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Five Lesser-Known Facts about the CD and its Fall from Popularity

by Conner Tighe The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board. 1979 was a big year in the entertainment industry. Alien, Mad Max, The Amityville Horror, and more well-known films were released, but a bigger breakthrough was also released to the world: The CD. A thin, reflective disc became the most popular and sought-after avenue for playing the best music had to offer. Before the internet and after the beloved record player, CDs would take over the music industry only to begin their decline decades later. Although at one time CDs could be found anywhere music was sold, the music industry has evolved, leaving a barren wasteland of CDs in its wake.

5. The first CD was released in 1982 for the band ABBA

Swedish pop band ABBA takes credit for having the first CD featuring their album The Visitors in 1982. The eight-track album featured songs “Two For the Price of One,” “I Am the City,” “Cassandra,” and more. ABBA consisted of members Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, and Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad. Although Fältskog and Ulvaeus married in ‘71 and Andersson married Lyngstad in ‘78, the two couples split, leading to ABBA’s downfall in ’83.

4. Cars began to replace CD players in the 2010s

 When cars began to feature CD players in the car, something revolutionary after the invention of stereo cassette players in vehicles, there was no going back. In the 70s and 80s, cassettes were popular. A large square slot for the cassette turned into a narrow square slot for the CD. This would last until the mid-2010s, when vehicle companies Ford, Honda, and Toyota began to get rid of the car CD players. Bluetooth and the evolution of technology took over, making the thin discs a thing of the past altogether. With vehicles becoming more technologically advanced, it almost seems less convenient to insert and eject CDs continuously in a car.

3. Vinyl are more fragile than CDs

With its resurgence in popularity, beginning back in the 2010s, vinyl became more nostalgic for some, but a retro style for others. Vinyl records capture more sound waves than CDs because of its analog recording. The groove embedded in the record ensures no piece of the sound wave goes unheard, unlike the CD. Thumbprints and scratches leave CDs in a risky position as these nuisances can render CDs useless, leave the music sounding scratchy/patchy, or leave parts of the music out. Although fragile in its design, vinyl comes in first in terms of fragility. Stacking vinyl can cause scratching even with the sleeves on. Oil from skin contact can damage the plastic. A carbon fiber brush is needed to clean vinyl, as standard cleaning products won’t do the job. Leaving vinyl out of their sleeves can accumulate dust, scratches, and even the sun can damage the record if left out.

2. 2008 was a bad year for CD sales

2008 was the beginning of the end for CDs as sales dropped, with 17 million people reported not buying the products. Although convenience has taken over with the continuous decline in CD sales, they are still sold in stores like F.Y.E., Barnes and Noble, Target, Meijer, and other large corporations where electronics are sold. At one time, CDs were one of the best storage systems for music, providing tunes stored in one small disc. Then the rise of streaming services like Pandora, iTunes, and Spotify came along. They offered an endless supply of tracks that could be played wherever, therefore ultimately being a better means of playing music than CDs.

1. CDs can be used for up to 200 years

Manufacturers have tested CDs in the past to see what environments the discs do best in with temperature and humidity levels. In one study, with a 77 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent humidity recommendation, the discs can be workable for 30 years, but this isn’t confirmed for all CDs. Some CDs have been known to work past 100 years if stored at the recommended temperature. Chemical reactions can occur, known as “CD rot” or “bronzing”, where the outer layer of CDs literally rots away and leaves the silver inner layer exposed. But since not all CDs are the same, no one set environment will work for all CDs. The basic gist is to store CDs in an environment with nonfluctuating temperatures to secure the longest lifespan.
Sources: Ars Technica, BBC, CLIR, Electrohome, Forbes, How Stuff Works, IMDB, Kodak Digitizing, Lifewire, Mirror, Retro Manufacturing, The Vinyl Revivers Featured Image: Commodore Waves