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Inside the spectacular rise and fall of the shiny disc that altered music as the CD turns 40

The sleek 4.7-inch plastic and aluminium disc, approximately the size of a drink coaster, debuted in the United States in March 1983 and promised clear, crisp digital audio reproduction without the pops or hiss of tapes or vinyl LPs.

There were some issues with the Disc. Because of the size of the new media, the coffee table-sized artwork and text on vinyl were lost.

Moreover, in order to deter theft, CDs were initially offered in unfriendly cardboard tall boxes. The plastic casings also included annoying dog bone-shaped metallic tape sealing that had to be cut with a sharp object.

Nonetheless, we can play a CD and listen to more than an hour’s worth of music. We had the option to shuffle and skip tunes. Records sales on CDs reached record highs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they continued to be the medium of choice for consumers up until 2012, when alternative digital formats overtook the CD.

CDs are still popular among musicians.

The 2022 release “Where We Began,” by country music icon Thomas Rhett, is available as a digital download or stream as well as on vinyl, CD, and cassette.

“The LP, in my opinion, will outlast the CD. I hate to say it, but the vinyl record is a more vintage technology—more real, more romantic “said Pohlmann. “One of the best-engineered items to ever come out of the late 20th century was the CD. It ushered in the era of digital music we live in today, but I believe it was a transitional technology whose time has come and gone.”

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