First CD released

An April, 1966 issue of the American magazine High Fidelity touted in an article the new longer-playing analog shellac record, a 7” disc that turned at 8 rpm and contained the same amount of music as a 12” one. In that same issue, the magazine noted, the future of records would not be analog at all, but in much smaller, digital discs. Work already began on developing that technology, with Sony and Phillips introducing theirs to the public ten years later. Further refinements and an understanding that a common standard was needed if the new medium would have any life led Sony and Phillips to cooperate in creating the final technical aspects of the CD. Finally, 16 years after it was first hypothesized, the CD was ready.

On this day, August 17, in 1982, the first compact disc was pressed in the Polydor factory in Hanover, Germany. The recording chosen for the disc was of Richard Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie (“An Alpine Symphony”) by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

Karajan was a big early supporter of the CD, but the large record companies resisted. Given the large base of people who already owned analog music players, they preferred to focus on efforts improving existing technologies rather than replacing with completely new ones. And music store reactions in the Netherlands, where the new CDs first went on sale were guarded. Yes, the CDs were a significant improvement in audio quality, but since they were much smaller, there was a larger risk of theft or for the customer to feel they aren’t getting enough for their money.