If you are a 1.2-mm-thick circle of polycarbonate plastic used to store digital data, then today is a bittersweet one. On the one hand: You are, sorry to say it, a compact disc. You are part of the long line of data storage devices—the cylinder phonograph, the vinyl record, the audiocassette, the CD-ROM, even the flash drive—that have been made either obsolete or quaint by other, better storage technologies.
On the other hand, though: Today is a milestone for you. Thirty years ago, on October 1, 1982, the first audio CD players were released to the public -- and with them, the first commercially available audio CDs. (CDs had been first manufactured, by the Philips company, in August of the same year.) Sony released its CDP-101 player—a bulky affair that, for better or worse, doesn't look all that different from the stereo systems we still use today—to the Japanese public for around $730. The device offered the same play/pause/fast-forward-rewind buttons that consumers had become accustomed to in their cassette players. But it included a significant innovation: the slide-out tray that would become the standard, if not the universal, loading mechanism for CD players throughout the years they dominated the market.