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Happy Birthday: The compact disc has been around for four decades

The compact disc is now 40 years old 8 March 2019
The CD format is now 40
Although it became commercially available more than three years later, the compact disc as we know it was demonstrated for the international press by Philips on March 8, 1979. Later that month, Sony joined in and the two companies quickly managed to turn the CD format into a global standard and bring this technology to the masses.

While many consider the compact disc to be outdated — and they are basically right — this data storage technology is still alive and well no less than four decades after its introduction. Although it needed a few years to take off, the CD is one of the few storage formats that has been on the market since the early 1980s without going through any radical changes, although it laid the foundation for more advanced technologies — the DVD and the Blu-ray, for example.

Although the origins of the CD technology can be traced back to the 1960s, when James T. Russell invented the first system to record digital information on an optical layer with the help of a high-power halogen lamp, it all came to light on March 8, 1979, when N.V. Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken demoed a Compact Disc Audio Player for the international press. 

After the aforementioned press event, the milestones reached by the new technology came in quick succession. These are just a few:

  • 1979: The first test pressing of a recording (Richard Strauss - An Alpine Symphony).
  • 1981: The first public demonstration on the BBC TV show Tomorrow's World.
  • August 17, 1982: The first commercial CD, a 1979 recording of Chopin waltzes.
  • October 1982: The first CD ever played on the radio (BBC Radio Scotland).
  • March 1983: Japanese launch of the CD technology, followed by its introduction to Europe and North America (later the same year).
  • 1985: The computer-readable CD-ROM is introduced.
  • Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" 1985 album becomes the first recording to be sold in a million copies on CD.
  • 1988: More than 400 million CDs were manufactured in the 50 pressing plants operating worldwide.
  • 1990: Sony and Philips bring the CD-Recordable disc to the masses.
  • 2007: More than 200 billion CDs had been sold worldwide since the introduction of the technology.
  • 2014: Revenue from digital music services match those from physical format sales — mainly consisting of audio CDs — for the first time.

Today, the CD format is mainly used as a support for music albums, having been replaced by DVDs and Blu-ray discs in the date storage role by most home users and companies. Obviously, there is also the threat of the cloud-driven storage that might turn all optical storage solutions into museum-worthy pieces of technology faster than many would expect.

Can you remember the last time you purchased an audio CD or a CD for data storage? For me, it was less than a month ago, when I got a CD recording of a niche band that I've been following for many years. If you think that I missed some milestones (the introduction of the CD-RW format, for example, but I am sure there are others that I might have skipped), feel free to let me know in the comments section.


Compact disc (on Wikipedia)

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 03 > Happy Birthday: The compact disc has been around for four decades
Codrut Nistor, 2019-03- 8 (Update: 2019-03- 8)