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A Portable DVD Player Was One of the Best Gadgets I Ever Owned

When I was 12 years old, I got a portable DVD player for Christmas. Almost 20 years later, it's still easily the best gift I ever received.

portable dvd
Tucker Bowe

When I was 12, I got one big gift for Christmas. It was not my first choice, a sun conure with a lifespan of around thirty years. It was instead a Panasonic DVD-LA95 portable DVD player. And while it hasn't made it to 30 yet, it is still kicking.

The LA95 was and is a beautiful machine. It sports a 9-inch LCD screen -- which was huge back then -- and a wonderful multidirectional button that glows blue. Today, you can find it on eBay and Craigslist for around $80. Back in 2003 when it was state of the art, it cost about an order of magnitude more.

portable dvd
Tucker Bowe

When it was still new (and I was about 20 years younger), I put it through its paces primarily with The Lord of the Rings. I must have watched the extended cuts of each movie on that player 20 times each, while huddled in the back of a closet. You know, for ambiance. But I was never far from an AC adapter (or cigarette-lighter charger for long car rides) because it could barely struggle through 3 hours of play on a charge.

You might think that laptops with disc drives and then smartphones and streaming would have killed the whole category. Not so! You can still buy them. That said, they're made by brands you've likely never heard of (like DBPOWER or Sylvania). Their prices are mercifully lower than top-tier 2003 Panasonic -- closer to the $100 range. And, at this point, they might even put my LA95 to shame.

portable dvd
Tucker Bowe

I found old faithful the other day in the closet of my childhood bedroom, bubble-wrapped in its original packaging -- which I had used as a carrying case to keep it safe when it was new. I even kept the retail slickers on it. Why? I cannot tell you.

I hadn't used in probably 15 years, but I can tell you that it still works. Not only that, it purrs. Maybe due to its robustness, or maybe how well I took care of it. But as I fired The Lord of the Rings, the rose-colored glasses slipped.

The sound from the speakers was grainy and uneven. And the picture quality was, unsurprisingly trash, by modern standards at least. But boy, can it still get loud.

While it has no purpose anymore, I still adore this little machine, and I don't think I'll get rid of it. It's worth way more to me than the $80 I could get on eBay. Even if I might not ever turn it on for more than a few minutes at a time from here on out.

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