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First Mention: The Impact Of CDs On The Music Industry


We occasionally reach back into the archives here at NPR to find the first time we talked about some event or piece of culture or technology that's old hat today. We call the series...


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: First mention.


And today, we're going to turn the clock back to March 18, 1983. Our science correspondent Ira Flatow was explaining a soon-to-be released audio technology.


IRA FLATOW, BYLINE: Is your social life in trouble because you panic when someone picks up one of your precious recordings, or are you just the opposite - one who couldn't care less about the quality of the music but wants total convenience? Well, folks, for both of you, relief is in sight. It's called the compact audio disc - the CD.

SIEGEL: The CD - until that time, CD meant certificate of deposit.

SHAPIRO: Well, one of the companies making digital compact audio disc players back then was Magnavox. And the company's A.J. Menazi told Flatow...


A.J. MENAZI: The audiophile obviously will love it for its sound reproduction capability.

SHAPIRO: A lot of audiophiles were skeptical. They thought the CD did not sound better at all. It was just easier to use with the ability to jump to any track at the touch of a button. But our reporter was certainly right about the impact of the CD on the market.


FLATOW: CDs are going to revolutionize music the way stereo changed mono.


BILLY JOEL: (Singing) ...Someday.

FLATOW: This familiar tune is not playing on a record or a tape. It is recorded on a four-and-three-quarter-inch metallic disc that looks a lot like a 45 record.

SIEGEL: That's right. In 1983, in order to describe this new technology, an earlier format was invoked that made sense then. But actually, there's a chance today, Ari, that some listeners have no idea what that 45 meant.

SHAPIRO: Robert, I have to confess.

SIEGEL: Oh, no, oh, no.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter). I have no idea what a 45 is.

SIEGEL: Oh, no. Well, unlike a big album that spun around at 33 revolutions per minute, a much small record with only one song on each side went around at 45 revolutions.

SHAPIRO: Come to think of it, do we have to explain to some listeners what a CD is?

SIEGEL: I think we might. So a CD was like Spotify on a disk. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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