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CD-player - D-50 compact disc compact player
  • D-50 compact disc compact player
    Sony Corporation
  • Enlarge image

D-50 compact disc compact player

  • Object:

    CD-player

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1984-1985 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sony Corporation (manufacturers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Aluminium, ABS, polystyrene, PVC, electrical components

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Glenn Benson

  • Museum number:

    W.1:1, 2-2015

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Sony D-50 was the first in the Discman family of portable CD-players. It appeared in Japan in 1984, just two years after compact discs began to be mass-produced. At the time of its release it was the world’s smallest and most affordable CD-player. The case was supposedly designd to be no thicker than three or four stacked CD jewel cases, many existing components had to be miniaturised to fit inside it. The D-50 (its official name was the 'compact disc compact player, not Discman) could be used as a stationary unit, connected to a hi-fi, or with the addition of a heavy battery pack, as a portable player. Although it was the cheapest CD-player available at the time of its manufacture, it was still priced initially at £279.99, approximately 70% of the donor's monthly wages.

Physical description

Sony D-50 CD-player and AC-power unit.

Place of Origin

Japan (manufactured)

Date

1984-1985 (made)

Artist/maker

Sony Corporation (manufacturers)

Materials and Techniques

Aluminium, ABS, polystyrene, PVC, electrical components

Object history note

This CD-player was purchased by the donor on 28th November 1985 for £279.99, from a branch of Dixons on Regent Street. The following day he purchased his first two CDs from Harrod's: Quartet by Ultravox and Gustav Holst's The Planets. It was given to the V&A in 2015 (RF 2015/36).

Historical context note

The Compact Disc format was developed jointly by Sony and Philips from LaserDisc technology in the late-1970s. Emphasising this, the original name for the D-50 was the ‘compact disc compact player’, a somewhat unwieldy tag soon replaced by the generic term 'Discman'. However, by the early-1980s only around 1000 titles had been released on CD, prompting Katsuaki Tsurhushima, head of Sony’s Engineering Development Department, to suggest the development of a portable, more affordable CD-player to help popularise the format. The D-50 was apparently designed to be no thicker than four stacked CD cases, although this story may be apocryphal. Kozo Ohsone, head of Sony’s General Audio Division, supposedly presented the audio design team with a block of wood measuring 13cm square by 4cm thick, dictating that the product should be exactly this size. Many existing components had to be miniaturised to fit inside its smaller case, including the chips which read the digital data from the disc, and the laser optics.

The design of the D-50 is partly-indebted to earlier Sony products. The company produced their first miniature portable radio, the TR63, in 1957. Twenty-two years later, in 1979, Sony released the ground-breaking TPS-L2 Stowaway cassette Walkman (for the V&A’s example see W.22-1992). For the first time individuals could go out and about to a soundtrack of their own choosing, using easily-recorded and widely available audio cassettes. This was a key moment in the development of personal audio equipment and brought about a change in our culture. Creating a personal space in a public one, this kind of technology sparked debate which continues to this day about decreasing levels of interaction with the surrounding environment. Within this debate, the Discman represents an interesting parallel to contemporary objects such as a ‘boombox’ radio (e.g. V&A W.21-2011); one is designed for private enjoyment of music in public, the other quite the opposite.

A key selling point for the D-50 was its portability, although in fact a separate battery pack needed to be bought in order to use it unplugged (this is not included with the gift as the donor did not own the battery pack - instead a mains linked AC-adapter used by the donor is included). The D-50 is sturdily-built from aluminium and high-impact plastics, weighing 590g. The addition of a battery pack, which usually contained six ‘C’-type batteries, meant that shoulder straps had to be included in the design to allow greater portability. Linked to this point, early CD-players were notorious for their tendency to skip, requiring a person carrying one to walk very carefully if attempting to use it on the move. Anti-shock mechanisms were not developed until 1992.

Another appeal of the D-50 was its comparative cheapness when compared to other CD-players – it cost approximately half the price of a Sony CDP-101 home audio system, the first commercially available domestic CD-player.

Descriptive line

D-50 'Discman' CD-player, aluminium and ABS plastic, Sony, Japan, 1984-85

Labels and date

[Gallery 76]

14. CD-PLAYER: SONY ‘D-50’
1984

The compact disc was developed jointly by Sony and Philips in the late 1970s. This first portable ‘Discman’ was designed as an affordable CD-player to help popularise the new format. The small case required that many existing components had to be miniaturised. However, the ‘D-50’ was truly portable only when powered by a separate, heavy battery pack.

Japan
Designed and made by Sony Corporation
Aluminium and ABS plastic
Given by Glenn Benson
Museum no. W.1-2015
[2015]

Materials

Aluminium; ABS; Electrical components; PVC; Polystyrene

Categories

Audio equipment; Product design; Electrical appliances; Personal accessories

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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