The Compact Disc Celebrates 25 Years

CD LogoFriday marks the 25th anniversary of the Compact Disc. However, is there much time left for the format in the age of the digital download?

The first CDs rolled off an assembly line on August 17, 1982 with a copy of Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony. It was hailed as the next big thing in music, replacing the cassette tape and vinyl LP as the de facto format for many music aficionados.

The CD medium offered many benefits over its predecessors. One of the most notable benefits was its usable shelf life -- far longer than tape or LP. Some even argue that the sound quality of the CD is better than either format, although that is a point of contention between many.

So who created the CD? As the story goes, Philips began researching optical audio technology in the 1970s. From there, Sony would join the effort in 1979 and both sides worked to get out a standard the following year.

The CD got its design from the shape of a record, although how it got its size its in debate. Some said its was made just big enough to hold Beethoven's 9th Symphony, while others say it was the size of a Dutch beer coaster.

By 1982, the format was ready for mass production. Players would go on sale that fall, and were a near instant success. This would be accelerated by the launch of Sony's first Discman two years later. By 1986, sales of CD players would eclipse record players, and two years later, CD sales outpaced records.

Sales of CDs would peak at 2001 at 712 million, around the time that peer-to-peer file sharing services became widely popular. Within five years, sales have dropped nearly a quarter.

The question many are asking now is whether the digital download may eclipse the CD as more consumers turn to their iPods and other digital media devices.

"The MP3 and all the little things that the boys and girls have in their pockets ... can replace it, absolutely," Pieter Kramer, head of Philip's optical research division in the 1970s, told the Associated Press in an interview.

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