The Compact Disc turns 20.
October 25, 2002 1:21 PM   Subscribe

The Compact Disc turns 20.
posted by lucien (28 comments total)
When the CD was launched twenty years ago many people believed the format wouldn't last. Audiophiles lamented the introduction of digital recordings, protesting that they did not capture the complete sound wave. Initially, CD players were expensive when compared with turntables of a comparative quality.

However the CD was a success, largely because it was more convenient and longer lasting than conventional vinyl records. The CD didn't skip, it was easy to clean, and you didn't have to worry about dust getting into the tracks or track wear. CD's didn't buckle when you left them on the back seat of your car on a sunny day. We didn't have to back up our CD's onto tape to ensure that the sound quality did not degrade over time.

As with anything, you get what pay for. Top end CD players have very high sampling rates, overcoming some of the complaints about digital versus analogue sound.

With new technologies such as DVD becoming more widely adopted, will the CD celebrate it's 30th birthday?

The CD gave us quality, durability, and portability in an affordable and compact sound medium.

Happy Birthday, CD!
posted by lucien at 1:23 PM on October 25, 2002

I still have never bought a commercially-produced CD for my own use. I don't want to get caught up in a fad.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:34 PM on October 25, 2002

Billy Joel's 52nd Street was the first CD to go on sale in Japan. Six classical discs from the Philips/Decca/DG catalogue were released in Australia on day one. They cost $18...

Wait a minute-
posted by gottabefunky at 1:38 PM on October 25, 2002

CD Sound quality still is pretty mediocre, although less mediocre than in 1987, when I first heard one. I miss the warmth of LPs. And I can't really afford the $5K or $10K needed to approach that warmth.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:42 PM on October 25, 2002

Can anyone explain how that Yamaha Pro-Bit technology works? Does it simply stretch out ("blur") the bit sequence?

Humans can generally only hear from 20-20,000Hz, but because of the Nyquist theorem, audio has to be sampled at twice that rate for optimal sound resolution (due to overtones and other psychoacoustic effects). Most sound quality improvements are with the DAC, but this doesn't appear to be involved with that. Any audiophiles out there?
posted by krunk at 1:44 PM on October 25, 2002

I miss having audio perception refined enough to distinguish between an LP and a CD. What a drag it is, getting old.
posted by mkhall at 1:47 PM on October 25, 2002

I remember my brother got the first CD player in the neighborhood, and bought a few horrible new wave CDs. The player was bigger than our VCR, and heated up when it played discs. I also distinctly remember the biggest critic on my street was the kid across from us, that owned a Betamax player "it's just an expensive passing fad!" he noted.
posted by mathowie at 1:54 PM on October 25, 2002

I still have never bought a commercially-produced CD for my own use. I don't want to get caught up in a fad.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:34 PM PST on October 25

Unfortunately, while you were in here making that comment, hooligans made off with your Model-T.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:59 PM on October 25, 2002

From the article: "In fact, within five years CDs had killed vinyl stone-dead."

Er, no. Ask any pimply DJ getting paid loadsadough to spin at any club or rave.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:13 PM on October 25, 2002

in honor of the anniversary, i hope they bring back the long cardboard boxes in which they were first sold... completely unnecessary packaging idea #377.
posted by adamms222 at 2:16 PM on October 25, 2002

"Unfortunately, while you were in here making that comment, hooligans made off with your Model-T."

Those durned whippersnappers! Next thing you know I'll have to start locking the gate so's they don't make off with my plow horse!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2002

I have a friend who has CD copies of Jean Michel Jarr albums bought has bought them on vinyl instead because of the sound quality ...

... I also heard that when Elton John was first transfering his back catalogue, he went to HMV and bought some vinyl copies because they sounded better than the dat tapes ...
posted by feelinglistless at 3:50 PM on October 25, 2002

Let's see my first cd's (which were some of the first cd's)
- Prince "Around the World in a Day"
- Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense"
- Telarc sampler cd (had a killer version of "Good Vibrations" on it)
- Wham! "Make it Big" (Ouch, I was 13 okay?)

Umm, there's more I'm sure, but these are the ones I still have. (Except for the Wham! one, I destroyed that one)
posted by jeremias at 4:01 PM on October 25, 2002

I refuse to believe that anybody can distinguish between a high end C player and a high end turntable/vinyl. Many audiophiles claim they can, but I'd like to see scientific evidence.

I don't think DVD-Audio, or any other format is going to supercede CD any time soon. The failures of DAT and Minidisc have shown that it's not easy to change consumer habits unless the new format offers tangible benefits. For most people, CD offers perfectly good quality with convenience of use. Until 80% of the population is hooking their DVD players up to their hifis, why would anyond change?
posted by salmacis at 4:23 PM on October 25, 2002

I remember the long cardboard packaging as being necessary in the beginning so that record stores could display them side-by-side in the same spaces that LPs fit into. There was no way that stores were going to bring in all new shelving and display cases for this entirely new format. Records, after all, were going to still sell.
posted by yhbc at 4:29 PM on October 25, 2002

I remember this about the longbox:
  • it was called an anti-theft device
  • it added about $1 (U.S.) to the retail price
  • when it was phased out, CD prices would probably decrease
  • (ditto for when more CD plants came on line, ha ha)
posted by kurumi at 4:40 PM on October 25, 2002

I don't pretend to be able to tell the sound quality difference between cd's and vinyl (or care), but when it comes to cover art you can't beat those big LP sleeves.

When are they going to invent something better to put cd's in than those craptacular jewel cases? The teeth on that centre thing break, the hinge breaks, the booklet's gets snagged when you try to take them out - they're just plain awful!

Does anyone know of a push for alternate cd cases?
posted by backOfYourMind at 4:40 PM on October 25, 2002

The CD can't be twenty, because I remember when they introduced it, and I'm only.... oh, wait. Never mind.

I feel old.
posted by kindall at 5:58 PM on October 25, 2002

I thought the longbox was designed to fit into a 12" record bin, so that the record stores didn't have to buy CD racks to support the format when it was new.

Going out on a limb, I think CDs are probably the last big audio hardware format. CDs will be replaced by a software format -- OGG, MP3, etc. If you want to put music on a portable medium, you just transfer or burn the files. The music (files) gets separated from the storage medium (CD, DVD-RW, iPod, e-mail attachment etc.).
posted by fuzz at 6:09 PM on October 25, 2002

(oops, sorry, props to yhbc)
posted by fuzz at 6:11 PM on October 25, 2002

/me takes props
posted by yhbc at 6:14 PM on October 25, 2002

I worked in a CD factory back in 1989. Whenever anyone mentions the fall of the Berlin wall, I get flashbacks of this monstrous and vicious CD packing machine I was working on when the news from Berlin came through on the radio.

Anyway, I remember reading back then that no new factories for pressing LPs had been built since 1987. Is that still true?
posted by Triplanetary at 6:14 PM on October 25, 2002

You could buy a CD wallet.

Seriously, I have one of those 200-CD briefcase things; they're great!
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 6:47 PM on October 25, 2002

The CD briefcase thing is no good because it makes it a pain to open up a space to insert a new disc in its proper alphabetical location. The best solution I've found for a sizable collection is to put the CDs and booklets in paper CD sleeves, and store these in a 5.25" disk box.
posted by kindall at 8:16 PM on October 25, 2002

Krunk - I was talking audiophilia with a friend of mine earlier today! I'm pretty sure the pro-bit technology output is still digital. While DAC converts, pro-bit adds to the 16 bit signal. You hear 20-bit output because pro-bit reads the sounds just before and after the current signal and generates the appropriate sound to sort of fill in the gaps, making for a richer hi-rez sound. Honestly, I think your biggest sound reproducer is the power amp and the speakers. What good is hi-rez rich sound if you don't have a set of kick-ass speakers?

Fuzz - CDs will be replaced by a software format -- OGG, MP3, etc.

They have in my house, for the most part. I throw 150 mp3 files on a CD-R and I have my car music for the week.
posted by Modem Ovary at 9:24 PM on October 25, 2002

Long live the vinyl!!!!

It is definitely NOT true that CDs killed vinyl.....I still buy records today (<----DJ).....

But it IS true that LPs sound fuller than CDs.....frequencies above and below human hearing range affect and add to the harmonics of the entire track, which CDs do not pick up.....but it's pretty hard to notice unless you've got you're ear trained (and many of the music put on vinyl today is actually cut from a digital copy anyway)....
posted by texaselnk at 1:30 AM on October 26, 2002

Eh. It would've been nice if the article had bothered to credit James T. Russell for theorising and then inventing the compact disc in the first place (he patented the first digital recording/playback device in 1970)...
posted by H.B. Death at 5:04 AM on October 26, 2002

I remember when Sgt. Pepper's was released on CD... Friggin' 7-11 (which never did that sort of thing then) had a big rack of 'em it was such a big deal, or so it seemed. I think I bought my first CD player in '84 (I was ten), it was a demo-model so I could actually afford it (I THINK it was $280 CDN but not sure). I remember my first 45 and LP purchase, but strangley I do not have any idea what my first CD purchase was.
posted by imaswinger at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2002

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