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Media Technology

The History of the CD-ROM 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the whatever-happened-to-mini-discs dept.
Gammu writes "The inventor of the compact disc, the most popular medium in the world for playing back and storing music, is often disputed as one individual did not invent every part of the compact disc. The most attributed inventor is James Russell, who in 1965 was inspired with a revolutionary idea as he sketched on paper a more ideal music recording system to replace vinyl records; Russell envisioned a system which could record and replay sounds without any physical contact between parts."
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The History of the CD-ROM

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  • The same thing happened with vinyls that is now happening with CD's. Why do they not recognize their own history?!

    With the advent of music downloads in the early 2000s and the introduction of the iTunes Music Store in 2003, the CD is decreasing in popularity yearly as music downloads experience rapid growth. The convenience of music downloads in combination with digital audio players like Apple's iPod leave little reason to keep CDs and a CD player.
    • The RIAA want to move to more locked down formats and pay per play. Despite iTunes, most people prefer CDs because it's DRM free and an excellent archive format. The leading reasons for the decrease in CD sales are closed stores and reduced floor space in places like Walmart.

      • by cdrguru (88047)
        Most people I know (of those with broadband Internet connections) prefer free downloads. Buying a CD is about the last thing they would do. iTunes is way, way too difficult to mess with but I am sure if free dried up they would switch to iTunes or some other online store.

        Free is very, very difficult to compete with.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tink2000 (524407)
          iTunes is way, way too difficult to mess with

          What? You fill out your name and address, plug in a credit card number, pick a password.

          When you're ready to buy you click on one button and re-enter your password. You can even check a box so you never have to re-enter your password, and reduce that step.

          How's that hard?
  • mini-discs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jadin (65295) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:24PM (#19750173) Homepage

    whatever-happened-to-mini-discs
    Summary: mini-discs don't support mp3

    Commentor's Cut: I hated hauling around a 50-100 cd carrier back in the day to hold all of my music. Ipods didn't exist yet, the only mp3 players (with a HDD) were horrible - fragile and with about 2 hours of battery life. So when I noticed the mini-disc played mp3s I was intrigued. I could hold all of my 50-100 CDs worth of music on (i was hoping) 10-15 mini discs. Even if they were 1:1, a mini-disc is much smaller than a CD. So I bought one.

    Turns out it _didn't_ play mp3s. It "supported" mp3s by converting them to a proprietary Sony format. Which still could've been okay but the compression ratio wasn't very good for "better quality". I returned my space saving mini-disc player a day or two later, as soon as I realized it wasn't the answer I was looking for.

    The mini-disc was cool in my eyes. Very compact and writable, it could reduce my carry-around music collection to something manageable. But it didn't support mp3s. This was back in the napster days. This single change could've made it a great format even today. I wouldn't be surprised to see a graph with the CD-R market booming, and the mini-disc market failing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Mini-disc _could_ have completely dominated back in say '98-99ish, but Sony held it too tightly. At the time mp3 was just starting to have an impact, but you couldn't get decent players for a few more years. Meanwhile CD-Rs hadn't really taken off yet and portable CD players were always too big.

      I don't just mean for music either, at the time I was carrying a zip drive to uni and back to move my research around. $35AUD for a 100Mb disk. Meanwhile Minidiscs cost $5-10 and held 120Mb. Bring out a player that a
  • Original CD Players (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GizmoToy (450886) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:24PM (#19750177) Homepage
    I remember my father bought one of the original Sony audio CD players. It was a CDP-102, the second version released in 1984. It looked quite a bit like the one in the article, but it was shorter and longer... the typical stereo component profile. That thing weighs a ton, and when you inserted the CD it had a clear window so you could watch the tray lower itself and the CD onto the motor. I thought that was the coolest thing.

    Built like a tank, too. It was still in regular use until just recently, and still worked flawlessly without so much as a cleaning over 20 years later. They don't make them like that, anymore. Maybe it was better components, or simply nostalgia, but I thought it had a better sound quality that most CD players these days.
    • by PenguSven (988769) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:40PM (#19750281)
      how was it both shorter AND longer at the same time?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bdjacobson (1094909)

      I remember my father bought one of the original Sony audio CD players. It was a CDP-102, the second version released in 1984. It looked quite a bit like the one in the article, but it was shorter and longer... the typical stereo component profile. That thing weighs a ton, and when you inserted the CD it had a clear window so you could watch the tray lower itself and the CD onto the motor. I thought that was the coolest thing.

      Built like a tank, too. It was still in regular use until just recently, and still worked flawlessly without so much as a cleaning over 20 years later. They don't make them like that, anymore. Maybe it was better components, or simply nostalgia, but I thought it had a better sound quality that most CD players these days.

      Actually, I think they _do_. I've had extensive experience with two Sony products that has changed my view from "evil corporation" to "misguided CEOs with a bunch of hardcore do-good engineers".

      First is the Discman 2 CD player-- 15 hours on two batteries (10 years ago when I got it this was pretty respectable), rugged case/buttons/flip-up-top, etc; and my favorite part, the MegaBass boost that does what no equalizer I've come across can. It simply produces the richest, deepest, cleanest bass that I've eve

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613)
      Maybe it was better components, or simply nostalgia, but I thought it had a better sound quality that most CD players these days.

      Not unreasonable. Those early CD decks had to sound great and work flawlessly, or nobody would adopt the format. And with the players retailing for hundreds and hundreds of dollars, they damn better well sound good!

      CD players today are thrown together from $10 worth of commodity parts. If the hardware breaks or just sucks, you toss it and buy a new one. How else are you going
  • by Trogre (513942) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:25PM (#19750181) Homepage
    Bah, this must be just another proprietary Sony format that will never catch on, like the 3.5" floppy disk. When will they ever learn?

  • by yroJJory (559141) <{me} {at} {jory.org}> on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:32PM (#19750229) Homepage
    I had the honor of meeting Mr. Russell in NYC during the Audio Engineering Society's conference in 2003. He was an interesting person to speak with and was very understated. He sat next to my fiancee on the shuttle bus returning from the conference to Times Square and it was only after chatting with him for 10 minutes or so that he revealed (after much prodding) that he was at the conference as part of the AES Historical section and that he felt like it was a waste of effort to be present. He said that nobody was interested in meeting him.

    At that, my fiancee turned to me and my other friends, sitting behind them, and introduced us.

    We chatted for the remainder of the bus ride and he told us a little of what the invention process was like and how he hadn't even made a dime from something that we noted had changed the world. (He wasn't bitter, BTW.)

    I got his autograph (as did several others) and a short line formed. I still have the CD I had him sign.

    It's nice to see him getting some recognition.

  • by Blahbooboo3 (874492) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:39PM (#19750267)
    They just don't make it like they used to!! I was given a Discman D-50 (hand-me-down) around 1987 and it is still running GREAT today. Fact is I never had a need to upgrade. The newer units were made out of plastic (d-50 is METAL) and tended to have lower quality D->A as well as inferior processing. It is still hooked up to my stereo as I never used it as a "portable."

    Chalk one up for Sony's quality during it's power years of the 1980s. I plan to keep using it for many more years!
  • by ynotds (318243) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:06AM (#19750425) Homepage Journal
    Bill was in Sydney on the day he became a billionaire* and was surprised to find a bunch of locals wanting to hear more of his recently published thoughts on the then still prospective new medium, but was happy enough to participate in a breakfast discussion quickly arranged by his then Australian representative Linda Graham.

    CD-ROM was arguably his last time Bill was close enough to the leading edge that others who made a living at that edge sought his opinion.

    *M$ had listed overnight Australian time.
    • IIRC, he also released the first OS on CD-ROM as well. Apple's OS was STILL on floppies up until what, 1996-97? Same went for the last gasps of Amiga. If I'm in error, let me know.

      Ahhh, remember the days when Windows 95 came out on disc AND on 20 floppies?
      • by jrumney (197329)
        Simtel and others were selling Linux and FreeBSD CDROMs before Windows 95 came out. Did NT 3.1 also come on CD?
        • by blackicye (760472)
          OS/2 Warp was available on CDs or a huge stack of 1.44 Floppys.
          • by jrumney (197329)
            OS/2 Warp was roughly contemporary with Windows 95. I was using OS/2 2.1 at the time, and there was fierce competition between Microsoft and IBM sales reps for our business at the time of release. But I do know we had a server running Slackware by that stage, which we got on CD (probably after the release of NT 3.1, which is why I asked). Prior to that we were running FreeBSD which would have predated the release of NT 3.1, but I'm not sure whether it also came on CD or floppy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vought (160908)
        IIRC, he also released the first OS on CD-ROM as well. Apple's OS was STILL on floppies up until what, 1996-97?

        Absolutely not. Apple included the IIvx software on CD-ROM (and floppy - System 7.0.1 with IIvx enabler) in 1994. Later that year, the Quadra 630/650 System Software (again, 7.0.1 or 7.1 with an enabler) shipped on CD. Next up was System 7.1.1., shipped with the PowerSurge machines (first PCI power Macs - the 9500/7500) shipped on CD-ROM.

        Apple was ahead in CD-ROM distribution; when I started work
  • Missing items (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MavEtJu (241979) <slashdot@mave[ ].org ['tju' in gap]> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:28AM (#19750567) Homepage
    Honestly, the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article gives a better background and has more information about related technologies (laserdisc for example).

    Also, the famous Why has the compact disc 74 minutes of playtime is explained there:

    According to a Sunday Tribune interview [1] the story is slightly more involved. At that time (1979) Philips owned Polygram, one of the world's largest distributors of music. Polygram had set up a large experimental CD plant in Hanover, Germany, which could produce huge amounts of CDs having, of course, a diameter of 115 mm. Sony did not yet have such a facility. If Sony had agreed on the 115 mm disc, Philips would have had a significant competitive edge in the market. Sony was aware of that, did not like it, and something had to be done. The long-playing time of Beethoven's Ninth imposed by Ohga was used to push Philips to accept 120 mm, so that Philips' Polygram lost its edge on disc fabrication.
    • by Frogbert (589961)
      That is very interesting and all but I don't see how that would stop them from producing working CD's that were just a bit smaller then the standard. I mean a 115mm CD would work just fine in a Cd drive these days without too much hastle.

      Furthermore if the 115mm cd's were first to the market most CD players would have a 115mm depression to support them even better.

      Perhaps I'm missing something.
      • by TeknoHog (164938)

        Furthermore if the 115mm cd's were first to the market most CD players would have a 115mm depression to support them even better.
        But no space for the 120 mm version. We'd be stuck with the maximum of 115 mm.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Threni (635302)
      This is disputed, though, by some people:

      http://www.snopes.com/music/media/cdlength.asp [snopes.com]

  • Size Change (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kenshin (43036) <kenshin&lunarworks,ca> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:29AM (#19750575) Homepage
    FTFA: Many other decisions were made that year, such as the disc diameter (115m)...
    The disc diameter was changed from 115m to 120mm to allow for 74 minutes of playback with the sampling rate and quality chosen.


    Thank god. I'd hate to imagine the storage rack I'd need to keep those 115m discs.
  • by qzulla (600807) <qzilla@hotmail.com> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:31AM (#19750597)
    Beethovens 9th is very popular in Japan on new years.

    However, Sony vice-president Norio Ohga, who was responsible for the project, did not agree. "Let us take the music as the basis," he said. He hadn't studied at the Conservatory in Berlin for nothing. Ohga had fond memories of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ('Alle Menschen werden Brüder'). That had to fit on the CD. There was room for those few extra minutes, the Philips engineers agreed. The performance by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, lasted for 66 minutes. Just to be quite sure, a check was made with Philips' subsidiary, PolyGram, to ascertain what other recordings there were. The longest known performance lasted 74 minutes. This was a mono recording made during the Bayreuther Festspiele in 1951 and conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. This therefore became the playing time of a CD. A diameter of 12 centimeters was required for this playing time.

    In this way the specifications of the CD were determined by means of intensive contact between Philips and Sony.

    http://www.research.philips.com/newscenter/dossier /optrec/beethoven.html [philips.com]

    Just thought you'ld like to know

    qz

  • by cheros (223479) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:41AM (#19750641)
    If I recall correctly it was Ron Kok, a Dutch entrepreneur, who came up with a *MUCH* more efficient production method to make them cheaper. He put the separate components inline and improved the sequence, thus taking away a lot of the media handling which caused quality issues. Quality went up, volume went up, price came down.

    Did the guy get rich off it? No, because in those days he was naive and thus had it stolen and copied from right underneath his nose. He's fared better since, but he's the guy that's responsible for CDs being so dirt cheap (AFAIK, been a while since I heard this).
  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:52AM (#19750693) Journal
    I still have my very first CD player. Oversized unit that was an addon component for a stereo I bought in the 80s. Last I checked it still works too.
  • I always felt it was a missed opportunity that metadata never took off on the compact disk. With the (relative) gobs of storage it is trivial to add album and tracktitles to a CD, or even lyrics. There is CD-text, but somehow it was an afterthought that never took off. It it had been part of the CD spec (as in: add metadata in order to be spec compliant) manufacturers would have been more likely to implement it in their hardware, especially as displays became more advanced.
    • by Detritus (11846)
      I can think of two problems with your idea. One, the digital circuits needed to display the data would have been too expensive at that time. Two, the bit-error rate on plain audio CDs would be too high for it to work reliably. They had to add an additional layer of error correcting coding to the CD-ROM.
  • One of those odd stories that makes you wonder how any business ever gets done. Back in 1983, Sony and Philips were working on a joint standard for the CD audio disc that was about to take the world by storm. There was one last decision to be made: The sampling rate was going to be either 44.1 kHz or 36 kHz for the audio tracks. They had just determined that the disc needed to

    hold 72 minutes of audio, because Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was that long. Philips proposed the 36-kHz standard, because it made a

  • Earlier light tech (Score:4, Informative)

    by yusing (216625) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:01AM (#19751301) Journal
    CD was not the first technology to read discs without physical contact. RCA had a turntable capable of "reading" vinyl records with a light-beam in the late 1930s.

    The RCA Magic Brain Victrola/Radio "was advertised as being able to play both sides of a record without turning it over and used a jewel-lite scanner that eliminated the needle and you could stack up to 15 records at a time."

    Sometimes seen advertised on RCA 78rpm record labels of the period.
    http://www.phonoland.com/archives/mboards/18100/ms g_0000018187.shtml [phonoland.com]
  • that looked into the future of household technology. It foresaw a digital playback system that used the same binary format as the compact disc but the media was credit card shaped. From what I remember (and we're talking 25 years since I last looked at it) the player would still spin to read the data on the card, which made the scanning area about 8" (20cm) in diameter and would require far more oversampling than exists in the best CD players. It can only have been a few years before the first CDs appeared.
  • >The disc diameter was changed from 115m to 120mm
    Now that's what you call size reduction.
  • Sony and Philips, to be precise. Can't believe that TFA didn't mention that.

    There is a reason why the hole in a CD is *exactly* (and I mean *exactly*) the size of the old Dutch 10-cents coin. Also the size of the CD was derived from the fact that it needed to be able to hold, on a single disc, a 78-minute long Mozart concert which was the favorite of the wife of one of the developers.
  • Why do people need every invention to be invented by someone from their country? James Russell??? The CD is possibly the best example of a joint development between a Dutch and a Japanese company. That an American would try to fit in an American somewhere in here is a bit pathetic. Nothing against Americans, everyone does it. Sad.

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