Archive for February, 2009

When CD’s Were A Dream About To Come True

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I can remember the very first compact disk I purchased- I was in Japan in November of 1982 and CD’s were taking the county by storm (as things tend to do in Japan). It was a recording of Holst’s “The Planets”. Going through my archives doing some research recently I came across an entry from Len Feldman’s column “Sightings” in the August 1981 issue of db, The Sound Engineering Magazine:

“Those studios with vast libraries of analog master tapes may find little or no use for them when the world “goes digital” in a few years. But as for the fears about the obsolescence of the conventional vinyl disc, I think that such fears are over-exaggerated. The digital disk will make its way into homes slowly, I feel, and the analog LP discs which have been sold by the billions are not about to be discarded overnight, or even over a span of ten or more years. I’m not saying that they will never become collectors’ items— only that it’s a bit early to discard our collections of 12-inch LPs before we see which way the digital disk is really going to go— and how soon it’s going to get there.”

Hahahaha! This is one reason I love history, it’s so much fun looking back to see how things really turned out, and how often the experts get the future wrong. To be sure, it took a while for CD’s to make it to our shores (I didn’t purchase my first CD player until 1985, a Sony CDP-302, which is still in service by the way) but by 1986 vinyl disappeared virtually overnight from the stores. I think Len Feldman completely overlooked the convenience factor of CD’s. On good equipment vinyl sounds almost as good as a CD, and certainly a poorly recorded CD will sound worse than a good vinyl recording, but to be free of the hassle of handling LP’s and constant fiddling with turntables and styli, the cleaning, need to turn them over after 20 minutes or so, and the wear out issue, the same things that drove many to use cassettes to record their record collections when cassettes’ quality got good enough, was the big driver in the rapid embrace of CD’s. It’s hard to believe CD’s have been with us for almost 30 years. Which is why the current struggle of Blu-ray against ordinary DVD’s may not turn out the way futurists predict today. While the conventional DVD was a vast improvement over the VHS tape, many people can barely tell the difference between an upscaled DVD and a Blu-ray video image due to the long history in this country of people accustomed to watching sub-par video. Blu-ray is no more or less convenient than DVD, so from that perspective there is no reason at all to upgrade to Blu-ray. Even many folks with HD tv’s often can’t tell if what they are watching is in high definition or not! We’ve been down this road before, folks. When was the last time you purchased a superAudio CD? I thought so…