Living in the Eighties (in the Nineties)

By Betsy Bradford

Since my childhood, I've lived most of my life with slightly outdated technology. Take Christmas of 1993, for example. My mother told me several weeks before the holiday that they were giving me some big present that I'd probably take with me to college.

"Maybe it's a CD player!" I said dreamily to a friend at lunch. She laughed in my face.

I’ll get a CD player before you do," she boasted.

She did, in fact, receive a CD player that Christmas. As for my big present? It was a 1980s-style boom box with AM/FM radio and a tape deck. Now, to the extent that there ever was a format war between cassettes and CDs, it had been resolved long before 1993, and cassettes were on the way out. It was a further two years before I received my first Walkman, likewise a cassette player.

For a few years, my parents gave me many cassettes, but within a few years my father started giving me CDs instead.

"They're more durable and they'll serve you better," he explained. He wasn't wrong, but I didn't have any device that could actually play a CD. In theory, I could have used the house's stereo system, but my family tended to complain about the Broadway show tunes that I favored back then.

"It's so disruptive! How are we supposed to have a conversation with that on?" and so forth. So, I found myself sitting in my room, staring at my untouched CDs while playing an old cassette on my boom box, wondering when it (either the tape or the stereo) would expire.

I finally received my first CD player for a high school graduation present in 2000, and it did, in fact, come to college with me. I still have it, actually, sitting in my living room as I type. Of course, now the MP3 is steadily becoming the dominant format ...