Want to listen to Christmas music on the go? Maybe you need to pick up one of these handy portable CD Discmen! Believe it or not, Sony released their first CD Walkman (“Discman”) in November of 1984. Only 4 years after they launched the original cassette-playing Walkman in the United States. The Discman originally retailed for $350. Although some had rechargeable batteries, ours ran off of AA batteries (and went through them like crazy).
Unlike more modern portable CD players, my original Discman had a very short “buffer”, which meant it skipped easily. In the early 1990s, when I began to convert my large collection of cassette tapes over to CD, it was all the rage to buy Discman and hook them up in your car. You did this using a cigarette adapter for power and a cassette adapter to get sound out of the Discman’s headphone jack and into your car’s stereo system.
The Discman I had was prone to skipping if you so much as touched it while playing. So as you can imagine, trying to get stutter-free playback in a car was almost impossible. I kept a small pillow in my car that I would and rest my CD player on while driving. It helped but still wasn’t perfect, especially not in my Ford Festiva (not exactly known for its smooth handling in the first place). Later portable CD players had bigger buffers and skipped less, but none of them were immune to skipping after hitting a pothole or a speed bump.
Like GPS devices today, portable CD players were a high theft item back in the day. All it took was one time of leaving your window down or your door unlock and … gone. The good news was, for about $50 you could buy another used one from one of the shady kids at school. Sometimes you would even get lucky and get your same one back.
As time went on, CD Discmen (both the official Sony ones and knock-offs) got cheaper. Eventually you could buy new ones for $50 or less. I bought one around 2000 that played not only mp3s but also Video CDs (VCDs).
I found all three of these CD players in various boxes out in my garage while moving. Essentially all of my music is stored in mp3 format these days, which I listen to either while sitting at my computer or on my iPhone. These CD players ended up going to Goodwill, where hopefully some other kid will get some use out of them.