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Slipped discs

I was surprised to learn that the CD celebrated its 30th anniversary last month. Three-and-a-half billion CD players have been sold since '82, 3 bn CD drives and an astonishing 240 bn CDs, writes Parag Kamani.

music Updated: Apr 20, 2009 19:43 IST

I was surprised to learn that the compact disc (CD) celebrated its 30th anniversary last month. Going back a bit, it took the CD three years after to be made available for consumer usage with the launch of pianist Billy Joel’s classic 1978 album, 52nd Street, on October 1, 1982.

The album –– and the medium –– changed history forever, but I had to wait until ’89 to have access to CDs (audio cassettes, as the primary physical format in India then, were being mastered from them), when I joined the music business.

First timer
It was in September that year that I purchased a Sony Player –– model no CDP 41, I think –– at a princely sum of Rs 7,500. It was difficult to explain to my parents then that here was a sound device that worked without a stylus and did away with a turntable.

Born from the remnants of the laser disc, it was a thrill purchasing CDs during my periodical visits abroad from ’92 onwards when, due to want of CDs being locally released, I used to purchase about 30 CDs per visit.

Yes, they were expensive, but you really didn’t have a choice if you wanted to “feed” your CD player and build your collection. The first CD that I purchased on my own was an album that I grew up with: Queen’s A Night At The Opera (1975), containing the classic Bohemian rhapsody. The CD proudly remains in the collection. I also also have the same on vinyl, with an autograph by drummer Roger Taylor, taken during his visit to Kolkata in ’96.

Of course, through the years, the quality of CDs and their sound became more refined as CDs also had visual elements added to them ranging from catalogues to music videos (anyone remember ‘Enhanced CD’?).

Sales of CDs eventually peaked with the release of a greatest hits collection from The Beatles entitled 1, containing all their No 1 hits, in November 2000. The album sold more than 30 million units worldwide. Not bad for a band that had ceased to exist for more than 30 years by then!

Getting obsolete
How things have changed since then. CD sales have gone free falling, dropping in seven of the last eight years, with an unprecedented 20 per cent drop last year. All this after three-and-a-half billion CD players have been sold since ’82, three billion CD drives, and an astonishing 240 billion CDs.

It hurts that CDs are being rendered obsolete, courtesy MP3s, but, yet, I hope there are like-minded people who still treasure CDs as part of their music collection, much like we did the first time around with vinyl.