The CD turns 40 this year. We’ve got fun facts and personal anecdotes, and an answer to the mystery of “what was the first CD ever made?” Sorta.
October 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the first CD ever to be commercially released. Cheers! Of course, in the ever-changing world of music media, there are plenty of new sharing/streaming/playing technologies that have come into wider popular use, but the sonic quality of the CD, combined with the tactile experience, has given the CD long legs, and we’ve even seen a rise in CD sales in the last year. So, happy birthday to our favorite music format!
What was the first CD ever made?
Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, featuring classics like “Big Shot” and “My Life,” and an album I wore out on vinyl (I remember “Rosalinda’s Eyes” off that album being a secret favorite), tends to get listed as the first album to ever be released commercially, but that’s not entirely accurate, as it was one of 50 albums released in Japan on October 1, 1982. 52nd Street just happened to be the first listed in the catalog, so it gets the tag as “first CD ever made.” We get into it a lot more in another blog post, “What was the first CD ever released?”
CD facts to dazzle your friends with
Here are some fun facts about CDs.
- Sony and Philips teamed up to create the CD format and set a new standard for audio formats.
- The first commercially produced CD player was the Sony CDP-101 and was released in 1982.
- The first CD player was $1,500.
- CDs have a bitrate of 1,411. This is four times clearer than the quality you get from downloads, which have a standard bitrate of 160 to 320.
- CDs are made out of polycarbonate plastic.
- The diameter of a CD is 120mm.
- The audio from a CD relies on little pits within the disc and there are up to 16 billion pits on a disc.
- There are disc changers available with capacities ranging from 2 to 403 CDs.
- Mercedes-Benz was the first automobile company to offer CD players in their vehicles.
(Sourced from SpenCertified.)
Why is the standard capacity of a CD 74 minutes?
In the 1980s, when Sony and Philips were beginning to negotiate an industry standard for the new CD technology, one key issue was whether the circumference of the new disc should be 11.5cm or 12cm. Both knew that legendary conductor Herbert Von Karajan would be instrumental to the success of their new format, as he had agreed to endorse the CD at the Vienna press conference where they would announce the company’s prototype. But Von Karajan had one condition: the new technology had to allow listeners to hear the whole of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony without interruption. The longest recording Sony could find was Wilhelm Furtwängler’s glacial 1951 recording, which ran 74 minutes, sealing the 12cm circumference and the running time. (Sourced from Classic FM.)
What was the first CD you ever owned?
As you can imagine, we here at Disc Makers have a pretty unique relationship to the CD medium. So, while you celebrate the 40th anniversary of the CD, I ask you: what’s the first CD you ever owned? What’s the last CD you purchased? Let us know in the comments, and then pull out some of your faves and give them a spin! Here are some stories from inside DM headquarters.
Tony van Veen, President & CEO
What’s the first CD you ever bought? Santana, Beyond Appearances
I didn’t actually buy this CD, it was a gift from my girlfriend — now my wife. It was Christmas 1985, and we were both home on break from college. While CDs had been around for a couple of years, it took a while for a lot of titles to become widely available, so in 1985 there wasn’t much of a selection. My girlfriend clearly liked me very much — she gave me the CD and a Sony Discman for Christmas. And while the album was not very good, I remember being blown away by the sound quality the CD format delivered (even on that tiny headset that came with the Discman) compared to the scratchy vinyl records I was used to listening to. I wish I still had that first CD, but it seems to have gotten lost in one of the many moves I’ve made since 1985.
What’s the last CD you bought? Bombino, Deran
In June I attended a concert by North African guitarist Bombino. When they announced that he was personally going to be at the merch table after the show, I was thrilled. I ended up buying his most recent studio album so he could autograph it. We ended up taking a selfie too. As a fan it was such an amazing experience.
Andre Calilhanna, Blog Manager/Editor
What’s the first CD you ever bought? Journey, Escape
I’m psyched to see this is listed among the 50 first CDs released! I had this on vinyl and specifically chose the album as my first CD purchase in 1985 (I think) as I was starting a CD collection. I wanted to hear if the digital version improved the listening experience. I love my vinyl, still have plenty in my collection, but yeah, the CD sounded so much better to me. I remember endlessly playing drums along to the CD, the song “Escape” in particular, I must have driven my college housemates insane. I still cue that up and jam along to the tune today. I also remember going out to the record store months after purchasing Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love on vinyl because I had to have that one on CD. I still listen to those discs!
What’s the last CD you bought? Lindsey Buckingham’s 2021 self-titled release.
The Lindsey Buckingham album is great, but a more memorable recent purchase was going direct to Luka Bloom’s website to purchase Bittersweet Crimson after reading his appeal to fans about recording that album in the midst of the COVID pandemic and doing a self release. They (his presumably small management team) had to ship me a second CD because the first one was removed from its packaging by the USPS. I think they didn’t like that there was no return address on the envelope so they literally cut the disc out of the case and delivered an empty Digipak to me.
Carter Fox, Social Media Marketing Manager
What’s the first CD you ever bought? 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Trying
I bought the 50 Cent CD when I was 12 or 13, but the first CD I ever owned was gifted to me: The Beach Boys Greatest Hits Vol 1. I received that for Hannukah in 1996. I listened to that thing so many times, it probably is what birthed my love for music. The Beach Boys are still a big influence and joy for me to this day. Not to say that I didn’t memorize every lyric on 50 Cent’s album, because I did, and I can still remember some of them pretty well if I get on a roll.
What’s the last CD you bought? Switchfoot, Native Tongue
I purchased the CD when they played the Fillmore in Philly in 2019. My band, JUTAUN, opened that show so I snagged a memento from the group.
Dan Baker, VP of Marketing
What’s the first CD you ever bought? Public Enemy, Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black
I got my first CD player in 1991 and remember wondering where the fast forward button was. My friends thought that was hysterical. So, after a quick tutorial on modern music listening, I was blown away by the clarity (and bass) coming through my newly purchased boom box and, boy, was it was BOOMIN’! And then I discovered Columbia House…
What’s the last CD you bought? Arcade Fire, Everything Now
I bought this on a whim while out shopping with my kids because A) it feels good to support the artist and B) it had been too long since I had purchased a CD. Just holding it in my hands brought back so many fond memories of reading liner notes along with the songs, trying to understand the words. Of course, anyone can do that on their phone now, but it’s just not the same. The tactile, singular experience of just listening to an album is something that will never fade for me.
Mike Wojtaszek, Digital Marketing Coordinator
What’s the first CD you ever bought? Def Leppard, Hysteria
My old man picked up a SWEET Technics rack stereo system with the classy glass door on the front and he sprung for the optional CD player component. That is saying something, as CD players were pretty pricy when they first came out. I had a decent collection of tapes at the time, and the tape I listened to the most was Def Leppard’s Pyromania. So, when the follow-up to that album FINALLY came out in 1987, I took some money I had from mowing lawns to my local Wall to Wall Sound & Video and picked up Hysteria. I listened to that CD on the old man’s stereo and immediately realized how crappy those old tapes I had were! The CD sounded SOOOOO much better. Eventually, I got my own CD player. As prices on players came down, I picked up a SONY Discman, even going so far as trying to use one of those janky cassette adapters to listen to CDs in my car. They never worked, so I installed a CD head unit in the old Camaro.
What’s the last CD you bought? Todd La Torre, Rejoice in the Suffering
I’ve been a fan of Queensrÿche for decades now, so when their current singer, Todd La Torre, announced he was putting out a solo album, I had to check it out. I went to his website to learn more and saw if you pre-ordered, you could get the CD signed by Todd. Sweet! Order placed. My wife saw the same announcement and immediately ordered a copy too, so we have two signed copies of the CD. The album is great and it’s more special that it was signed by the artist himself. And when first looking at the CD, I noticed the Disc Makers mark on the disc. We printed these CDs! How cool is that?
Andre Calilhanna is a decent writer, drummer, and vocalist, as well as a terrible pianist and guitarist. He’s also a book editor and blog manager of the Disc Makers and BookBaby blog. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.