A Brief History of the Compact Disc

A Compact Disc is a digital storage medium having an optical disc. While originally developed for audio recording and playback, later it found use as storage for all forms of digital data. Sony was the first brand to openly demonstrate their optical audio disc technology inside the late 1970s. In the eighties, compact discs became commercially accessible, which began the war with audiotape and vinyl. The Compact Disc ultimately emerged the winner of audio formats, only to be replaced themselves by solid-state memory storage devices.

Standards and Formats

Standard sized Compact Discs are 1.2 mm thick using a diameter of 120mm. The original storage capacity of a CD was 680 MB or 74 minutes of audio. Currently, 700 MB of data or about 80 minutes of audio is what one would typically encounter. However, larger sizes are readily available. Also available are smaller Mini CD’s which could vary both in size and playback time, nevertheless the most popular ones are 80 mm in diameter or approximately 3 inches. These hold 24 minutes of audio or 210 MB of internet data.

In 1979, Sony and Philips collaborated on new ways to make CD a more efficient storage and playback device, further refining technology started almost 5yrs previous in Sony’s case. In a sense, it was this team that “invented” the CD as we know it today as one of the world’s most reliable kinds of audio playback. One of the first developments into the future from your coalition was the Red Book, which defined standard specification for your CD format. Among other details, it sets the specific guidelines for playback length, deviations, error rate, modulation, and the like.

Becoming commercially available in 1982, the 1st album being made in huge amounts on compact disk was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, that has been released simultaneously as Sony’s CD player CDP-101 in October. In subsequent years, CBS music continued to honor the anniversary by releasing several albums on Compact Disc yearly for the same day.


For audiophiles with the time, the new Compact Disc seemed to be a dream to be realized. It was highly praised because the superior way of playback by classical music connoisseurs have been one of the first groups to really get behind the newest trend. As the 1980s progressed, the price of CD players slowly fell allowing the format to achieve mainstream popularity, especially within the rock and pop categories. By 1989, almost a half-billion CDs were manufactured on a yearly basis.

Data and Video on the CD

While it turned out originally intended as a possible audio format, the Compact Disc found use as a data storage way for computer programs. In June of 1985, the initial CD-ROM was developed for use in computers. A few years of progress later saw the creation of CD-Recordable (originally called CD-WO) and finally CD-RW, allowing consumers to record what they have to want on the discs.

In 1987 the CD-V (Compact Disc – Video) was introduced using laserdisc technology on the CD format to produce moving pictures. The fatal flaw, however, was that there was not really enough room for the necessary video data, and the format quickly fell into decline, disappearing completely by 1991.

Don’t confuse the CD-V with the VCD though. A VCD, or Video Compact Disc, is a more productive video format on CD that was created in 1993. Like audio CDs, a VCD holds either 74 minutes or 80 minutes of video and its particular quality is roughly the same as a VHS tape. Most DVD players are designed for playing VCDs but VCD players were also manufactured and quite popular in certain parts of the world – especially China plus some other Asian countries.

Time continues to march on, however, and the Compact Disc is slowly getting left inside the dust. Since the advent of solid-state MP3 players, large label CD sales have consistently dropped. The CD is still equipped with a location inside the computer world, however as a possible inexpensive approach to store data. Though the road has been long, the tale from the Compact Disc isn’t over yet.