent in cassettes up to that time.

Almost overnight 8 Track tapes were toast.

Cassettes were more reliable, smaller and thus easier to transport and store…and now better sounding.

Then in the mid 1980s the Compact Disc (CD) hit the marketplace and almost overnight vinyl records and audio cassettes began to go away. However until well into the 1990s, even the early 2000s some car manufacturers continued to include cassette players (along with CD players) in their cars.

Finally it got down to CDs only…until now.

The days of CD players in cars are numbered. Last year Ford became the first major car maker to announce it was doing away with them in its cars. With music, navigation and just about everything else migrating to smartphones, auto manufacturers are rapidly moving toward onboard infotainment systems that can be linked to people’s phones.

VHS videotapes and movies long since gave way to DVDs which are now on life support as evidenced by the current state of Blockbuster.

And certainly the death of audio and video software has not been kind to big box stores specializing in electronics like Best Buy and the now defunct Circuit City.

How much longer will we need librairies to store and catalogue physical books when they’re far more accessible sans the needless overhead expenses of staffing, heating and cooling and operating a physical library?

Minus the needless waste of billions of trees.

On the other hand, once just about everything is reduced to digital content how far will we be from where a few well-placed keystrokes could obliterate anything and everything.

My 15 year-old daughters still buy DVDs because for 10 or 15 bucks they can watch a video like a billion times instead of paying Amazon or the cable provider $3.99 or more for a 24 hour watching window. They download most of their music of course, but still buy the odd CD on occasion to sample the full album

And kids still buy, sell and trade physical video games, but for how long?

I remember the controversy when Apple was first to stop including floppy disc drives in its computers.

It was almost unthinkable. Now they’re doing away with DVD drives.

KC Confidential writer Matthew Donnelly suggested earlier today that if people wanted to find tickets for a soon-to-be sold out Sporting Kansas City game they should send out a tweet.

"Of course, if you want to go the old school route there’s always stubhub and the like," Donnelly wrote. "Those are an absolute last resort for me, though."

Hey, the times they are a changing…really fast!

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8 Responses to Today: The End of Days for CD Players in Cars & Software in General

  1. chuck says:

    Reel to Reels were still cool into the 80s
    72 DB Signal to noise ratio, neglible THD and great separation were only surpassed by cd.

    Pioneer RT 909’s were the High Water Mark in Aesthetics (OOOOhhhh, Blue lights, pretty lights.) and value imo.

    Akai 747s were right there with ’em.

  2. smartman says:

    What About DAT?
    Digital Audio Tape was the bomb for a short time. Actually sounded pretty good. All Dolby….Dubly to the Spinal Tap crowd …….did was whack off all the high end. I preferred White notch filters to eliminate unwanted noise.

    Chuck: I still have a Teac AR-40S, runs at 3 3/4 or 7 1/2.

  3. Super Dave says:

    I would hate to think of the thousands and thousands of dollars I have spent keeping up to date on audio and video items in the past 48 years.

    But at same time it’s been a fun ride being a part of all the changes that have taken place. But I do remember back in the day the real true high end audio fanatics all had reel to reel tape heads and the sound they put out was great.

    I really had decent luck with 8-tracks long as one kept them out of the sun and clean.

  4. Hearne says:

    I actually had a reel-to-reel in high school…
    my last two years. Not the high dollar gear of which you guys speak but I thought it was pretty cool and I still have a bunch of the tapes I recorded back then.

    Yep, you had to keep those tape heads clean, remember? Especially on the 8 Tracks because those babies were temperamental.

  5. chuck says:

    They are still cool imo.
    I looked up Smarty’s and yep, we sold those too. I think it was the 4000DB that hit a $299.00 price point (Long time ago.) and they went out the door faster’n Jessica Simpson after a free ham sandwich.

  6. balbonis moleskine says:

    another cool forgotten tech
    I still have my Mini-Disc player. Digital Audio Recording, Digital playback and portability.

    I don’t like taking CDs out of cars. They are just trying to save money. An audio Aux line in jack is not a proper substitute. What most new cars have is a CD player with an audio aux line in. Best of both worlds!

  7. smartman says:

    Aux Du Lieber!
    Using the aux line in, which hooks up through the headphone out on your iPod or other device is a NO-NO! For God’s sake get a proper iPod controller. The audio quality is substantially better and you have access to all of the devices functionality through the control head or a remote. Hell you can even plug your iPad into them if you feel the need to take your 60,000 song library on the road with you.

  8. PB says:

    Pink Floyd
    Was made for 8-Track tapes! Nothing better than listening to Shine On You Crazy Diamond fade out and then back in as it switched tracks mid-song…3 different times!

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