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September of 2009, the re-mastered and digitally remixed versions of several
classic albums by The Beatles were released on CD. Numerous industry
publications predicted that this would be the last great sales boom for CD’s,
which in the span of only 30 years have seemingly completed their life-cycle.
How did this innovative technology—initially derided by vinyl-only snobs and
purists for it’s ‘lesser’ audio quality—so quickly become passé? Are the CD
death-knells premature from an industry grown hungry for quick profit in the
form of technological turnaround?
The CD is still quite capable of holding its own as an audio format.
Technically, a commercially available CD can hold 80 minutes of standard, or
non-compressed, audio. Instead of the traditional grooves on a vinyl record, a
CD has ‘pits’ and ‘lands’ in which the audio data is stored. The pits are
generally 100 nanometers to 500 nanometers wide, and up to 3.5 micrometers in
length. A 780 nanometer semiconductor laser reads the height difference
between the pits and the lands. The intensity change in light produced from
the height difference is interpreted by a photodiode, which consequently
translates this into sound by creating a binary code which is reversed through
a process known as the Cross Interleaved Reed-Solomon Coding.
In terms of space constraints, CD’s take up much less room than vinyl, and can
be stored in more flexible conditions. However, the surface of a CD can
scratch easily, ruining the audio data on the disc. A periodic gentle polish
with a soft cloth can keep the surface of a CD in good playing condition.
The peak sales year for CD’s was 2000, in which 942.49 million CD’s were sold.
Advances in file sharing on the internet began to steadily chip away at the
sales figures of CD’s, until 2008, in which a new low of 427.89 million CD’s
were sold. However, many industry experts blame this downturn not on the CD’s
themselves as a format, but rather the audio that was placed on to them. Some
theorize that excessive greed and indifference to market trends on the part of
major record companies brought about the steady erosion of CD sales.
Although there has been an aggressive push to replace the CD with newer
formats in the hope of engineering a massive consumer media turnover
purchasing wave, the CD, much like The Beatles, may have not yet seen its
| CDs - probably the largest choice of CDs in the UK!|