History of Technology: 30th anniversary of the release of the CD
With streaming Music services like Spotify or devices capable of playing MP3 files (like the iPod, the vast majority of smartphones available in the market or Hi-Fi equipment including USB ports), we have gradually relegating CD into the background. However, this format has revolutionized the music market and was pushing analog systems (cassette tapes or vinyl records, by making them collector’s items) to enter the world of digital formats which could combine the comfort of a reduced size format (not had to turn around) with a huge improvement in sound quality (and transformation processes of recording). Although it may seem the CD format and almost obsolete past, really not “that old” as we might think it just turns 30 today .
On October 1, 1982 was released the first album on CD and the first music player that can play this new format and how could it be otherwise, both milestones occurred in Japan. Specifically, the first CD player to hit the market was the Sony CDP-101 (although it goes on sale in the rest of the world was delayed a bit longer for Philips, the other partner in the project could market their equipment) and first album was offered for sale on 52nd Stree t of Billy Joel (a re-release of an album released in 1978) which, of course, was released by Sony Records.
Although official date is taken as the October 1, 1982, the path to that epoch was quite long and began in the mid-70s where Philips and Sony began exploring the digitization of audio separately until converged 1980 and started working together.
In 1974, a team-based Philips Eindhoven (Netherlands) began working with optical devices (laser) with the idea of improving the sound quality of the discs of the time (the records). After several months of work, the team concluded that the best way to achieve this goal would be through a process of digitization of audio signals as they thought format a disk about 20 inches in diameter (enough to store information and redundancy to prevent errors). In parallel, Sony also began working on optical discs like vinyl developments and attended their first demo in 1976.
From there, the two companies began a career of demos and prototypes, despite their value from the point of view of engineering, caused some skepticism in the music industry and users. In September 1978, Sony introduced an optical disc which had recorded 150 minutes of digitized music (with a sampling rate of 44.056 kHz and a resolution of 16 bits) with specifications close to those of the CDs we know and astonish attendees of the Audio Engineering Society in that year. Months later, on March 8, 1979, Philips would give another big jump in this race: the presentation of a prototype CD player, an event entitled “Enter Philips Compact Disc” which has been recognized by the IEEE as a milestone history of engineering .
With the dominance of digitizing audio from Sony and Philips hardware domain, the two companies decided to join forces and form a joint task force to drive this new digital audio format to join efforts and, most importantly, set a standard that permitted to regulate the market: the Red Book Compact Disc standard (which was published in 1980 and was adopted by the IEC in 1987). In addition to drafting the standard, companies specialized in various fields since Philips contributed the CD manufacturing process and the process of reading the disc and Sony contributed the error-correction method (CIRC) and everything to do with the encoding digital.
And what about Billy Joel and his album 52nd Street? Although formally is the first CD that was released, there is nowhere near the first musical recording which materialized in a CD. After the standard written in 1980, it was presented to industry and, from there, 40 companies applied for licenses worldwide to produce besides players and discs captivate some heavyweights in the world of music campaigned This new format.
The CD will not be what it is, in my opinion, if it were not for the great conductor Herbert von Karajan who, from the outset, understood format and its possibilities (to the point of participating in press conferences and presentations ). Indeed, the first recording was made on CD (on a pilot) was the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss performed by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Karajan (a particularly significant because Deutsche Grammophon , the label for which he worked Karajan was founded by Emile Berliner , the inventor of the gramophone and at that time belonged to Polydor, which in turn owned by Philips). In the interpretation of Karajan would follow an edit disk Living Eyes Bee Gees that was used in a BBC program entitled “Tomorrow’s World” (which revolved around technology foresight and technologies that mark the future).
The arrival of the CD also mark a recording studio and they also had to adapt to the new rules of the game to capture at source audio with the best possible quality processes using digital recording and editing, something that would be used for the first time in the album The Visitors of ABBA (recorded in 1981 and released on CD in 1982) and in the field of classical music, Chopin’s waltzes played by the pianist Claudio Arrau . However, the result of the agreement with Philips Sony, Sony would be responsible for launching the first CD player together with the first and in the end, the Billy Joel album became the first album to hit the market in this format today turns 30.