The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 856: The rise and fall of the compact disc

On the afternoon of October 1, 1982, Sony introduced a new home stereo gizmo: the world’s first compact disc player. They called it the CDP-101.

Weird name, that. But if you take it apart, it actually makes sense. “CDP” stands for “compact disc player.” And “101” is binary notation for the number 5. That’s because the head of Sony’s audio division considered this first model to be in the middle the company’s future lineup of CD players. So “5” on a scale of 1-10, apparently.

Sony had been working on compact disc technology with a Dutch company called Philips for a number of years. They released their own machine, the CD100, about month after the CDP-101 came out.

Compact disc technology was rolled out worldwide in March 1983 and for the next 17 years, the recorded music industry experienced a boom unlike it had ever seen before. Music fans were convinced to buy all their favourite albums again. And as the popularity of vinyl and cassettes waned, the CD became the currency of the realm.

And lo, it was good. Insane amounts of money were made year after year after year.

But nothing lasts forever. In about 2000, the bloom started to come off the CD rose. Today, CD sales are in total freefall as streaming becomes the way most people access music.

The compact isn’t dead and truth be told, it never will (we’ll get into that) but it’s never going to be the juggernaut it once was.

What happened? And how? It’s actually a fascinating story. This is the rise and fall of the compact disc.

Songs heard on this show:

Jerkhouse, Compact Disc

Screeching Weasel, Compact Disc

David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes

Metallica, Enter Sandman

Radiohead, Everything in Its Right Place

Oasis, Acquiesce

Cranberries, Zombie (CD-i version)

Here’s Eric Wilhite’s playlist for the show.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

If you ever miss a show, you can always get the podcast edition available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

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.

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