Happy birthday dear CD!
August 17, 2007 3:16 AM   Subscribe

Happy birthday dear CD! Today marks 25 years since the first CD rolled off the production line. Love it, lump it or just use this occasion as an excuse to eat cake.
posted by soundofsuburbia (55 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
CD=RM8TT
posted by googly at 3:20 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't want to moderate my own thread... But goddammit, "Atomizer" is a true masterpiece. I just want to go on record (hey!) stating that.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:29 AM on August 17, 2007


Although these guys won i wonder if they will be celebrating?
posted by ItsaMario at 3:33 AM on August 17, 2007


Too bad you just missed Vinyl Record Day (August 12).
posted by caddis at 3:41 AM on August 17, 2007


... I sold my whole record collection after receiving my first CD player. But the 'record' companies took forever to republish all that stuff on silver platters.

These days I am trying to get rid if my CD collection because I have almost everything on MP3. I am sure I bought a lot of stuff twice (vinyl and CD), because there never was an 'upgrade' program.

I think my oldest CD is Peter Gabriels 'Birdy'. And yours?
posted by homodigitalis at 4:39 AM on August 17, 2007


I was still young when my parents bought their first CD player, the very first Sony Discman. (this was back when Sony was the best you could buy. Once upon a time, in a land far far away, Sony wasn't a music company. Before they got hijacked by their media division, they were the best electronics company on the planet.)

It was quite a lot larger than later portables... width and depth were just a little larger than a CD (that part of the formfactor obviously never got much smaller), but it was about as thick as a 500-page paperback... easily three times thicker than the slimline things that came later.

But, wow, the sound... at the time, the only portable competition was cassette tapes. Most of my music listening had been on the radio or on 8-tracks and cassettes, so that thing was freakishly amazing. I don't even know if the headset was any good, but coming from a Walkman, it didn't matter. No tape hiss! Pure, crystal clarity. And they still remembered the concept of dynamic range back then, instead of jamming everything into the top 5% of the volume.

Today's music focus is almost all on being LOUD, but the thrill of the CD was how QUIET it was. You could have music that was so quiet it was barely there and still be able to hear and understand it perfectly, simply because there was no hiss. The absence of hiss and needle scratch was amazing. The very first CD I ever bought, Berlin's "Count Three and Pray", was pretty typical pop for the time. But even that relatively schlocky album was well-mastered, with quiet lows and dynamic highs; they really took advantage of the format. The dynamic range on CDs is unbelievable compared to all the analog formats, and they took full advantage.

Nowadays, we've transitioned into maxloud, which has badly damaged the quality of mainstream music. Evanescence's "Fallen" is a great example, very comparable with Berlin in many ways. I would have loved that album to death if it were mastered to 1985 standards, but they completely butchered it to work on the radio. Probably 90% of that album was mixed past clipping. I would like to find that engineer and slap him.

Anyway.... the other thing about CDs is that they don't easily wear out. Here it is, 22 or 23 years later, and I still have that same CD. It sounds just as good as it ever did. I've digitally archived it, just in case, but it's flawless as far as I can tell. I finally gave away the Discman to someone who still didn't have a CD player six or seven years ago... it was still working just fine. (Sony really was amazing at one time.)

There are those who argue that the sound of records is better, but they miss the point. The CD wasn't competing with $5,000 stereo stacks, it was marketed at people with $500 systems. And I, personally, don't think records sound better if the CD is properly mastered. They just can't abuse vinyl like they can a CD; I bet that overmixed Evanescence garbage would knock a record needle right out of the groove.

At this point, I'd take even indifferently-mastered vinyl over a lot of the crap that's being sold today, but that's not because vinyl is inherently superior, it just can't be abused. When both formats are done properly by a talented engineer who's focused on quality, not volume, I think CDs sound a lot better.

Whatever your view on this technology, there's probably been no other single innovation that changed the music industry as much. The CD transition was a cash bonanza for them, a once-in-a-lifetime jackpot as everyone switched from records and tapes to CDs... most people repurchased their entire music collections.

The record companies got used to that, and they desperately want it to continue. That's why they push DRM so hard. It's not because you'll 'steal' the music... they want it DRMed so that you have to keep buying the same thing over and over if you want to keep listening to it.

On the whole, despite the high quality of the format, I'm not sure the CD was actually good for music.
posted by Malor at 4:46 AM on August 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


These days I am trying to get rid if my CD collection because I have almost everything on MP3.

Heretic.

:-)
posted by Malor at 4:47 AM on August 17, 2007


My first CD was two CDs: Guns N' Roses, Use Your Illusion.
posted by creasy boy at 5:01 AM on August 17, 2007


Interesting (in)side note.

Back in the 80s Tandy Corporation (RadioShack) was a vertically integrated consumer electronics manufacturer and retailers and they like to play by their own rules. One major rule was to put consumers first — ahead of cable companies or record labels.

Around 1988, they announced Tandy THOR recordable CD technology which got the RIAA's panties in a wad. That's right, you could have burned CDs on your Tandy Sensation! back in 1991. The RIAA scared the shit out of Tandy execs and suddenly the technology got too complicated or expensive to bring to market.
posted by punkfloyd at 5:36 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Before CDs actually were on the market, I used to read about them in magazines. They were touted as more durable than LPs, but also, and loudly, as cheaper to make than vinyl. Also, they were touted as highly durable.

So I was quite puzzled when CDs came on the market costing more than LPs. And here I am today, puzzled again, by the Negativland article linked, not mentioning any of that part of the story.

It is all just the industry shitting on the consumers. They damn things cost more, and aren't as indestructible as promised. (Of course, DvDs are even worse that way). Yet that problem with the discs could so easily be rectified by just putting them in a sleeve, just like the old 3.5" floppy discs. But no, that would make them less money, so we have the same shit with DVDs.

For myself, the result is simply that I no longer find any special joy in collecting music. The discs are just plastic crap that may or may not still be good. I'd have to play one to find out, and who plays CDs anymore? The whole Apple music thing failed me when it wasn't available outside the USA (or at least, not where I lived, when I checked). Not that I'd have been very attracted to the whole DRM mess anyhow (I don't use an ipod, my mp3 player is much older, myself being a rather early adopter).

But yea, CDs are nicer than LPs, in use. None of the boring problem of having to carefully clean before playing, there's a big plus. When I finally bought myself a player, in 1989, the first album (language note: An album is a collection, whether on vinyl, tape, or CD. Deal with it) I bought was Isao Tomita's "Snowflakes are Dancing", something I'd loved since first hearing in 1974. Funny enough, Deje Vu was one of the other first albums I bought on CD (mentioned in the article). Now get off my lawn!
posted by Goofyy at 5:44 AM on August 17, 2007


Wasn't the promise by the industry in the early days that as the technology was adopted, CDs would become a lot cheaper to buy than vinyl? The third link indicates that this should have happened, but my impression was that the music industry used this as incentive to get people to switch (the faster you switch, the faster you'll see lower prices).
posted by troybob at 5:45 AM on August 17, 2007


Weird, I think I should remember what was the first CD that I bought, since I kind of held out against switching for a long time, so it seems like it would have been noteworthy. But - no. I think it might have been either a set of Sibelius symphonies or the Bartók quartets. It took me longer to get around to buying anything popular on CD, and I really don't remember what the first one was. It might have been Purgatory Afterglow. I'm sure this is all pretty fascinating.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:00 AM on August 17, 2007


The thing I just described as "popular" is far less popular than the other two things I mentioned. Peculiar terminology.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:01 AM on August 17, 2007


My first CD was also two CDs: Neil Young's "Weld."
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:33 AM on August 17, 2007


I remember going into a high end stereo shop when they first came out when I was still in high school. The salesman played Stairway to Heaven for us and cranked. We could hear a hiss and he told us the hiss was from the master tape. We were impressed.
posted by zzazazz at 6:38 AM on August 17, 2007


Chalk me up as one of the suckers who threw out almost all of his tapes and spent hundreds of dollars replacing them with CDs; i.e. the music industry's dream customer. Of course, now I'm making up for lost money by downloading a lot. These days I hardly ever buy anything on CD unless it comes with something value-added (like the liner notes and photos that come with every bitchin' Numero Group reissue).

I believe my first two CDs were "Kick" by INXS and "Led Zeppelin I".
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:43 AM on August 17, 2007


[The CD's] maximum playing time, about 75 minutes, was chosen because the president of the company wanted something that could play his favorite piece of music, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, all the way through without stopping.

Well I'll be.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:46 AM on August 17, 2007


I think one of the reasons CDs never got cheaper was that the industry realized that to an extent, vinyl and cassettes were consumables, i.e they'd wear out, and people who played albums a lot would often buy a second, or a third over a span of years. I know I wore out three copies of King Crimson's first album between 1973 and 1983. CD's don't degrade with repeated playing, so sales would be lower due to less replacement going on. I also think this had something to do with the design of the plastic "jewel case." My theory is that the record industry settled on this form of packaging because when dropped from a standing height, a jewel case is almost 100% guaranteed to break and disgorge, thus damaging, the CD it contains. Crappy packaging = more replacement of damaged CDs = PROFIT!

My first two CDs, bought on the same day in 1989, were Tin Machine and Animal Logic. I still listen to the Tin Machine frequently. The Animal Logic, not so much.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:54 AM on August 17, 2007


I still like having music on an album. Some songs go together. Buying singles is OK but quite often one of two things happens: Either the single is not representative of the rest of the album (which these days means there's one "good" song used to sell a steaming pile of shit from the same band) or the single is representative, but taken out of the context in which the artists wished it to be placed.

Of course that's probably an old man's way of looking at music. (Sigh) Albums used to be constructed because of the limitations of the distribution media. The move to a single download format is akin to the move from radio to video; people stopped trying to make good music and started trying to make good videos, which is not the same thing. In the same way, a single-only format would mean no more concept albums. It would be a shame if the future didn't have a place for artists to release music intended to be heard together, in a specific order, to create a specific mood. Oh, no. The future (if it's all about the single) would mean lots more play for stuff like Pink Floyd's "Money" and The Who's "Pinball Wizard" without any play for the other things on those albums that make those songs more than just catchy singles in their own right. We're too quick to jump to the money shot these days, and it really takes a lot of the fun out of listening.

One of my favorite CD-related quirks is found on a Tom Petty disc I bought years ago. At the middle of the disc, Petty interrupts play to remind CD listeners that other people have to flip over the record/tape at this time, and he makes me wait for a few moments out of fairness before continuing to play. Never fails to amuse me. Will probably just confuse the hell out of my future kid.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:59 AM on August 17, 2007


caution live frogs: re. "the money shot"; been to a club lately? Not that I frequent them these days, but I was in one a few weeks ago, and the DJ was only playing a minute or so of each song before fading in the next one.

It. Drove. Me. Fucking. Crazy.

/ gropes about for his dentures
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:05 AM on August 17, 2007


Well, for all the complains about the durability of CDs, they're no worse than vinyl and there are a lot of old vinyl records out there. I have the first CDs I ever bought (I think it was a Bowie best-of and a copy of "Blue Sky Mining" by Midnight Oil) and they're as crystal clear as the day I bought them. My casettes have not fared as well, with a lot less use. Plus, after all these years, you can still play them on modern players. No 45 vs 33 RPM, no extended-long-play casettes with their extra-thin tape and for heaven's sakes, no rewinding or flipping.

I used to try to keep track of all the odd CDs I had collected. I had one with one (long) track, one with 99 tracks and ones that had no seam on the inside. Back before CD-Rs came out, these were total oddities.
posted by GuyZero at 7:11 AM on August 17, 2007


One of my favorite CD-related quirks is found on a Tom Petty disc I bought years ago. At the middle of the disc, Petty interrupts play to remind CD listeners that other people have to flip over the record/tape at this time, and he makes me wait for a few moments out of fairness before continuing to play.

I love that too. My other favorite CD quirk like that is at the end of Beck's Odelay. The CD goes on until it starts making a sound that is the digital equivalent of the needle coming to the end of the album. It's awesome.
posted by drezdn at 7:14 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


One thing I'll lament the demise of is the occasional easter egg stuck in the run-out track of an album. If you had a fully manual turntable that didn't pick up at the end of a record, it'd play forever. Two examples are the bit on Sgt. Peppers and the synthesizer drone at the end of Peter Gabriel's 2nd solo album. I went to sleep one night with that album on and woke up to the drone about 6 hours later.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:22 AM on August 17, 2007


Thanks. It's not enough to feel sick and menstrual this morning, you've gone and made me feel old too.

My first CDs were a birthday gift, I got some summer compilation mix with "Walkin' on Sunshine," MC Hammer's "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em" and C&C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat." What can I say? It was 1990.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:24 AM on August 17, 2007


drezdn, you have just shed some light on a story that my partner told me about her childhood. She said that as a kid, her and her sister were listening to a Beck album and they let the album continue to play after all the songs finished. After a while of silence, they forgot the album was on, and when it started to emit this hideous screeching noice the two girls were terrified and refused to listen to the CD again.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:40 AM on August 17, 2007


My first CD was the soundtrack to Edward Scissorhands.

But the first CD I actually bought myself was Amy Grant's Heart In Motion. I've never forgiven myself.
posted by katillathehun at 7:40 AM on August 17, 2007


The first CD I ever got was handed to me on the middle school playground. I had absolutely no use for it then and none for the foreseeable future. Only one of my friends had a CD player (a huge Sony Discman claimed bought in a park from a bum) and he wasn't there that day, so we elected to put our shiny new toy to work as a frisbee. My second CD was Earth Wind & Fire's Greatest Hits, selected by my father when I asked if I could listen to one from his collection on my new boombox. I still have that album, but like dad I've never listened to it.
posted by carsonb at 7:56 AM on August 17, 2007


Did anyone have Sponge's Rotting Piñata? There was a hidden track at the end, but between it and the last listed song was something like fourteen irritating minutes of silence, during which they somehow got the counter on my cd player to go backwards. I could never figure out how they did that.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:00 AM on August 17, 2007


"New records have sound all over them. CDs are small. There's no stature to it." - Bob Dylan
posted by Foosnark at 8:00 AM on August 17, 2007


caution live frogs writes "Of course that's probably an old man's way of looking at music. (Sigh) Albums used to be constructed because of the limitations of the distribution media. The move to a single download format is akin to the move from radio to video; people stopped trying to make good music and started trying to make good videos, which is not the same thing. In the same way, a single-only format would mean no more concept albums."

Well, the really old man's way of looking at it is, the LP and the 45 came out around the same time, but the 45 single format jump-started the distribution of rock and roll. The concept album came about 20-some years later.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:05 AM on August 17, 2007


[The CD's] maximum playing time, about 75 minutes, was chosen because the president of the company wanted something that could play his favorite piece of music, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, all the way through without stopping.

Roll over, Beethoven.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2007


My first CD was a Wagner CD with "Ride of the Valkyries" because it was so badass in Apocalypse Now.
Less embarrassing than my first LP: Barry Manilow Live.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:55 AM on August 17, 2007


My first CD was the Byrds "Sweetheart of the Rodeo". Probably says something about me but I'm not sure what.
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 AM on August 17, 2007


In 5 years everything will be FLAC and people won't pay for bits, at least not physically. Vinyl will rise in relative popularity.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2007


Terminal Verbosity: "Did anyone have Sponge's Rotting Piñata?"

I did at one point, but don't recall that hidden track. Think I sold it because I only really liked "Plowed" at the time and didn't listen to much of the rest of it (thus counteracting my own argument about single vs. album, sigh)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:52 AM on August 17, 2007


I know I wore out three copies of King Crimson's first album between 1973 and 1983.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:54 AM


Well, that makes you my hero (seriously).

First CD I bought was the Beatles "Revolver." Before I even had a player. When I got a player the first one I bought was Bob Dylan and the Band, "Before the Flood."

I miss some of the ritual of listening to records. We actually used to sit around and "listen to records." Cleaning it (the record), passing it around (the album jacket), putting it on the turntable with the anticipatory clunk and hiss until the first track begins. It just seemed more social than queing up a bunch of mp3's on a computer or putting on a CD. I have a friend that collects old console record players and sometimes we sit in his dining room and drink coffee and listen to '70s country music and big band stuff on vinyl. Maybe it's the people I hang out with, but we never sit down to "listen to a CD."
posted by marxchivist at 9:54 AM on August 17, 2007


The people I hang out with, sometimes we sit down to "look at a CD". Shiny pretty colors, dude. Pass the cheetos.
posted by Dataphage at 10:38 AM on August 17, 2007


Cleaning it (the record), passing it around (the album jacket), putting it on the turntable with the anticipatory clunk and hiss until the first track begins, Finding a suitable double album to de-seed the pot...

I kinda miss the album ritual too, but I tell you there's nothing as pleasurable as plugging my iPod in at 9 am and having it regale me at random and commercial free, all freaking day long.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:57 AM on August 17, 2007


We actually used to sit around and "listen to records."
Ah, I had a really pleasant evening doing just that with my aunt and uncle just recently. Such a simple, but intense pleasure. I don't know why, but like you I really can't imagine doing the same thing with CDs or mp3s.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:05 AM on August 17, 2007


My first ever CD (and believe me, that was some saved pennies at the time) was Toto's "Africa".

My goodness I still love every track on that CD.

I remember that we drove down from Vancouver to Seattle as a family because my Dad learned that Tower Records in Seattle had a HUGE collection of them thar new fangled media. It was an awesome day. He had bought a Pioneer CD player and the family needed some good music.

If I recall correctly we set out in the rain and by the time we hit Seattle it was beautiful and sunny. My Mom threatened my Dad against buying too many Santana cd's as he already had all of them on vinyl.

We ended up with a mittful of classical and a CD each out of saved money for my siblings and I. Afterwards it was an awesome lunch and then a walk around the Space Needle before heading home.

Funny, thinking about it I bless the rains driving down I-5...
posted by verveonica at 11:41 AM on August 17, 2007


Wolfdog writes "I don't know why, but like you I really can't imagine doing the same thing with CDs or mp3s."

I've done it with vinyl and CDs - one time in particular was after Frank Zappa died, and a friend and I spent a whole night listening to our favorite music of his, on vinyl and CDs. But mp3s wouldn't be quite the same.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:45 AM on August 17, 2007


The best physical media to nuke, that's for sure.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:15 PM on August 17, 2007


The generation after us old farts are sharing music through iphones or ipods or whatever the young whippersnappers call them. I've watched them do it. And they have as much fun in their way that we had when we sat around listening to vinyl.

I remember my sisters dancing to the turntable, which would inevitably cause the record to skip cuz they'd get carried away and bump into it, then they'd wonder why their records were scratched. Well okay, occasionally it was my fault cuz like I once used Shaun Cassidy's Da Doo Ron Ron as a frisbee (only suitable use for it), but more often than not I had nothing to do with it.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:21 PM on August 17, 2007


My first CD was Bowie's "Lets Dance". I played the shit out of that thing. My second CD ever was "Top 10" by the Flying Lizards.
posted by everichon at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2007


First CD I bought with my own money? Manic Street Preachers "Generation Terrorists". Still have it too.

(Not only has this thread made me feel young for the first time in a long time (sorry), but it's also one of those threads that reminds me why I love Mefi so much. Recordable CDs in 1991?! )
posted by garrett at 4:01 PM on August 17, 2007


Digital needn't kill listening. I started listening with 12" 78's (Silvertone red). Now my friend and I sit around the computer and listen to MP3s on iTunes -- much easier to repeat sections, critically compare takes, etc.

Ex college-DJ, eager for the skip-less, dustless (Diskwasher! yecch!) clarity and dynamic range, I still waited 10 years for the outrageous CD prices to settle. One year, the 3rd time a kid or relative wrecked a $40 needle, I switched. Then gave a 20-year LP collection to a charity -- gladly, because vinyl *always* sucked. Not that early CD sound was harsh/brittle (Beatles CDs were the terrible) -- but that ended.

Skip all that. Digital rules. After a century, performances are no longer frozen: turn one into a loop and hear it at any tempo. Add some flange. Remix, toss in that guitar part that was always missing. NirvanAhhhhhhhh. Have you heard my version of Toscanani's Schubert 9?

One day perfect compression will arrive; my whole collection will compress into one bit; I'll jump in; instant singularity.
posted by Twang at 5:33 PM on August 17, 2007


There was a hidden track at the end, but between it and the last listed song was something like fourteen irritating minutes of silence, during which they somehow got the counter on my cd player to go backwards. I could never figure out how they did that.

Some CD players will display a negative "countdown" in the sections of silence between tracks. I know I've used some players that will display "-00:02", "-00:01" between the time one track ends and the next begins. I guess your CD player was doing that for the whole 14 minutes.

My first two were Smash by the Offspring and Nevermind by Nirvana. Wonder if those will be considered embarrassing in ten years.
posted by good in a vacuum at 6:41 PM on August 17, 2007


I remember quite clearly the first time I heard digital music. I had heard about it's coming. Then, walking down a street in Nagoya, Japan, about 25 years ago, I heard some tinny, thin and metallic music coming out of a street speaker, and thought: AHH! Digital music is here! And it sounds like shit!

Of course, they have worked out the sound problems. CD's sound good now. And there will always be some of us dinosaurs who keep our LP collections.

I don't even want to get into the screwing of the musicians; that topic is old and tragic...but...doesn't the industry employ engineers? I am of course referring to the issue of spending 18 dollars for a CD and having the cheap-ass plastic hinges breaking off in a few months. Please. How can the industry self-destruct so mindlessly?

Sure, hinges are small things...but they are indicative of the larger issues around disregard for the consumers of the products of the music industry.
posted by kozad at 8:18 PM on August 17, 2007


DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Summertime.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:46 PM on August 17, 2007


Pretty Hate Machine
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:39 PM on August 17, 2007


Beatles' White Album (double CD) and Michael Jackson's Bad. Trying to be eclectic much?
posted by grubby at 12:48 AM on August 18, 2007


The first CD I ever bought was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' Californication. Please, never let me hear the end of it.
posted by tehloki at 4:19 AM on August 18, 2007


The first CD I ever bought was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' Californication. Please, never let me hear the end of it.

What's the deal with those guys, anyway? Did they sign a contract with the California Board of Tourism to include the word "California" in every goddam song, or what?

My first two were Smash by the Offspring and Nevermind by Nirvana. Wonder if those will be considered embarrassing in ten years.

Why wait?
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:33 AM on August 18, 2007


I bought my first CDs (and CD player) in September 1992, my sophomore year of college.

I broke up with my long-term, long-distance boyfriend over the phone, went to the mall with my friends, bought the stuff (Abbey Road, Rio and a 1966 Billboard Top 10 compilation), went back to my dorm, set it up, got drunk and did various things that probably lowered my purity test score a few points.

Good times.
posted by Lucinda at 8:17 AM on August 18, 2007


My first CD was ac/dc's back in black, which I bought in 1990. It disappointed me by sounding plodding and weak. About a year ago I ran into some software to re-record it as 2% faster without changing the pitch, and with more bass. They must have played it faster on the radio to make room for ads. 17 years later, I finally got my ya-yas.
posted by dong_resin at 12:48 PM on August 18, 2007


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