American inventor James T. Russell has been credited with inventing the first system to record digital information on an optical transparent foil that is lit from behind by a high-power halogen lamp. Russell's patent application was first filed in 1966, and he was granted a patent in 1970. Following litigation, Sony and Philips licensed Russell's patents (then held by a Canadian company, Optical Recording Corp.) in the 1980s.
The compact disc is an evolution of LaserDisc technology, where a focused laser beam
is used that enables the high information density required for high-quality digital audio signals.
Prototypes were developed by Philips and Sony independently in the late 1970s. Although originally dismissed by Philips Research management as a trivial pursuit, the CD became the primary focus for Philips as the LaserDisc format struggled. In 1979, Sony and Philips set up a joint task force of engineers to design a new digital audio disc. After a year of experimentation and discussion, the Red Book CD-DA standard was published in 1980. After their commercial release in 1982, compact discs and their players were extremely popular. Despite costing up to $1,000, over 400,000 CD players were sold in the United States between 1983 and 1984. By 1988, CD sales in the United States surpassed those of vinyl LPs, and by 1992 CD sales surpassed those of prerecorded music cassette tapes. The success of the compact disc has been credited to the cooperation between Philips and Sony, which together agreed upon and developed compatible hardware. The unified design of the compact disc allowed consumers to purchase any disc or player from any company, and allowed the CD to dominate the at-home music market unchallenged.
Digital audio laser-disc prototypes
In 1974, Lou Ottens, director of the audio division of Philips, started a small group with the aim to develop an analog optical audio disc with a diameter of 20 cm (7.9 in) and a sound quality superior to that of the vinyl record. However, due to the unsatisfactory performance of the analog format, two Philips research engineers recommended a digital format in March 1974. In 1977, Philips then established a laboratory with the mission of creating a digital audio disc. The diameter of Philips's prototype compact disc was set at 11.5 cm, the diagonal of an audio cassette.
Heitaro Nakajima, who developed an early digital audio recorder within Japan's national public broadcasting organization NHK in 1970, became general manager of Sony's audio department in 1971. His team developed a digital PCM adaptor audio tape recorder using a Betamax video recorder in 1973. After this, in 1974 the leap to storing digital audio on an optical disc was easily made. Sony first publicly demonstrated an optical digital audio disc in September 1976. A year later, in September 1977, Sony showed the press a 30 cm disc that could play 60 minutes of digital audio (44,100 Hz sampling rate and 16-bit resolution) using MFM modulation. In September 1978, the company demonstrated an optical digital audio disc with a 150-minute playing time, 44,056 Hz sampling rate, 16-bit linear resolution, and cross-interleaved error correction code—specifications similar to those later settled upon for the standard compact disc format in 1980. Technical details of Sony's digital audio disc were presented during the 62nd AES Convention, held on 13–16 March 1979, in Brussels. Sony's AES technical paper was published on 1 March 1979. A week later, on 8 March, Philips publicly demonstrated a prototype of an optical digital audio disc at a press conference called "Philips Introduce Compact Disc" in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Collaboration and standardization
Dutch inventor and Philips chief engineer Kees Schouhamer Immink
was part of the team that produced the standard compact disc in 1980
Sony executive Norio Ohga, later CEO and chairman of Sony, and Heitaro Nakajima were convinced of the format's commercial potential and pushed further development despite widespread skepticism.
As a result, in 1979, Sony and Philips set up a joint task force of engineers to design a new digital audio disc. Led by engineers Kees Schouhamer Immink and Toshitada Doi, the research pushed forward laser and optical disc technology. After a year of experimentation and discussion, the task force produced the Red Book CD-DA standard. First published in 1980, the standard was formally adopted by the IEC as an international standard in 1987, with various amendments becoming part of the standard in 1996.
Philips coined the term compact disc in line with another audio product, the Compact Cassette, and contributed the general manufacturing process, based on video LaserDisc technology. Philips also contributed eight-to-fourteen modulation (EFM), which offers a certain resilience to defects such as scratches and fingerprints, while Sony contributed the error-correction method, CIRC.
The Compact Disc Story, told by a former member of the task force, gives background information on the many technical decisions made, including the choice of the sampling frequency, playing time, and disc diameter. The task force consisted of around four to eight persons, though according to Philips, the compact disc was "invented collectively by a large group of people working as a team."
Initial launch and adoption
Philips established the Polydor Pressing Operations plant in Langenhagen near Hannover, Germany, and quickly passed a series of milestones.
- The first test pressing was of a recording of Richard Strauss's Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony) played by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Herbert von Karajan, who had been enlisted as an ambassador for the format in 1979.
- The first public demonstration was on the BBC television programme Tomorrow's World in 1981, when the Bee Gees' album Living Eyes (1981) was played.
- The first commercial compact disc was produced on 17 August 1982. It was The Visitors (1981) by ABBA.
- The first 50 titles were released in Japan on 1 October 1982, the very first of which was a rerelease of the Billy Joel album 52nd Street.
- The first CD played on BBC Radio was in October 1982 on BBC Radio Scotland (Jimmy Mack programme, Followed by Ken Bruce and Eddie Mair all BBC Scotland), with the first CD played on UK independent radio station shortly after (Radio Forth, Jay Crawford Show). The CD was Dire Straits, Love over Gold.
The Japanese launch was followed in March 1983 by the introduction of CD players and discs to Europe and North America (where CBS Records released sixteen titles). This 1983 event is often seen as the "Big Bang" of the digital audio revolution. The new audio disc was enthusiastically received, especially in the early-adopting classical music and audiophile communities, and its handling quality received particular praise. As the price of players gradually came down, and with the introduction of the portable Discman the CD began to gain popularity in the larger popular and rock music markets. One of the first CD markets was devoted to reissuing popular music whose commercial potential was already proven. An advantage of the format was the ability to produce and market boxed sets and multi-volume collections. The first artist to sell a million copies on CD was Dire Straits, with their 1985 album Brothers in Arms. The first major artist to have their entire catalogue converted to CD was David Bowie, whose first fourteen studio albums of (then) sixteen were made available by RCA Records in February 1985, along with four greatest hits albums; his fifteenth and sixteenth albums had already been issued on CD by EMI Records in 1983 and 1984, respectively. On February 26, 1987, the first four UK albums by The Beatles were released in mono on compact disc. In 1988, 400 million CDs were manufactured by 50 pressing plants around the world.
Further development and decline
The CD was planned to be the successor of the vinyl record for playing music, rather than primarily as a data storage medium. From its origins as a musical format, CDs have grown to encompass other applications. In 1983, following the CD's introduction, Immink and Braat presented the first experiments with erasable compact discs during the 73rd AES Convention.
In June 1985, the computer-readable CD-ROM (read-only memory) and, in 1990, CD-Recordable were introduced, also developed by both Sony and Philips. Recordable CDs were a new alternative to tape for recording music and copying music albums without defects introduced in compression used in other digital recording methods. Other newer video formats such as DVD and Blu-ray use the same physical geometry as CD, and most DVD and Blu-ray players are backward compatible with audio CD.
By the early 2000s, the CD player had largely replaced the audio cassette player as standard equipment in new automobiles, with 2010 being the final model year for any car in the United States to have a factory-equipped cassette player. With the increasing popularity of portable digital audio players, such as mobile phones, and solid state music storage, CD players are being phased out of automobiles in favor of minijack auxiliary inputs, wired connection to USB devices and wireless Bluetooth connection.
Meanwhile, with the advent and popularity of Internet-based distribution of files in lossily-compressed audio formats such as MP3, sales of CDs began to decline in the 2000s. For example, between 2000 and 2008, despite overall growth in music sales and one anomalous year of increase, major-label CD sales declined overall by 20%, although independent and DIY music sales may be tracking better according to figures released 30 March 2009, and CDs still continue to sell greatly. As of 2012, CDs and DVDs made up only 34 percent of music sales in the United States. By 2015 , only 24% of music in the United States was purchased on physical media, ⅔ of this consisting of CDs; however, in the same year in Japan, over 80% of music was bought on CDs and other physical formats.
Despite the rapidly declining sales year-over-year, the pervasiveness of the technology remained for a time, with companies placing CDs in pharmacies, supermarkets, and filling station convenience stores targeting buyers least able to use Internet-based distribution. However, in 2018, Best Buy and Target Corporation both announced plans to decrease their focus on CD sales.
Awards and accolades
Sony and Philips received praise for the development of the compact disc from professional organizations. These awards include
- Technical Grammy Award for Sony and Philips, 1998.
- IEEE Milestone award, 2009, for Philips only with the citation: "On 8 March 1979, N.V. Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken demonstrated for the international press a Compact Disc Audio Player. The demonstration showed that it is possible by using digital optical recording and playback to reproduce audio signals with superb stereo quality. This research at Philips established the technical standard for digital optical recording systems."