>> Monday, March 5, 2007
Frans Zuurveen was one of the authors of the Philips Technical Magazine in the Netherlands and in 1995 he published a story about the rise of CD-i. The history of this format included many long nights, meetings and problems. The development of the system took many years, and, not surprisingly, it all started with the invention of the Audio CD, also by Philips. 1981. We follow the tail of stories about the Interactive Compact Disc, how it started, and how it ended.
At the start of the seventies Philips introduced the "Video Long Play" (VLP). This type of record was going to be called LaserDisc a few years later. The way how video material was written on this disc was unique at that time. While it never brought the success Philips was hoping for, Philips Research learnt a lot about how to store a lot of information on a disc. The secret was in the laser: Using a laser it is possible to create miniscule holes in a disc (visible only with a microscope) and after that reading it again without any problems.
The VLP record used an analogue technique. In 1974, Philips introduced the ability to write digital information on the same kind of disc. This was done by the so-called zero's and one's: the binary codes were called 'bits'. The ninth symphony of Beethoven was converted in this way into six billion bits. Ofcourse this was not possible without any errors but they found their ways to correct small errors in these ranges as well: very smart and innovative at that time! At the end of the seventies this record appeared to be a lot smaller than Japanese records. thanks to the laser the information was put together more closely, which resulted in less space needed for a record. In Eindhoven, Philips brilliantly invented a technique to bury the information in the disc, by covering it with a transparent layer. In this way, dust and scratches were no issue anymore. In 1977, the very first CD prototype player was presented in Eindhoven and while it showed the technique of the laser, the electronic part was in a huge box behind the curtain. The IC's needed for a complete player had to be invented in the near future.
In 1979, Philips contacted Sony to demonstrate the system in Japan. Sony was amazed by the small size of it: only a diameter of 11.5 cm at that time. The results are presented in the same year: Philips and Sony will introduce the Compact Disc Digital Audio. This was the start of a lot of negotiations, inclusing the discussion about the final size of the disc. Akio Morita insisted on a playtime of 75 minutes on one disc, so the 9th symphony of Beethoven would fit on one disc (when conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Would you believe this is the reason why a compact disc has a diameter of 12 cm! The standard was called: The Red Book.
Interested how this story will lead to CD-i? To be continued!