Happy birthday, CD!

The CD is 25 years old today, and U.K. tech site The Register celebrates with an interesting investigation of the history and technology behind the world's most popular audio format.

The Register has an excellent article today on the compact disc, which was first pressed for commercial release 25 years ago. If you've ever been curious about terms like Red Book or 44.1, or wondered why CDs can hold 74 minutes of music, it's worth a read.

I have little to add. Except: Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms was not only the first CD that was recorded all digitally, but it was also one of the first in which the CD had different, longer versions of some of the LP album tracks. I specifically bought the CD for the extended version of "Why Worry," and it remains one of the only recordings I have in both LP and CD formats. It came out in 1985, and I remember that the DJs on my local rock radio station made a big deal out of playing the special CD versions (especially late at night). A mere five years later, I had to search high and low just to find the LP version of Jane's Addiction's Ritual de lo Habitual, which shows how quickly the format completely conquered its rivals.

By way of comparison, iTunes launched in 2003, and although downloads made up only about 10 percent of all music sales in 2006, it's conceivable that CDs could be all but dead in by 2008--the same five-year window that it took CDs to eclispe LPs.

I also like to think that the back cover of Pink Floyd's 1975 record Wish You Were Here anticipates the development of the CD--that disc that the hollow record-industry "suit" is holding out to the audience is the size of a 12" record, but has the translucent silver color of a CD. Not a bad job by album designers Hipgnosis, given that development of the CD didn't begin for another four years.

 

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