30 Facts About CD Players 30 Years After They Were Introduced

23 Dec 2014

It was October 1, 1982, that Sony released the CDP-101, the first commercially-available compact disc player. 

Since that day 30 years ago, millions upon millions of these devices have been sold.  In honour of this anniversary, here are 30 facts about CD players.

  1. At first, the CDP-101 was launched only in Japan for 168,000 yen ($730 USD).  That’s the equivlanent of about $1,630 today.
  2. The reason behind the Japan-only release was because Philips, Sony’s partner in the development of CD technology, wasn’t ready to launch their line of players yet.  The Philips CD100 was launched the following month.
  3. Sony was finally able to sell their players worldwide as of March 1, 1983.
  4. Most CD players employ slide-out trays because the simplicity and reilability of the mechanism (the Philips CD300 of 1983-84 was the first).  However, some players had doors that opened verticially.  Others were top-loading or used a slot that grabbed the disc and moved it into place.  These became most common in vehicles.
  5. The first public demonstration of a CD player was on a 1981 episode of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World.  The CD they used was a special transfer of the Bee Gees’ Living Eyes.
  6. The first portable CD player was the Sony Discman.  It was introduced in 1984.
  7. Sony was also the first manufacturer to make an after-market CD player available for cars (1984).
  8. Mercedes-Benz was the first automobile manufacturer to offer a CD player as a factory option.
  9. Unlike vinyl, CDs play from the outside in.  The rotational speed of a CD ranges from 200 RPM (outside of the disc) to 500 RPM (inside of the disc).
  10. There’s a tiny slice of data–about 5 kb worth–at the very beginning of the disc (i.e. on the inner edge of the data track) that contains information such as the running time of the disc, the number of tracks and the time of each track.
  11. Pretty much every CD player in use today is still based on technology developed in the 1970s.
  12. Manufacturers agreed to use something known as the Red Book, a series of standards that ensured that every CD could play in every CD player.
  13. At the height of demand for CD changers, there were units that could hold 100-300 discs.
  14. CD carousels hold between 3 and 7 discs.
  15. When the CD was introduced, pre-recorded cassettes were challenged vinyl records for supremacy in the marketplace.  The CD pretty much killed the cassette within five years.
  16. Sales of music CDs peaked in 2000 with 2.5 billion units.
  17. All CD players handle the standard 120mm discs.  Most can handle mini CDs (80mm in diameter and capable of holding around 21 minutes worth of material).
  18. Technically, there’s no such thing as a mono CD because the Red Book standard never supported mono. Discs sold as mono are actually two identical sound sources running in tandem.
  19. The Red Book also provided for a four-channel standard.  No one bothered.
  20. The Metronome Technologie Kalista transport/C2a signature tube DAC is the most expensive CD player (well, the most expensive I could find).  It retails for no less than $70,000.
  21. Each second of music on a CD is features 44,100 slices of one second of analog music.  That was considered magic in 1982. If we were to develop the CD today, we could use a sampling rate exponentially higher.
  22. CD lasers operate at a wavelength of 780 nanometres.  DVD lasers operate at 650 nanometres while Blu-ray disc lasers are at 405 nanometres.
  23. The CD laser has to penetrate 1.2 mm of polycarbonate to reach the data below.
  24. The “skip” function changed the way people listened to music. No longer did anyone have to physically lift a needle or fast-forward a tape to get to the song we wanted.
  25. Some artists were annoyed at the CD player’s ability to program the playback of tracks in an order preferred by the user.  That messed up their careful sequencing.
  26. CDs spin counter-clockwise.
  27. If you stretched out the spiral data on CD into a straight line, it would be 0.5 microns wide and more than 3 1/2 miles long.
  28. Early CD players were easy to make skip.  Improved transport mechanisms and buffer protection addressed that.
  29. Power consumption was a big issue in early portable CD players. They ate double-A batteries at a scary rate.
  30. A good modern turntable playing a vinyl record in good condition still sounds better than a CD.
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