A new reader left a comment on my about pager this morning, and given the length of the answer I decided to post this as a standalone post rather than a response. It turns out I'm not the only one with really old gadgets:
I recently acquired a new looking Sony Data Discman DD-202, probably only sold here in Japan. There was a disc included of a New English Kanji dictionary. I have become totally dependent on that disc for my Japanese study. Suddenly, for no reason, the Discman stopped working. I am in a state of shock. I want if at all possible to get this discman repaired, either here or through the US. So far on Google I am having no luck finding anything. To replace the discman, I checked Ebay. They don’t list it, so I assume it wasn’t sold in the US. So I don’t know if the electronic book would work on one of those models. What is your advice? I love this small,somewhat heavy deep purple portable device.
Editor's Note: For those who don't know, the Data Discman was Sony's first attempt to build a portable ereader. They for about 10 years (1990 to 2000), and somewhere around 40 different models were released. I covered them in greater depth here.
First, if you haven't noticed any data read errors then the disc is probably fine. Inside the case is a 3.5" CD, and apart from the size it is an ordinary CD. On the other hand, the disc is reaching the end of its lifespan; many from that period have already decayed to the point they are unusable.
You can test for disc errors by checking to see if the Data Discman will run without it. It it runs then you have a disc problem, and given the age of the CD inside you'll probably have little luck in finding a replacement.
You can also test the disc by removing it from the case and inserting it into your computer's CD drive. The data will be inaccessible, but you should at least be able to read the disc and see that the data is inaccessible. This photo should give you an idea how to open the case:
If the DD doesn't run without the disc then it is probably dead. Repairing it will be incredibly expensive and will cost more than simply replacing it, so I would give it a decent funeral.
Replacing it shouldn't be that hard. Sony made these things for 10 years, and a surprisingly large number were bought and then stuck in a closet. That's good news for us because they show up on Ebay about twice a month. Sometimes they sell for almost nothing.
Now, this user might want to be more careful. He raised a point that the US models might not read the Japanese language disc. I don't see why they wouldn't but this is a reasonable concern. S in this case he'd want to go look on Ebay for Japanese models of the Data Discman. They do show up every once in a while (that's where I got mine).
In the long run this user is going to have to plan on finding a replacement. CDs from that period are destined to fail in the not too distant future, and devices themselves are likely to die even sooner (they were never intended to work this long).
And unfortunately the Data Discman was never popular enough to develop the cult following of devices like the Apple Newton (which still has a 3rd party repair service), so there's almost no support for these devices.