Space Ramblings

Is the CD Obsolete?

The Wired blog says,

An obsolete form of optical media known as the “Compact Disc” celebrates its 25th birthday tomorrow. In a press release issued Thursday, Philips said a staggering 200 billion of them were produced (194 billion accounted for by AOL signup disks) since the first one was stamped off the production line on Aug. 17, 1982. Though the CD is well past its prime, the form factor and basic technology saw renewal in the DVD and, later, next-gen formats such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray Disc.

Is the CD actually obsolete though? The DVD has not replaced the original Compact Disk for Audio obviously. Sony was the only one who ever made an audio player capable of playing DVD’s and it is virtually impossible to get your hands on one except by scouring eBay. I had a friend who wanted an audio player for playing DVD’s without paying for a video portable DVD player. It was a bit odd and very hard to get.

Sony’s MiniDisc as a replacement format only took off a bit in Europe but never in the United States. So the CD is still around. Partly we have moved on to the MP3 and portable digital audio player but if you want a hard copy of the data to play on your stereo, the CD still tops anything else. Not to mention that even for data, CD-R’s and CD-RW’s have not vanished, even though DVD-R’s and DVD-RW’s have become affordable enough to be ubiquitous. But CD-R’s and CD-RW’s continue to easily outnumber DVD-R’s and DVD-RW’s for recording data, despite the superiority of the DVD-R and DVD-RW.

So is the CD extinct? Hardly. It’s old, yes. CD audio is declining badly enough to deal a serious blow to music studios who want to sell albums instead of songs but CD’s are not vanishing from stores, even if Tower Record’s mismanagement may have broken the chain and even if a lot of the music chains will likely follow Tower Records into oblivion given time. But that has more to do with the economics of running music chains in the face of Walmart and Kmart.

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