Things you didn’t know about CD
Compact disc turned 25 years this month. The first CD was produced in a factory in Germany after years of development by Philips and Sony. The invention of the CD ushered in a technological revolution in the music industry as CDs — with their superior sound quality marked the beginning of the shift from analog to digital music technology. As the music labels experiment with extras to revive the now-aging format, it’s hard to imagine that there was ever a day without CDs. Here’s tracing the history of Compact Disc, the forefather of today’s wide array of optical discs.
German birth World’s first CD was manufactured at Philip’s factory near Hanover, Germany, on August 17, 1982. The factory belonged to Polygram — the recording company owned by Philips during that time. The compact disc project was launched following Philips’ failure with its video disc technology in 1978.
Sony comes in In 1979, Philips and Sony set up a joint task force to design the new digital audio disc. Philips developed the bulk of the disc and laser technology, while Sony contributed to the digital encoding that allowed for smooth, error-free playback. In 1980, researchers published what became known as the Red Book containing the original CD standards, as well as specifying which patents were held by Philips and which by Sony.
Hitting the market The first commercially available CD player was Sony’s CDP-101, which was launched in October 1982 at a price point of $900. Both CDs and CD players were first introduced in Japan, followed by US and European launch. The first commercial CDs pressed were `The Visitors by Abba’ and a recording of Herbert von Karajan conducting the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss. By the time CDs hit the market in November 1982, a catalog of around 150 titles — mainly classical music — was produced.Going video The proposed semiconductor chips needed for CD players were to be the most advanced ever used in a consumer product. However, the lasers were still on the drawing board when the two companies Philips and Sony teamed up in 1979. The video disc was one of the first commercial products to take advantage of laser technology that could read information from a disc without any physical contact.
From ‘Dire Straits’ US record labels were initially very sceptical about the CD. In 1985, one of the most famous bands of that time, Dire Straits, adopted the CD. Under a joint collaboration, Philips and Dire Straits promoted the sound quality of the CD to consumers. “Brothers in Arms” became the first album to sell more than one million copies in the new format, marking the success of the CD as the emerging format of choice for music quality.
Size matters Legends abound about how the size of the CD was chosen: Some said it matched a Dutch beer coaster; others believe a famous conductor or Sony executive wanted it just long enough for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The project initially toyed with the idea of quadraphonic sound but a disc with one hour of music had to be 20cm in diameter and so the plan was abandoned. Today, CDs are available in a number of shapes and sizes, and are mostly used for marketing.
Going miles If you could stretch out into a straight line all the data stored on a single compact disc it would reach for over six kilometres in length. Over 2000 billion CDs have been sold in last 25 years. In 2000, global sales of CD albums peaked to 2.455 billion.