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This article was published on February 26, 2021

An ode to portable CD players — you were ugly in a beautiful way


An ode to portable CD players — you were ugly in a beautiful way
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

This is adapted from Plugged In, TNW’s bi-weekly newsletter on gear and gadgets. Subscribe to it here.

Hey, P— Hey, P— Hey, P

Fuck. Let me stand still for a second… Hey, Plugged In is back again, and this time we’re talking about portable CD players.

Longterm readers will know I’m a man of many “phases” and, currently I’m in what I’d call my Compact Disc Renaissance™. I’d like to talk about this further (and believe me, there’s little more I want to do right now) — but that’d ruin the exciting bit of 𝖈𝖔𝖓𝖙𝖊𝖓𝖙 we’ve got lined up for you in the next edition of Plugged In (SIGN UP HERE)See what I did, Mom? That’s a teaser. This is a professional operation. 

Before that though (AKA today), we have another mission: to bathe in the glory of the portable CD player, AKA the CD Walkman (or Discman).

If you grew up in a certain period, those words will likely cause you to fall to your knees and scream “time is and unforgiving cruel mistress” at that traitor sky. And if you’re aren’t a relic? Well, I would describe using a portable CD player as feeling unreal — an experience I’m sure you’ve had with a bit of tech before. You know, the sort of thing you look at it and say “how?”

For me, the most mesmeric part was being able to change tracks while I was listening to a CD outside. These days, I simply try not to go outside.

Now, I’ve got no desire to endlessly wax lyrical about portable CD players. As fun as nostalgia is, that’s all it is: fun. Sitting here and being like…

technology was cooler back in the day

…is a waste of my time, your time, and — most important of all — my time again.

Portable CD players were great during their heyday, but they were also always a little shit. Case in point: I had to stand completely still for mine to work. The hardware will forever hold a place in my heart, but let’s be honest: Spotify is far more impressive.

So, in honor of what’s going to be known as the troubling part of Plugged In‘s adolescence when it got weird with CDs, I asked other TNW writers to find pictures of the portable CD players they had back in the day.

And — without further ado — here they all are:

Sony discman
Sony Discman portable CD player
Sony Walkman cd player
Philips cd rewritable portable player
Sony walkman portable CD player
Panasonic MP3 CD player
Sony portable CD player optical out battery pack
Sony discman ESP2
Kenwood portable CD player

Maybe one day far, far off into the future we’ll get our talented writers to actually say something about those machines, but… today’s not that day. Whether you basked in their old school and fiddly glory, or wondered who in their right mind walked around listening to CDs, I’m happy we did it together.

There is one thing these photos genuinely made me miss though: buttons. BUTTONS FOREVER. I WILL STORM THE BASTILLE IN SUPPORT OF BUTTONS.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed looking at some old-ass pictures. If you have a burning urge to share an image of your long dead portable CD player, you know where my Twitter is.

Finally, I’m going to leave you with this: say hello (and goodbye) to Christopher Walkman.

Christopher Walkman

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