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40 facts as the CD turns 40


Lyrics by Christie Eliezer

What you didn’t know about the CD

The invention of the compact disc (CD) ushered in a digital age that revolutionized the way music was created, distributed and consumed.

CD celebrates 40 yearse anniversary in 2022. But the concept started in the 1960s.

The story began with American physicist James Russell, who worked in the experimental division of General Electric in Richland, Washington. He designed and built the first electron beam welder and was among the first to use a color television screen and keyboard as the primary interface between computer and operator.

A classical music enthusiast, he was frustrated with the way his vinyl records skipped and scratched, and had subpar sound quality. He first tried to improve the record player, replacing the steel stylus with a cactus needle, but was unsuccessful.

He then realized that the quality of the vinyl record could be maintained by completely removing the stylus with a light that played music without physically touching the record.

Dr. Russell has won numerous awards. But he received no financial reward from his inventions as he was employed by the company.

To celebrate 40 years of the CD, we bring you 40 facts!

Read all the latest features, interviews, and how-to topics here.

1. After Philips in Europe (then Royal Philips Electronics) and Sony in Japan rushed to become the first to develop prototypes, they announced in 1979 that they were pooling their resources.

Philips focused on its physical design and how the laser read information.

Sony’s role was the design of the analog-to-digital conversion circuit, the encoding of the digital signals, and the design of the error-correcting code.

2. It was not a harmonious relationship. Philips’ idea was for the disc to be 115mm, which was close to the size of its cassette.

3. Sony wanted the 120mm disc as the industry standard, knowing that Philips would have the advantage in manufacturing as it already had a factory capable of producing 11.5cm CDs.

4. It ended up being 120mm, which would allow for 74 minutes of music.

5. There are two versions of the 74-minute idea.

6. Sony and Philips knew that legendary Austrian conductor Herbert Von Karajan, who sold 200 million records, was crucial in selling the new format to Europeans.

He agreed to appear at the April 15, 1981 press conference in Salzburg, Vienna, where they would present the prototype of the shiny new record, on the condition that the Beethoven set Ninth Symphony could be played without interruption.

The longest recording, Wilhelm Furtwängler’s performance in 1951, lasted 74 minutes.

seven. In another version, the 1951 recording was the favorite of Sony vice president Norio Ohga (later president and president), an opera singer who was president of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was he (or his wife, acclaimed classical pianist Midori Matsubara) who wanted the 74 minutes.

8. The CD was actually released with a capacity of 74 minutes 33 seconds, but the U-Matic master tapes used to make them lasted only 72 minutes. It was therefore only in 1988 that Beethoven’s 9th fit on a single disc.

9. Sony sold the world’s first CD in 1982, and CDs surpassed LP sales in Japan five years later.

ten. The CD specifications were also used in later formats such as MiniDisc and DVD.

11. A misconception is that ABBA Visitors was the first album to be released on CD.

Granted, it was recorded on a number of formats, including digital. It was first released on vinyl and cassette in November 1981, but the CD version was not released until 1983.

12. By then, 150 titles had been simultaneously released on the new format in Japan by October 1, 1982.

13. The first catalog number of these was that of Billy Joel 52nd street.

Others in the lot were from Toto Turn aroundpink floyd wish you were Heremichael jackson On the wallSantana’s ShangoVangelis’ chariots of fire soundtrack, Quarterflash quarterflash, by Tchaikovsky 1812 Opening and the Nolans Don’t love me too much.

14. They came to the Japanese market with Sony’s CDP-101 CD player on October 1, 1982 – classy but expensive at US$1,000 ($2,966 in today’s money). The CDP-101 did not reach American shores until early 1983.

15. The CDs and players hit the US, Australian and European markets on March 2, 1983 with 16 tracks from the Sony CBS label.

16. At that time, there were 1,000 titles on the format.

17. But far-sighted Australian retailers like Canberra’s Kent Hi-Fi realized that CDs were the future and started importing from Japan in 1982.

18. The first American release, in 1984, was that of Bruce Springsteen Born in the United States.

19. CD booklets warned that discs should be protected from dust, fingerprints and scratches. But they have earned a reputation for indestructibility.

20. BBC TV The world of tomorrow wondered if there was a market for it and tested its resilience by scratching and scraping a Bee Gees CD. The urban legend was that the presenters smeared the disc with strawberry jam, but this has been denied.

21. The CD format was first adopted by audiophiles and mainstream consumers. As player prices fell, demand became mainstream.

22. In 1988, 400 million CDs were produced by 50 pressing plants around the world.

23. That year they eclipsed vinyl, overtaking cassette three years later. In 2007, 200 billion CDs were sold.

24. What sold the format was Dire Straits Brothers in arms (May 1985), made at AIR Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

“It was pretty twisty,” said co-producer Neil Dorfsman sound on sound about the cramped size of the main room. But his Neve console “was so good, everything you put on it sounded good.”

25. Dorfsman reveals that the digital multitrack was mixed on an analog card with the resulting two-track mix re-digitized through a Prism A/D converter and recorded on a DAT machine.

26. Brothers in arms was the first CD to sell a million. It then reached 30 million worldwide.

27. In Australia, it remains the longest stay at No. 1 (34 weeks) on the ARIA charts and has been certified 17x platinum for sales of 1.24 million.

28. The overwhelming demand in manufacturing plants around the world for Brothers in arms was a nightmare for Rykodisc, which had just launched as the first CD-only record label.

29. The first CD made in Australia was Whispering Jack (1986) by John Farnham via Disctronics in Melbourne.

30. But the first Australian CD to hit the market was Andrew Thomas Wilson’s electronic vibes. Carnavonmade at Studios 301 in Sydney in mid-1984 and made in Japan for an Australian broadcast on October 20, 1984.

31. Disctronics was Australia’s first CD factory. It opened its doors in February 1987, with 80% of its customers initially coming from Europe and the United States.

32. The first major artist to release his full catalog on CD was David Bowie, with 15 albums made available in February 1985.

33. The best-selling CD (not the best-selling title) is Beatles 1, released in November 2000, with worldwide sales of 30 million records.

34. By 1987, CDs had overtaken vinyl in stores and overthrown cassette tapes by 1991.

35. The CD met traditional computer technology in 1991 with the CD-i, designed to contain videos, lyrics, animations and other interactive content. Within a year, 50 titles were available on CD-i.

36. The video CD in 1994 was introduced by co-founder Sony to record and play concerts, karaoke and interactive content for children.

37. But it was quickly replaced by the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) – invented by Philips, Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic – which scrapped the VHS tape.

38. The first rewritable CD — the CD-RW — hit the market in 1997 but was affected by its high price.

39. The end came for the CD from 2000 after the introduction of a new format called MP3, and the concept of purchasing, storing and playing music on the consumer’s personal computer.

Nearly 300,000 tracks sold in the service’s first 24 hours, with Apple selling single-track MP3s for $0.99 and albums for $9.99.

In 2017/18, streaming overtook CD sales worldwide.

40. According to the Australia Recording Industry Association, CD album sales in Australia increased from 8,359,548 in 2017 to 5,892,665 in 2018, 3,794,171 in 2019, 3,291,332 in 2020 and 2,293,671 in 2021.

Learn more about how CDs work here.