The Compact Disc is Coming Up on Its 35th Birthday

Shortly after the recording industry was born in the late 19th century, the 10-inch 78 RPM disc became the standard format and ruled the world for nearly fifty years. Even after vinyl records first appeared in 1948, the 78 took until at least 1963 to die.

Despite a close call with death in the late 1990s/early 2000s, LPs and 7-inch continue to be with us and will be around to celebrate their 70th birthdays.

Then we have the compact disc, which is coming up on its 35th birthday. Will we still be talking about CDs in another 35 years?  Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, Dr. Proximo of brother site, Geeks and Beats takes a look at those shiny little discs.

The origins of the CD and its related technology are varied and often disputed. For a more complete look at the issue, I recommend this article on Low End Mac, but general consensus is that today marks the 35th anniversary of the product as we know it today.

The “First” CD

Various recordings hold claim on the title of “first CD”, depending on your criteria. In 1979, the first test pressing was a recording of Richard Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie. The first public demonstration was a presentation of The Bee Gees’ Lying Eyes, on the BBC TV show Tomorrow’s World, in 1981. It was 1982 that saw the really big steps. The first commercial CD produced was a collection of Chopin waltzes performed by Claudio Arrau. The first popular music CD was ABBA’s The Visitor. And then, on October 1, the first CD player was introduced to the market, along with the first 50 titles, lead by Billy Joel’s 52 Street. There were a full 100 titles available by the end of that year. The first CD player was Sony’s CDP-101, priced at $900 (about $2300 in today’s economy).

The New Standard

It’s hard to say objectively when the format was accepted as a new standard, but one important milestone was in Februrary of 1985. That’s when RCA Records converted David Bowie’s 15-album catalogue to the new format. 1985 was also the year that CD-ROM technology hit the market. 5 years later, CD-RW (called CD-Rerecordable at the time) attempted to replace the blank tape and the floppy disc. The first CD to sell a million copies was Dire Straits’ 1985 classic Brothers in Arms. That doesn’t surprise me at all, I remember seeing it in every collection I got to browse, especially among DJs.

Read more here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.