Growing up, I had two ways to listen to music. The primary source was the radio and back then there were two major radio stations that played rock and roll - WMCA, the home of the "Good Guys," and WABC Music Radio. I was a fan of the former and spent many hours listening to DJs Jack Spector, Dandy Dan Daniel, Gary Stevens, et al spinning the Top 40 hits every day. I had a transistor radio with an earplug, so I would often fall asleep listening to Dean Anthony doing the overnight show as well.
But listening to the radio, you have no control over what songs you hear, so I next moved on to buying records. The first 45 rpm single I ever bought was "Up on the Roof" by the Drifters, which probably cost about 49c at the time. I had a small phonograph and played that and the other 45s I bought over and over (and over and over). Of course, I could only play one at a time -- 45s had a large hole in the center that required a special disk so they would fit on the phonograph. So, every two or three minutes, you had to change records or start the same one over again.
I don't remember which was the first album I bought -- it might have been The Monkees -- but I could play that on the big hi-fi we had in the living room. Mostly, that was used by my mother, who was a big fan of the crooners (Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Johnny Mathis) and Broadway show soundtracks. West Side Story was my favorite of those.
For one of my early-teens birthdays, I got a larger phonograph that I could put in my room. Now I was able to play multiple records -- you could stack three albums at a time -- and not have to change anything for almost an hour. This, at the time, was heaven: Lots of the music I loved with no commercials.
The next step was the stereo I got not long after we were married. I could stack six albums on this turntable (though sometimes the last one got a little warbly as it rode the five disks underneath). But now I was up to almost two hours of non-stop tunes.
Then came the "sound system" with the five-disk CD player. Yow -- five hours of music at once and I could pause it any time. What more could I possibly need? Well, of course, when you start accumulating CDs, you have to choose which five you want to play. But that lasted only until Laurie got me the 300-disk player... which I managed to pretty much fill up. However, I can put it on "random selection" and go about two weeks without hearing the same piece twice.
Okay, so I've got my 300 disks. Many of them are the music from the '60s that I grew up with, but there is a mix of '70s and '80s artists as well, along with some Broadway soundtracks. (There's also the soundtrack for The Big Chill. Ask anybody who started buying CDs when they first became popular which ones they bought first and, invariably, The Big Chill is one of them.) The only problem is, the system is upstairs and not movable, so if I want to listen to music, that's where I have to be.
And then technology came along again. For Christmas this year, the kids got me an I-Pod. It's smaller than a credit card. It goes anywhere. I've loaded somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 albums on it. I can put it on random selection or pick an album and I'm back to where I was fifty years ago, with an earplug in my ear. But now I'm the DJ.