I Tried to Explain CDs to My Three-Year-Old Daughter

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I was strapping my daughter into her carseat when she said, "Daddy, I want my favorite book."

She was pointing at the floorboards in the back, where a stratified layer of various toys, books and random objects she has demanded to entertain her during car rides and abandoned after 15 minutes continues to grow. The specific item she wanted this time was Iggy Pop's album Preliminaries, which for some reason continuously follows me into the car no matter how many times I've taken it inside.

I handed the cardboard sleeve to her. Sometimes she treats DVDs as books because they open, so I figured this was an extension of that. I got in the front seat and started to drive.

"Oh," she said. "It's a movie, Daddy!"

"No, sweetie," I replied. "It's a CD."


"It plays music," I said, realizing that she had never seen a CD before in her life. "You put it in a special machine and listen to it. It's how we used to listen to songs back in the old days."

Old days... Jesus God in Heaven, I have old days now. I took the CD from her and put it in the player. Iggy's languid pseudo-French cabaret attempt started to play.

"We could just use your phone," she said to me like I wasn't quite getting it.

"Believe it or not, love, phones used to just be able to call people. We couldn't listen to songs on them, or watch videos, or take pictures, or do Facetime. We used to not even be able to take them out of the house because they had to be attached to the wall."

"Really," she said. "Wow. So, we could watch Pinkie Pie on the DC?"

"No, sweetie," I said. "This CD doesn't have Pinkie Pie on it."

"What about Michael Jackson singing with his brothers?" That what she calls The Jackson 5 performing "ABC" on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of her favorite videos.

"That's not on here either," I told her. "This CD only has these songs by Iggy Pop on them. It can't download anything. It can't get on YouTube. The people who make CDs just make them for specific artists and specific songs."

"Does your phone have these songs on it?"

"No," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because I haven't bothered to put the CD in my computer and transfer it to my iTunes so that I will have it on my phone."

There was some silence for a while as Iggy sang about wanting to go to the beach. I really need to transfer that album, I thought. When I broke down and bought an iPhone I didn't transfer any of my library at all because I was curious to see what it would be like to start over fresh.

For the most part, it's very liberating. Anytime I get nostalgic for one of the songs I have buried in boxes in the back of the closet I just download it for 99 cents and we're good to go. Sure, I am essentially rebuying music, but it's so cheap, and so much easier than digging out discs, that it almost seems like I'm being deliberately obtuse when I bother to do so.

More than that, it's the last of a ritual that my daughter will never know. I got into music late in life, so the first album I ever bought was The Cranberries' No Need to Argue on CD, but I watched my father transfer his vinyl to tape, then tape to CD, and my wife do the same from vinyl to CD to iPod. By the time my daughter is ready to own her music library, that will all be gone.

We're entering a system where everything you buy will be tracked and ready for upload into whatever new medium comes along with just a few button clicks if not automatically. And if you don't want a song anymore, you can just delete it. It doesn't matter because you can re-download it again later with ease and almost certainly for free.

"Ummm, Daddy?" she asked. "Can you turn that off? It's a liiiiiiiittle bit creepy, and DCs are a bit rubbish."

I told her sure, and I held up the phone so she could watch the Second Doctor clown around to the theme of The Littlest Hobo as we finished driving to daycare, because in the end she was right. Preliminaries is a little creepy, and CDs are a bit rubbish.

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