The first music conveyance I could truly call my own was bestowed upon me at age six, when I tore the wrapping off my Christmas present and found a beautiful record player inside. It was baby blue and opened and closed with buckles. I didn't even own any records, but my mom and dad let me spin one of the two albums they owned. Thereafter, I borrowed 45's from my big sisters' collection from time to time. I was happy.
But being record-poor, I mostly relied on the radio for new, wondrous music. My mom had a Philco in the kitchen, and of course there was the radio in my dad's Ford Galaxie, and eventually I acquired a tiny transistor (with that single earphone). KRAD played all the hits of the day, and thus my transistor became my new best friend. It walked with me down country roads; it slept under my pillow at night. When I stayed overnight with my friend from town, we each carried our own matching transistors, tuned to the exact same station (Voila ~ stereo!)
Sometime around the age of ten I got a job (dusting around the house) for which I was paid twenty-five cents a week and I was able to save up to buy my own 45's. And somewhere along the line I came into possession of a battery-powered record player. It was sort of an elongated egg-shape, and orange, I think. It required four D batteries that died too soon, and Dad wasn't pleased when he found his flashlight unnaturally lightweight because I'd stolen the batteries out of it. On the plus side, I became adept at sneaking into my big brother's room when he was away and pilfering his albums, which probably accounted for the short life of my Evereadys. It was all fun and games until one day my brother came home unexpectedly and I whisked the covers over the record player perched on my bed, subsequently forgot about it and sat down, breaking the arm.
I didn't get a decent stereo system until I was sixteen and had an actual summer job. By decent, I mean a hundred-dollar JC Penney setup, with speakers that could be separated, an upgraded turntable and an AM/FM radio. By now I had quite the album and single collection, plus I could stay up late and try to tune in WSM in Nashville or WBAP in Fort Worth. The clearest and closest great overnight station, however, was WHO in Des Moines. That's where I heard new music; not on my dinky local station.
For some reason I mostly bypassed the cassette phase, probably because I didn't own a player, but I briefly flirted with eight-tracks, due to inheriting my parents' old console stereo, which had an eight-track player built in. Overall, however, I stuck with vinyl.
I don't remember when I became fed up with the inferior sound of the old console, but I became determined to buy a nice stereo system, which I did (on credit) in 1980. The salesman spotted a mark the second I breezed through the door and talked me into also slapping Stonehenge-sized B&O speakers (They're Swedish!) on my credit card, too. And granted, my new sound system was awesome.
I bought my first CD player in 1990, and I had to start my whole collection over! But I loved the convenience and the relative durability of CD's and thus I had to keep buying bigger and bulkier CD shelves. I don't know exactly how many CD's I own now; I would estimate five hundred, a lot of them boxed up, because really, unless you're an old-money baron with a silk-lined library, who has room for all those? And even the ones still resting on shelves never get played. I don't even own a CD player anymore.
At some point I began utilizing my Windows Media Player and uploaded all my best CD's, which was exhausting but convenient once the project was complete. Then my computer died and my external hard drive went kaput, so all my effort was for nil.
For a while I made do with SiriusXM on my desktop. We already had it in the car, so I paid a few bucks extra for home service. That got irksome really fast. Sirius rarely changes its playlists, so the same songs were on repeat...over and over. Finally I could take no more. But saying goodbye wasn't easy. You think they just let you leave? Oh, no. I tried and tried and the chat-bot just kept arguing with me. Finally I had to make a phone call (an activity I hate) and turned on the "pitiful poor me" routine. The poor girl on the other end had no rejoinder, but she did offer to send me a home kit at no charge, just in case I ever wanted to re-subscribe.
I don't know when I first sampled Spotify; probably when I was looking for Sirius alternatives. Like anything new, I didn't spot all its possibilities at first. I definitely knew, however, that I hated its commercial breaks. When I discovered the playlist options, I quickly signed up for the premium service. Now it's my sole music conveyance. I love, love controlling my listening experience! And almost all my favorite albums are there!
I still own my albums from the sixties for sentimental reasons. I know every tear in every binding, I recognize the wear marks on the covers. I like seeing my handwritten name and year on the backs. If I was to spin any of them today, I'd know just where every skip happens, how to nudge the phonograph needle past it. Which album doesn't want to move past the first wide groove and instead keeps spinning 'round and 'round with little hiccup sounds until I pick up the arm and place it in front of the first track. I know which albums are a little warped but still play if you're gentle with them. I know without looking who wrote the liner notes. I know if Hargus "Pig" Robbins played piano on the record. But my sixties and my seventies and my eighties stereo systems are long relegated to a forgotten landfill, and if I wanted to play those physical albums ever again, I'd have to lay out some bucks and find some physical space, both of which are in short supply.
Sometimes technology is wonderful.