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The History of the CD-ROM

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the whatever-happened-to-mini-discs dept.

Media 299

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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Now if we could only go back in time... (0, Flamebait)

trippeh (1097403) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750033)

...and give him the designs for the bluRay.

Re:Now if we could only go back in time... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750069)

Or maybe go back in time and give your mother a razor so she could slit her fucking wrists before you were born fucktard.

Re:Now if we could only go back in time... (2, Funny)

irtza (893217) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750117)

don't you mean HD-DVD?

The flames are out ther, let the war begin!

HD-DVD is dead (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750185)

It really is. Before it even launched, it was dead. Most of the studios backed BluRay, and it was going to be in the PS3, which whether you care for the PS3 or not, provided a larger installed base almost overnight.

Not only is BlockBuster no longer ordering HD-DVD, but many large retailers are canceling all orders of HD-DVD.

Dead. Dead. Dead.

(Note this doesn't mean the BluRay is guaranteed success, but simply that the HD-DVD is dead)

HD-DVD is dead - Like BSD (2, Informative)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750571)

Don't assume it's dead yet.

Link [slashdot.org]

But, I hope you're correct.

Re:HD-DVD is dead (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750775)

To be honest it can't be helped.
BluRay just sounds cooler.

And it's less cumbersome to say that HD-DVD.

Re:Now if we could only go back in time... (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750539)

go back in time and give him the designs for the bluRay.

It wouldn't help anything. Today's optical discs are based on the continual refinement of manufacturing processes. You could go back in time and explain how to make a BluRay disc and player, but no one would be able to manufacture discs with tight enough tolerances or microchips of sufficient speed and power to play back the data stream. And that's leaving out the issue of finding an HDTV set to make full use of the format. (HDTV was invented in 1969, but wasn't commercially viable until the 90's.)

Most people don't think about it, but inventions are driven as much by infrastructure as they are by smart people. If you lack the necessary industrial base, having all the technical knowledge in the world won't help you. (Witness a lot of third-world countries. The knowledge for a lot of technology is available, but they can't manufacture it.) To close the gap you still need to build tools which you refine and/or use to build better tools which you refine and/or use to build better tools, so on and so forth.

Re:Now if we could only go back in time... (2, Insightful)

friedo (112163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751011)

Not to mention solid-state blue lasers.

Re:Now if we could only go back in time... (2, Interesting)

trippeh (1097403) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751403)

[I]nventions are driven as much by infrastructure as they are by smart people.

Yep, I'll agree with that, but that doesn't stop some people. Len Lye [wikipedia.org] is a classic example. Much of his body of work was unproduced at the time of his death, the materials being either not readily available or (most often)technologically possible. Lye never expected to live to see most of his work completed and only now are some of his smaller works being produced at full scale, many of the pieces in galleries [art-newzealand.com] at the moment are only scale models.
The Len Lye Foundation, set up shortly after his death, aims to produce each one of his works, in full scale where possible, as a tribute to the energy, vitality and pure joy with which he approached his life, his art, and everything he did.

Man, I love being a nerd!!! (1, Redundant)

Tatisimo (1061320) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750073)

Here I was thinking what I'd be doing for the next hour, and up comes this article! I'll get researching the history of the CD-ROM! Wooohooo! Thanks /.

CD isn't obsolete (1, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750131)

Wasn't there a Slashdot story recently proclaiming the CD to be obsolete?

Even though digital music sales are up, for many people, the CD is still the way you carry and purchase music.

People came up with formats like DVD-Audio, but what is the point of that? A CD isn't too large to be cumbersome, and it holds enough data for an album. In fact, if you burn MP3's to the disc, you can hold tons of albums on it.

It is cheap, burns fast, and is still used for data and software installs.

It has been a very resilient medium, and given how long floppy-drives stuck around (far, far too long) I don't see CD's disappearing anytime soon.

There are "beter" alternatives, but it is so universal, it is here to stay.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750155)

that's what they said about optical drives and laserdiscs.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (3, Informative)

jadin (65295) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750195)

People came up with formats like DVD-Audio, but what is the point of that?
5.1 channel vs 2 channel.

4-8GB of mp3 space vs 800MB for a CD-R.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (2, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750305)

Sounds great. Who adopted it?

If I could go buy say that Star Wars soundtrack on DVD-Audio tomorrow, I would. But I don't believe I can.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (2, Informative)

jadin (65295) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750341)

Sounds great. Who adopted it?

If I could go buy say that Star Wars soundtrack on DVD-Audio tomorrow, I would. But I don't believe I can.
If I had to guess nobody wanted to go through 25 years of CDs and remix them to 5.1 channel surround sound. Can't say I blame them, but it pretty much killed the format.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (4, Funny)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750381)

No, what killed DVD-Audio was some top-brass exec being asked by his 12-year-old daughter why the kids at school were laughing at her. Apparently they'd found out her daddy "made DVDA albums".

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

woof69 (952829) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750689)

hey you want to go get some sushi?

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

up2ng (110551) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751197)

Yikes !
Matt and Trey should know her dad then.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750421)

Which is why I specifically mentioned the Star Wars soundtrack.

Pearl Jam's album likely isn't going to be mixed for 5.1, sadly, though I'd buy that in a heartbeat as well.

But the Star Wars score was recorded and mixed in 5.1 so it isn't a stretch if the format really existed to release some movie scores in DVDA.

By the way, DVDA also has another meaning that I can't link to because it isn't safe for work.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750469)

Pearl Jam's album likely isn't going to be mixed for 5.1, sadly, though I'd buy that in a heartbeat as well.
Nine Inch Nails in 5.1 is awesome, though. Just listen to the DualDisc of The Downward Spiral.

By the way, DVDA also has another meaning that I can't link to because it isn't safe for work.
Double Anal, Double Vaginal. IIRC, that was just made up in Trey Parker's Orgazmo and not something real.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750493)

Sounds great. Who adopted it?

A number of classical labels (BIS, Naxos, CC...) offer DVD Audio (or SACD). Classical music fans tend to be more concerned with sound quality than the average listener of popular music, so it makes sense these formats would be targeted at them. However, the OP may be right that a CD is good enough. One may question the need for a special format to give 5.1 surround when IRCAM developed software (Spatializer) that could simulate the movement of sounds in a 3D space. I discovered it through the Deutsche Grammophon recording of Boulez's Repons [amazon.com] though I wonder why it hasn't been used more widely, and in other music genres as well.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750527)

Thanks for the suggestion to try out Spatializer.

I like good sound, and I have decent surround setups for both of my TVs and my computer. However, I'm not a huge stickler. I can't tell the difference between say a 128kb MP3 and the original lossless WAV file.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750535)

Thanks for the suggestion to try out Spatializer.

It's a tool for recording engineers to tweak master recordings which will then be sold on CD, not for home listeners.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

ijdod (139051) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751545)

Also not allowed to output that 5.1 sound through a standard digital link to the amp...

Inventor (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750203)

This article ignores the significant previous work by David Paul Gregg which led to the Laserdisc and the derivative CD tehcnology. I therefore dispute the validity of James Russell, because Gregg was the first one to put music digitally on a reflective disc to be read by laser. I attended a Laserdisc demonstration Gregg gave to Mensa members in Los Angeles sometime in the early 1970s at his home. Russell may have conceived of a technology, but Gregg was the first to actually implement a working means to digitally handle audio and music on a disc for mass consumption. He did a lot of work and should get proper credit. CDs came after his efforts.

Re:Inventor (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750635)

Russell may have conceived of a technology, but Gregg was the first to actually implement a working means to digitally handle audio and music on a disc for mass consumption.

Just to pick at a nit here, Gregg's work was an analog recording, not digital. If you look at the direct derivitive of Gregg's work - the LaserDisc - you'll find that the data is encoded in a Pulse Width Modulation [wikipedia.org] format. This allowed for NTSC signals to be directly recorded to discs long before the invention of digital encoding technologies like MPEG.

In fact, the microprocessor technology necessary to decode a digital datastream into television quality video cost millions of dollars back when the LaserDisc was introduced to the market. During development of the format, the necessary framebuffer devices were still in development and wouldn't reach truecolor capabilties until the New York Institute of Technology experiment in 1977. (They took three 8-bit, grayscale framebuffers manufactured by Evans & Sutherland and wired them together to create a 24-bit display.)

So as you can imagine, an analog design was far superior to a digital video format back when Laserdiscs were introduced. :-)

Re:Inventor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750705)

I realized after I posted that I was off, memory sucks, and yes, Gregg did precede MPEG and used what I'd call hybrid analog-digital techniques such as PWM. The early generation Laserdiscs had analog audio tracks, I believe in PWM, later augmented by genuine digital encoding after chip technology made it less expensive to do. And even so, eight-bit micros in the early 1972s were slow, too, and not up to MPEG. Bit-slice chips could have handled it but weren't cost-effective for consumers. I may be a Luddite, but I actually kind of like the 'analog' Laserdisc audio compared to 44Khz CDs, it seems to me not to be harsh like CDs can be to dynamic range. Fails softer somehow.

Re:Inventor (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750949)

The early generation Laserdiscs had analog audio tracks, I believe in PWM, later augmented by genuine digital encoding after chip technology made it less expensive to do.

Indeed. Later Laserdisc recordings used PCM for audio, making them sort of a hybrid between Laserdisc and Compact Disc technology.

eight-bit micros in the early 1972s were slow

I presume you mean microchips and not microcomputers? Sorry, you had me confused for a moment there. I was wondering where in the world you were going to find a proper microcomputer back in 1972! :-P

FWIW, decoding would have been done on custom chips rather than the early 8-bit microprocessors. Such processors sacrificed far too much power in order to be generic computational machines. One could thus get better performance out of a dedicated chip. It would be able to run at a higher clock rate and chew through more data per second. Unfortunately, it still wouldn't have been enough to handle a complex datastream like MPEG. There just wasn't enough bandwidth in the systems!

(The slowness of CPUs is still true today. It's just that high performance CPUs are so readily available that it doesn't make sense to waste high-end fab facilities on application-specific chips. Thus ASIC technology generally lags behind the cutting edge Intel chips.)

Bit-slice chips could have handled it but weren't cost-effective for consumers.

If you look at a lot of the early multimedia work, they actually did create designs in a very similar fashion. The SuperPaint framebuffer, for example, was constructed of hundreds of memory chips all wired together to provide a single, gigantic byte-shift register. It was usable, but had some odd limitations. (e.g. to change a pixel you had to wait for that byte to shift back around into the working part of the register)

In any case, let's just say that SuperPaint wasn't exactly affordable. ;)

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

agrapentin (1064820) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750227)

Is your definition of CD inclusive of DVDs as well? If so then i agree. DVD drives for computers are dirt cheap these days. I don't even know if they still sell plain CD drives anymore. An increasing number of PC games and software is being released on DVDs. With data requirements of software increasing I do see CDs being totally replaced by DVDs simply by the fact that instead of using 3CDs you can use 1 DVD thus being the cheaper platform. As far as i am aware of anyone who can play a CD can also play a DVD.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750833)

As far as i am aware of anyone who can play a CD can also play a DVD.

The other way around.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (2, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750235)

Wasn't there a Slashdot story recently proclaiming the CD to be obsolete?

Even though digital music sales are up, for many people, the CD is still the way you carry and purchase music.
I prefer to get CDs and use my fair use rights to rip the music. OK, I could also download from iTunes (well, I could, if I ran Windows of OS-X), but I prefer to buy CDs off ebay and then rip the good tracks.

Could it be more obvious... (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750369)


Sampling rate of 16-bit @ 44.1khz vs. 24-bit @ 192khz.

For 74 minutes of audio to the latter spec, you're talking about 2.5GB.

But, admittedly, most people couldn't care less about the quality difference with most music. But if you've ever heard the same recording on both formats, the difference is obvious, since you're basically getting a copy of the studio master.

Re:Could it be more obvious... (2, Insightful)

Skippy_kangaroo (850507) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750655)

the difference is obvious

I'm guessing that it is the 24-bit rather than the 192khz?

As Flanders and Swann [optusnet.com.au] said about much earlier technology:
Flanders: All the highest notes neither sharp nor flat,
Swann: The ear can't hear as high as that.
Flanders: Still, I ought to please any passing bat,
Swann: With my high fidelity.

Re:Could it be more obvious... (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750707)


No one needs more than 8-bit 640x480.

Re:Could it be more obvious... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750673)

In any case, the History of the Compact Disc is the history of subsequent iterations of the technology as well. "In 1978, Polygram, a division of Philips, decided polycarbonate as the material of choice for the CD. Many other decisions were made that year, such as the disc diameter (115m) and the type of laser to be used by CD players. It was also decided that data on a CD would start at the center and spiral outwards to the edge." Most of that still applies to SACD, DVD, and HDDVD/Blu-Ray. DVDs could just as well have been called "Compact Discs" as well. We think of both the Eniac and the laptop I'm now using as "computers," even though they have far less actual technology in common than the various optical storage formats of the last 30 years. It's been great for backwards compatibility, since the newest DVD burner is still a CD reader, too.

Quality is a niche. The masses dig convenience. (1)

Cordath (581672) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750685)

Very few people own music systems capable of revealing the difference between a well encoded lossy track and a CD, let alone the difference between identical recordings on CD and HD formats. Even then, the differences are subtle when played on the same system. If you think you are hearing an enormous and obvious difference, it is probably the result of a different mix. Don't get me wrong. HD recordings can sound great. They can also sound like crap if mastered poorly, just like any other format.

This, however, is a pointless conversation. DVD-A and SACD are not totally dead, but they're not exactly on their way to widespread acceptance either. I see them as a transitional format for the audiophile, sort of like Laserdiscs were for the videophile. CD's will be around for quite some time yet, just as VHS lived on long after Laserdisc died. The question is, what are we transitioning to? I think the answer is high quality lossless files. I have some FLAC encoded rips of HD music and they sound great, but they're currently not very common. (Bloody freaking rare is more like it!) However, I can see this as becomming the audiophile's preferred format of the future. Computers and media hardware are converging, and these HD files offer all the advantages of other music files. You can have your entire music collection in one device so that you can queue up weeks if not months of continuous high quality music and access anything you own nearly instantly. This beats the pants off of getting up and trying to find that SACD you bought years ago to physically stick it in the player. The only thing missing is that you can't really buy tracks like this yet.

The masses, of course, don't give a rats ass about quality. They could set up a decent home listening rig, but instead buy the latest crappy iPod dock/speaker combo. Who cares if it will be useless junk within a year or two when apple changes their dock connector design? The quality of sound on these docks typically isn't anywhere near being good enough to reveal the difference between a 128 kps AAC file and a lossless file anyways. Ergo, these people can get all their music off of iTunes. Yum! In almost all respects a CD would be better, but being able to order it from the comfort of your chair trumps all for most people.

No, the CD is not dead. SACD and DVD-A aren't going to kill it, just like laserdisc never killed VHS. Lossy file downloads won't kill it either because the quality just isn't as good. CD will live on just fine until high quality lossless downloads become common, rather than the very rare exception.

Re:Quality is a niche. The masses dig convenience. (1)

vought (160908) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751563)

They could set up a decent home listening rig, but instead buy the latest crappy iPod dock/speaker combo.

I plug my iPod (and more than a few Apple Lossless tracks) into an Adcom GTP-350 connected to a Parasound HCA-500 driving 1998 Paradigm MiniMark-3s.

I'd argue that when playing Apple Lossless or direct 44.1/8 rips, the sound from this setup gets within discerning distance of 8-track digital tape through studio clean amps driving NS-10Ms.

My whole setup cost ~$390.00 on eBay. And I, for one, am glad most people plug their iPods into Bose-esque "all highs, all lows" setups.

It makes the quality home listening equipment cheaper for the rest of us.

Re:Could it be more obvious... (3, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751047)

Sampling rate of 16-bit @ 44.1khz vs. 24-bit @ 192khz.

For 74 minutes of audio to the latter spec, you're talking about 2.5GB.


Look at what you're saying. Improving the sample rate from 44.1kHz to 192kHz moves the Nyqvist frequency from 22.05kHz to 96kHz. Increasing the sample size takes the SNR from 96dB to 144dB.

Now I'm pretty sure I don't care about frequencies between 22.05kHz and 96kHz. Double blind tests make it unlikely most people can even hear them. In fact I suspect the ones thay say they can would fail the test, and so they are actually kidding themselves.

And are all those signals below 96dB are vital to my enjoyment of music? I don't remember be annoyed by vinyl or tape in terms of quality and both of them are a lot worse than 16bit at 44.1kHz. Come to think of it MP3 will cut off at a lower frequency than 22.05kHz, and discard low amplitude components at lot more ruthlessly than even 16bit@44.1kHz and it sounds the same as CD to me.

Hell most of the music I really like I first heard in very low fidelity environments, much worse than even an MP3.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750651)

Wasn't there a Slashdot story recently proclaiming the CD to be obsolete?

Even though digital music sales are up, for many people, the CD is still the way you carry and purchase music.


Bad reasoning. There are still many people using VHS, but that's pretty obsolete as well.
For CD usage there's just one thing known: a steep trend downwards. It's inevitable. And since we always like to talk about things as if they happened now and not an year or two from now, well, CD is obsolete.

Re:CD isn't obsolete (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751499)

I disagree about "burns fast" and "resilient" medium. As a matter of fact, I'm surprised it took as long as it did to come up with new media to replace crappy disks that scratch and break and lose data far too easily. I can't wait for the day where digital storage is cheap and ubiquitous, and all my disk data can be stored on flash memory (or something similar).

How much longer will we be using CD's (1)

SniperClops (776236) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750145)

How much longer will the CD be used for?

Re:How much longer will we be using CD's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750499)

The CD will be around for a long time to come. Considering that the industry tried shifting people to a high definition CD; which did not take off. For music the CD should still be around; unless ITMS and ilk take over.

Re:How much longer will we be using CD's (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19751107)

about 74 minutes.

Is the RIAA reading this? (1)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750165)

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.

Re:Is the RIAA reading this? (1)

bunbuntheminilop (935594) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750287)

Yeah, but aren't vinyl sales increasing at the moment. I remember watching something on CNN where a band released an album on vinyl, and included a key and URL so you could download the mp3.

No, they are writing it. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750409)

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.

Re:No, they are writing it. (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750659)

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.

44.1khz, 16-bit, fits Tchaikovsky, did I RTFA? (0, Troll)

weighn (578357) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750167)

Ralph Wolf: "Mornin' Sam." Sam Sheepdog: "Oh, good morning Ralph." Ralph Wolf: "SLOW NEWS DAY!"

Re:44.1khz, 16-bit, fits Tchaikovsky, did I RTFA? (2, Informative)

dronkert (820667) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750513)

Nope, not Tchaikovsky. The CD was enlarged from 11.5 to 12 cm to be able to fit 74 min of music, the longest known recording of Beethoven's nineth symphony.

Never leave out the symphony story (1)

SurfMan (969573) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751561)

It's very strange that they left this part out in the story. Otherwise it would have been good. As far as I know, it was when the lead researcher showed it to his wife, she asked how much fitted on that disc. SHE then complained it's rubbish if it didn't fit.

mini-discs (3, Insightful)

jadin (65295) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750173)

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:mini-discs (1, Informative)

Tim_UWA (1015591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750303)

I wouldn't be surprised to see a graph with the CD-R market booming, and the mini-disc market failing.

Your wish is my command [google.com]

Re:mini-discs (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750925)

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 acts as a portable 120Mb disk drive which cheap disks, that could also play all the mp3s that people were starting to get off Napster and it would have exploded at any point up until 2002 or so when Ipods started to get affordable.

But Sony were too scared of piracy, so everyone used someone else's technology to pirate Sony music anyway, and Sony didn't own the hardware market, which they could have.

Original CD Players (4, Interesting)

GizmoToy (450886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750177)

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.

Re:Original CD Players (4, Funny)

PenguSven (988769) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750281)

how was it both shorter AND longer at the same time?

Re:Original CD Players (3, Funny)

imboboage0 (876812) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750541)

He's only claiming it's longer. With the reality being shorter, it is both shorter and longer at the same time.

Are you new here?

Re:Original CD Players (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751183)

height has no relation to lenght nor to width... it's called 3 dimensions...

a ton would be about right. (0, Redundant)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750433)

from the fine article:

In 1978, Polygram, a division of Philips, decided polycarbonate as the material of choice for the CD. Many other decisions were made that year, such as the disc diameter (115m)

Tell me, where do you keep 115 meter disks? I can imagine them being immortal, impervious to dust and scratch proof but very heavy. The mechanism would also be next to immortal but would be loud and take a lot of power by today's standards.

Re:a ton would be about right. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750507)

Wow, they missed an 'm'. They deserve to die.

Re:a ton would be about right. (4, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751087)

He's probably a audiophile. A single bit error in their music causes them to haywire and then explode. This is the same effect applied to text.

Re:Original CD Players (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750665)

It was all in your mind. The early players sound like crap because they only have 4x oversampling.

Re:Original CD Players (3, Insightful)

bdjacobson (1094909) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751293)

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 ever heard anywhere. A real treat.

Second is a Sony T637 cell phone [phonedog.com] . I didn't know at the time I got it, but it came completely unlocked, had a wonderfully useful function that let you write all the phone numbers/names in the Cell Phone to the SIM card, battery life was at least 4 hours talk time even after years of use, was also pretty rugged (dropped more times than I can count and still works like a charm). On top of that it's one of the sexiest looking phones I've seen in a long time, and is still my favorite by far. It has white LEDs beneath the keypad that light up a bright cool white blue whenever pressed, and the way the keys are designed, you see the numbers and letters with no problem, as well as a cool white grid where the LED light shines through.

So, it's kinda hard to describe all the best parts of each, but basically the taste left in my mouth is that the Sony engineers really know what they're doing and do their best when they're allowed. The times when they're not (PS2 launch etc where stuff breaks all the time) isn't their fault; it's the CEO's and Executives looking out for next quarter's results.

Sony CDP-101 (4, Funny)

Trogre (513942) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750181)

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?

An interesting guy... (5, Interesting)

yroJJory (559141) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750229)

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.

Re:An interesting guy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750723)

New York, huh?

How long did it take you to dream that up?

"New York". Pffft. A likely story.

My Discman D-50 STILL Running Strong! (2, Informative)

Blahbooboo3 (874492) | more than 7 years ago | (#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!

12" vinyl (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750279)

Knock me if you want, and I know you will, but 12" vinyl sounds better to my ears, and feels better to handle.

--jk

Re:12" vinyl (2, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750463)

there's a term for people that prefer 12 inchers: size queen.

CDTV?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750293)

Why bother mentioning the CDTV? It was an expensive out-dated hunk o' junk. The PC Engine CD ROM was fairly successful in Japan, released two years earlier, and cost far less than $1000.

RCA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750377)

"...Russell envisioned a system which could record and replay sounds without any physical contact between parts."

Capacitance.

115m? (0, Redundant)

neversense (657869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750379)

It seems to me that if the designers had stuck to the original 115m diameter, we wouldn't have called this thing a *compact* disc. Quite a typo to repeat twice in the document.

Why not? Freaking Masers. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750479)

It seems to me that if the designers had stuck to the original 115m diameter, we wouldn't have called this thing a *compact* disc. Quite a typo to repeat twice in the document.

Remember, they were working with pumped ammonia masers! Instead of a diode, they had one of those horn shaped things you see on the old Bell towers. Those were brave days, when EE and Civil Engineers were both called on.

You don't want to know about the Hollerith version [wikipedia.org] that really started it all as part of the Manhattan Project. I worked well but consumed more energy then the bombs released. To make the servos, the national silver supply was nearly depleted.

An open question...why 44.1? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750413)

An open question...why 44.1khz for the sampling rate?

OK, I know the answer...because VCR-based PCM audio systems of the late 1970s used the 44.1 sampling rate. Indeed, the PCM1630...the only way to master a CD until the mid 1990s or so used a U-Matic VCR along with a PCM encoder?

So why did the PCM system use 44.1? The answer is that a NTSC video signal has 245 lines of resolution, updated 60 times a second; a PAL video signal has 294 lines of resolution, updated 50 lines a second. The technology could store 3 samples in a single horizontal line, either at 14 bits with some error correction, or at 16 bits with almost no error correction. Well, except for the fact that a NTSC signal actually has 259 lines, not 245 lines. I have never gotten a straight answer on why we only use 245 of the 259 lines. I think it has to do with the vertical sync part of a signal not being recorded on a video tape, but I can be wrong here.

So, does anyone know why late 1970s PCM systems used only 245 of 259 lines of vertical resolution to store audio?

Re:An open question...why 44.1? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750515)

OK, a look at the Wikipedia answers my question. Looking at the NTSC article [wikipedia.org] , it states "Each frame consists of 486 lines out of a total of 525 (the rest are used for sync, vertical retrace, and other data such as captioning)" (Divide the number by 2 because of interlacing). The corresponding PAL article [wikipedia.org] states that PAL is "a video format that has 625 lines per frame (576 visible lines, the rest being used for other information such as sync data and captioning)". OK, so they could use a few, but not many, lines in the "vertical sync" to store more PCM audio. And that is exactly what they did.

So why 44.1 instead of 44.056? PAL-based PCM systems had a 44.1 sampling rate; NTSC systems 44.056. They chose 44.1 because it was an easier to remember number.

So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about why CDs have a 44.1 sampling rate.

And, oh, I like CDs more than MP3s. Thank you, I care about audio quality, and hate the sound of 128k mp3s. Especially the crappily encoded ones that sound really metallic.

Re:An open question...why 44.1? (1)

BKX (5066) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750583)

It's because the black and white TVs of the 50s and 60s (when color TV was standardized) had pad time between each frame to allow the electron gun to move from the bottom corner back up to the top. Since the powers that be in the US (although I doubt this would have been the case today) decided that the new color standard was to fully compatible with the old b&w standard, this padding had to be present in the new standard as well. It's the same reason FM stereo signals are encoded jointly (That is, one channel is put on the carrier and then the difference between that and the other channel is encoded into it kind of like how Dolby 5.1 is encoded into a stereo signal (involving complex mathematics and analog hardware). As opposed to sending out two channels separately.). People like backward compatibility. The audio part is probably for much the same reasons. IIRC, PAL doesn't have this padding because Britain decided to screw over b&w TV owners instead.

Re:An open question...why 44.1? (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750895)

The last part of your answer is incorrect.

In the UK (As in other places) the same PAL encoded UHF signal can be received and decoded by both Colour & B/W TV sets.
Some 80%+ of the signal is actually the B/W information. The remainder is the colour stuff.
B/W TV's ignore the colour stuff obviously.

The missing lines (here in the UK) are used for vertical sync data and TELETEXT. I was involved in desiging some of the early text inserter kit back in the early 1980's.

I demo'd a CD-ROM in Cannes in Sept 1985 at a Trade Show. It was connected up to a DEC MicroVAX System and we showed installing software from the disk.
We still occassionally use the very high quality Phillips drive (1X speed) to read disks that other drives just give up on.

Re:An open question...why 44.1? (1)

cailyoung (898949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750969)

"Dolby 5.1" cannot be encoded in an analog stereo signal; the .1 implies you're referring to Dolby Digital 5.1, which is a 6-track discrete compression system using digitally encoded audio. Dolby Pro-Logic, which is what I think you're referring to, is matrix-encoded in analogue stereo audio. It is a four channel system, where audio that's in-phase across the left and right signals is routed to the center, and audio that's near 180 out of phase is routed to the (mono) surround channel.

Re:An open question...why 44.1? (3, Informative)

ShakaZ (1002825) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750699)

For a more scientifically sound reason about why 44.1 kHz was chosen look here : http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~hgs/audio/44.1.html [columbia.edu]

The CD sampling rate has to be larger than about 40 kHz to fulfill the Nyquist criterion that requires sampling at twice the maximum analog frequency, which is about 20 kHz for audio. The sampling frequency is chosen somewhat higher than the Nyquist rate since practical filters neede to prevent aliasing have a finite slope. Digital audio tapes (DATs) use a sampling rate of 48 kHz. It has been claimed that thier sampling rate differs from that of CDs to make digital copying from one to the other more difficult. 48 kHz is, in principle, a better rate since it is a multiple of the other standard sampling rates, namely 8 and 16 kHz for telephone-quality audio. Sampling rate conversion is simplified if rates are integer multiples of each other.

Re:An open question...why 44.1? (3, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751241)

The CD sampling rate has to be larger than about 40 kHz to fulfill the Nyquist criterion that requires sampling at twice the maximum analog frequency, which is about 20 kHz for audio.

As many audiophiles will tell you, though humans cannot generally perceive tones above 20kHz, they are able to use high-frequency information for things like localization, and an entire high-resolution sound recording market, based on 96 and 192 kHz recording formats is built around it. The quote from the website above sort of tries to reason the 44.1 issue backwards: why didn't they just do 44.0 or (44.2 even?) if they were trying to find a sample rate that didn't convert so well? Particularly when the best analogue formats, like 30 ips 2 inch tape, can record up to 30 kHz?

Here's the story my recording engineering teachers passed down to me, accept it if you wish:

A long time ago the only way you could make a digital recording (without building a cleanroom or spending $10 grand on a 1 Gig hard drive) was to take your digital bit-stream and record it on some kind of helical video tape. Sony was the first company to sell these devices, which were basically black boxes with audio in on one side, and video out on the other [wikipedia.org] ; you would then take this video signal (which looks like "checkerboard" noise on a TV) and send it to a VCR to record. The best commonly-available video recording format at the time was 3/4" U-Matic.

U-Matic can record the full 525 lines of an NTSC image at (nominally) 30 frames/sec. In tests, the Sony engineers found they could squeeze about 47,040 bits into a frame. (There's some way this worked out into an integer number of bits per an integer number of lines, but I can't remember the math right now. It averages about 90 bits per line.)

So, if you have 47,040 bits per frame, you have 1,411,200 bits per second, which is 176,400 bytes/sec, which is the data rate of 44.1 kHz stereo PCM. The system also works for PAL, which only runs at 25 video frames per second, but has 625 line to record on, making up the difference.

Re:An open question...why 44.1? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751157)

"Well, except for the fact that a NTSC signal actually has 259 lines, not 245 lines. I have never gotten a straight answer on why we only use 245 of the 259 lines."

Is that where they hide the data for closed captioning?

Bill Gates advocated CD-ROM very early (4, Interesting)

ynotds (318243) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750425)

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.

Re:Bill Gates advocated CD-ROM very early (1)

NeuroManson (214835) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751235)

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?

Re:Bill Gates advocated CD-ROM very early (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751459)

Simtel and others were selling Linux and FreeBSD CDROMs before Windows 95 came out. Did NT 3.1 also come on CD?

Missing items (5, Interesting)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750567)

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.

Re:Missing items (1)

Frogbert (589961) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751085)

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.

Size Change (5, Funny)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750575)

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.

I find this the most interesing (3, Informative)

qzulla (600807) | more than 7 years ago | (#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

Re:I find this the most interesing (1)

conufsed (650798) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750865)

It was my understanding that Phillips already had some cd manufacturing, when CDs were going to be of a small size, and to stop Phillips having a head start over Sony, someone at Sony used the longer piece of music as justifcation as to why the CDs needed to be larger, and catchup

CD-ROM != CDA (0, Redundant)

Tetard (202140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750611)

The submission mentions CD-ROM, but the article talks about Compact Disc Digital Audio...

A Dutchman improved the production process (4, Informative)

cheros (223479) | more than 7 years ago | (#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).

Thanks for making me feel old (2, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750693)

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.

sl-asshole-dot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750717)

fuck this shithouse. linux is for faggot dick smokers.

Huh... (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750733)

All this time I thought the primary medium for listening to music were either speakers or my ears...or the air...here I was all wrong.

Pity metadata never took off (2)

duinsel (935058) | more than 7 years ago | (#19750927)

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.

Re:Pity metadata never took off (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751461)

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.

Archival on this wonderful creation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19750933)

Slashdot previously covered an article on How To Choose Archival CD/DVD Media [slashdot.org]

What is this rubbish..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19751189)

Well, I looked, but could find no reference to James Russell in any of the official histories. The nearest person to a single producer of the CD appears to be one Rudiani (hope I remember the name right!), who worked for Phillips in the 1950s. Russell was 1965. Obviously lots of people were working on light-operated recording then!

I did a bit more research, and found the OP had been copied from a list of American Inventors which was obviously designed to boost American prestige - one of these 'American Inventor of the Day' sites which ignore all prior foreign work.

Celebrate the CD by all means - but don't believe the Americocentric propaganda that is so common on the Web nowadays as Americans try to pursuade themselves that they're still successful.

the CD-ROM standard and the surfing competition!! (2, Interesting)

nawcom (941663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751291)

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 smaller, more compact disc and matched a telecom standard that would make downloading and transferring music easier\x{2014}which I find rather ironic. Sony preferred the 44.1-kHz sampling rate, because it matched the upper reaches of audible sound at 20,000 cycles.

The final decision was made in a meeting in Hawaii, according to Richard Bruno, who was a Philips executive and one of the company's CD project managers. With final arguments running into recreational time, Bjorn Blutgen of Philips and Toshi Doi of Sony took to surfboards still bickering. One of them had the bright idea of challenging the other to a surfing match: Whoever fell off the board first would lose. The Dutchman lost. Hence we have a 44.1-kHz sampling rate on today's CDs. Now you know.

(Resources: from my own memory when ages ago i read this while taking a shit on the john: From John C. Dvorak's Inside Track, PC Magazine http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1573633,00.as p [pcmag.com] )

Earlier light tech (3, Informative)

yusing (216625) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751301)

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]

Correction (0)

advid.net (595837) | more than 7 years ago | (#19751503)

Usual mistake in the article:

The data on a CD is stored as tiny indentations encoded in a spiral track moulded into the top layer of polycarbonate.
CD tracks are concentric. The rest seems correct.
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