CD celebrates 30th birthday
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:10
In today’s digital music downloading society, people have seemingly almost forgotten entirely about purchasing music as a tangible product.
In 2011, digital music sales accounted for 50.3 per cent of music sales in comparison to physical album sales. Nonetheless, the Compact Disc (CD) still remains as an important entry in our technological history, and on Oct. 1, the CD turned 30-years-old.
The first album released in CD format was Billy Joel’s sixth studio album, 52nd Street, which was released on Oct. 1, 1982 alongside the first CD player, the Sony CDP-101. It is interesting to note that since that date, the technology has not changed too much, as CDs today still resemble the discs of 30 years ago.
Although CD sales have seen a decline recently, the CD still serves as the forefather to modern DVDs, Blu-rays and the precursor of today’s digital music movement.
The development of the CD dates back to 1974 when Dutch electronics company Philips began looking into an optical audio disc format that would offer superior sound in comparison to the popular vinyl record. These discs measured 20cm in diameter.
In 1977, the name “Compact Disc” was chosen as it complimented another Philips product, the compact cassette. Development of an 11.5cm disc began as Philips wished for the product to be more portable.
At this same time, Sony was also working on developing their own CDs, in the form of a 12cm disc. However, the two companies decided to partner for the product’s launch in 1982, opting for the 12cm format.
Interestingly, Sony was adamant about using the 12cm format as they believed the running time of the newly developed medium should be able to fit Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in its entirety. Another theory is that Philips was prepared to begin production of 11.5cm discs and because Sony did not have a production plant yet themselves, they stressed the 12cm format to level the playing field.
When the CD was first released, it was met with both criticism and skepticism. Some people preferred the warm sound of vinyl, whereas others stressed that the CD was cleaner, allowing the listener to hear everything in the artist’s recording. The debate about vinyl versus CD sound quality continues to this day.
Eventually, the CD caught on as electronics companies Worldwide began releasing their own CD players. One advantage the CD definitely held over vinyl was its perfect sound quality. If taken care of properly, a CD does not suffer any losses in sound quality, regardless of how much it is played. Vinyl records, however, begin to skip, crackle and otherwise sound much worse when they are played many times over.
But just as the CD replaced vinyl, it appears as though digital music will inevitably replace the CD. Collectors who wish to own a physical copy of their music still exist, but it appears as though digital music and music streaming services are the future of the music industry.