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Here’s a 40th birthday salute to the compact disc

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

After more than a decade of work, building on an idea first posited in 1931 for a device known as the “optophone,” Sony of Japan and Philips of The Netherlands, finally arrived at a new music storage and format they called the “compact disc.”

On Aug. 17, 1982, the first store-bound CD was manufactured at the Philips plant in Germany. It was one of only two such facilities on the planet, the other being in Japan and run by co-developer Sony. History records that this first commercially available CD was The Visitors, which had been released by ABBA a year earlier. Other discs may have been produced that same day, but this one was the first off the line.

Okay, if we’re going to get pedantic about things, the very first CD was a test pressing of Richard Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie featuring recordings by the Berlin Philharmonic in December 1980, but it was used in the lab and for demonstrations.

The first commercially produced CD was a 1979 recording of Chopin waltzes by Claudio Arrau that came out in very limited numbers on Aug. 17, 1982, just as the ABBA disc was being manufactured. And a CD version of the Bee Gees’ Living Eyes was shown off on the BBC Show Tomorrow’s World in 1981. Note all the different prototype CD players in this clip, which appears to have been the first public demonstration of the technology.

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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.

Alan Cross has 37434 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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