30. The Compact Disc at 40, a media history with Eamonn Bell

2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the technical standard for the compact disc.

Eamonn Bell explains how this format is an important hinge in the establishment of digital music for the general consumer. As a portable medium, it belongs to the era of vinyl and magnetic tape, yet as the first widespread digital music format, its arrival marks the beginning of our current digital era.

Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits was released in 1985. It was the first million-selling CD and the first CD to out-sell its LP counterpart.

So what led Sony and Philips in 1979-1980 to collaborate on the technical standard for the CD? What problems did they face, and what have been the long-term consequences of the decisions they made in the development of the audio CD format? How did they get the music onto the disc?

What made the CD so successful and popular? What kind of music could first be heard on CDs, and why?


Eamonn Bell is a music scholar and a postdoctoral researcher in Trinity College Dublin. You can follow his research into the history of the compact disc standard at https://redbook.space/ and you can follow him on Twitter @_eamonnbell.

Further Listening:

German electronic music collective Oval, on Bandcamp.