Ongoing History Daily: The birth of the compact disc

Let’s take a look at the birth of the compact disc, which first appeared for sale in February 1983. It was the result of a joint project between Sony of Japan and Philips of the Netherlands.  But the roots of the CD go back to 1964 when Philips was working on an experimental video laser disc.

They worked on their video disc until about 1979 when they decided to pursue something called a “D.A.D.”–a digital audio disc.  It was a 12 cm plastic disc with digital information stored in microscopic pits.  The disc rotated at between 200 and 500 RPM and was read by a laser that moved from the inside out. 

Sales for the new compact disc were slow at first but then started to explode by the end of the 80s. It ushered in the most prosperous time ever seen by the recorded music industry. Now? It’s slowly headed towards extinction.

Speaking of technology, yesterday’s post was about a quaint book I found in my music library.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

One thought on “Ongoing History Daily: The birth of the compact disc

  • July 1, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    It’s interesting to me that original audio CDs were actually designed to slow down their rotation as the laser moved from the centre toward the outer edge, to read data at a consistent speed. And CD-ROM drives later unlocked that slowdown and were advertised to operate at say 24-48x speed, 24 on the inside, and 48 at the outer edge.

    Conversely vinyl always spins at a consistent speed, and that means that the audio quality in theory is better at the outer edge with the grooves being longer, and you start losing fidelity the further into the centre you go.


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