Standard CDs have a diameter of 120 mm and can hold up to 80 minutes of audio. There is also the Mini CD, with diameters ranging from 60 to 80 mm; they are sometimes used for CD singles, storing up to 24 minutes of audio.
The technology was later adapted and expanded to include data storage CD-ROM, write-once audio and data storage CD-R, rewritable media CD-RW, Super Audio CD (SACD), Video Compact Discs (VCD), Super Video Compact Discs (SVCD), PhotoCD, PictureCD, CD-i, and Enhanced CD. CD-ROMs and CD-Rs remain widely used technologies in the computer industry. The CD and its extensions have been extremely successful: in 2004, worldwide sales of CD audio, CD-ROM, and CD-R reached about 30 billion discs. By 2007, 200 billion CDs had been sold worldwide.
After a year of experimentation and discussion, the taskforce produced the Red Book, the Compact Disc standard. Philips contributed the general manufacturing process, based on video Laserdisc technology. Philips also contributed Eight-to-Fourteen Modulation (EFM), which offers both a long playing time and a high resilience against disc defects such as scratches and fingerprints, while Sony contributed the error-correction method, CIRC. The Compact Disc Story, told by a former member of the taskforce, gives background information on the many technical decisions made, including the choice of the sampling frequency, playing time, and disc diameter. According to Philips, the Compact Disc was thus "invented collectively by a large group of people working as a team."
The first CD that was pressed in Hanover was a recording of Herbert von Karajan conducting the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss. In August 1982 the real pressing was ready to begin in the new factory, not far from the place where Emil Berliner had produced his first gramophone record 93 years earlier. (Deutsche Grammophon, Berliner’s company, had by now become a part of PolyGram.) CDs and Sony's CD player CDP-101 reached the market on October 1, 1982 in Japan, and early the following year in the United States and other markets. This event is often seen as the "Big Bang" of the digital audio revolution. The new audio disc was enthusiastically received, especially in the early-adopting classical music and audiophile communities and its handling quality received particular praise. As the price of players sank rapidly, the CD began to gain popularity in the larger popular and rock music markets. The first artist to sell a million copies on CD was Dire Straits, with their 1985 album Brothers in Arms. In 1986 Queen became the first artist to have their entire catalogue converted to the format.
The CD was originally thought of as an evolution of the gramophone record, rather than primarily as a data storage medium. Only later did the concept of an "audio file" arise, and the generalising of this to any data file. From its origins as a music format, Compact Disc has grown to encompass other applications. In June 1985, the CD-ROM (read-only memory) and, in 1990, CD-Recordable were introduced, also developed by Sony and Philips.
A Compact Disc is made from a 1.2 mm thick disc of almost pure polycarbonate plastic and weighs approximately 16 grams. A thin layer of aluminium or, more rarely, gold is applied to the surface to make it reflective, and is protected by a film of lacquer. The lacquer is normally spin coated directly on top of the reflective layer. On top of that surface, the label print is applied. Common printing methods for CDs are screen-printing and offset printing.
CD data is stored as a series of tiny indentations known as “pits”, encoded in a tightly packed spiral track molded into the top of the polycarbonate layer. The areas between pits are known as “lands”. Each pit is approximately 100 nm deep by 500 nm wide, and varies from 850 nm to 3.5 µm in length.
The spacing between the tracks, the pitch, is 1.6 µm. A CD is read by focusing a 780 nm wavelength (near infrared) semiconductor laser through the bottom of the polycarbonate layer. The change in height between pits and lands results in a difference in intensity in the light reflected. By measuring the intensity change with a photodiode, the data can be read from the disc.
The pits and lands themselves do not directly represent the zeros and ones of binary data. Instead, Non-return-to-zero, inverted (NRZI) encoding is used: a change from pit to land or land to pit indicates a one, while no change indicates a zero. This in turn is decoded by reversing the Eight-to-Fourteen Modulation used in mastering the disc, and then reversing the Cross-Interleaved Reed-Solomon Coding, finally revealing the raw data stored on the disc.
While CDs are significantly more durable than earlier audio formats, they are susceptible to damage from daily usage and environmental factors. Pits are much closer to the label side of a disc, so that defects and dirt on the clear side can be out of focus during playback. Discs consequently suffer more damage because of defects such as scratches on the label side, whereas clear-side scratches can be repaired by refilling them with plastic of similar index of refraction, or by careful polishing. Early music CDs were known to suffer from "CD rot" or "laser rot" where the internal reflective layer itself degrades. When this occurs the CD may become unplayable.
The digital data on a CD begins at the center of the disc and proceeds outwards to the edge, which allows adaptation to the different size formats available. Standard CDs are available in two sizes. By far the most common is 120 mm in diameter, with a 74 or 80-minute audio capacity and a 650 or 700 MB data capacity. This diameter has also been adopted by later formats, including Super Audio CD, DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray Disc. 80 mm discs ("Mini CDs") were originally designed for CD singles and can hold up to 21 minutes of music or 184 MB of data but never really became popular. Today nearly all singles are released on 120 mm CDs, which is called a Maxi single.
|Physical size||Audio Capacity||CD-ROM Data Capacity||Note|
|12 cm||74–80 min||650–703 MB||Standard size|
|8 cm||21–24 min||185–210 MB||Mini-CD size|
|~6 min||~55 MB||"Business card" size|
The logical format of an audio CD (officially Compact Disc Digital Audio or CD-DA) is described in a document produced in 1980 by the format's joint creators, Sony and Philips. The document is known colloquially as the "Red Book" after the color of its cover. The format is a two-channel 16-bit PCM encoding at a 44.1 kHz sampling rate per channel. Four-channel sound is an allowed option within the Red Book format, but has never been implemented. Monaural audio has no existing standard on a Red Book CD; mono source material is usually presented as two identical channels on a 'stereo' track.
The selection of the sample rate was primarily based on the need to reproduce the audible frequency range of 20 Hz - 20 kHz. The Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem states that a sampling rate of more than double the maximum frequency of the signal to be recorded is needed, resulting in a 40 kHz rate. The exact sampling rate of 44.1 kHz was inherited from a method of converting digital audio into an analog video signal for storage on U-matic video tape, which was the most affordable way to transfer data from the recording studio to the CD manufacturer at the time the CD specification was being developed. The device that turns an analog audio signal into PCM audio, which in turn is changed into an analog video signal is called a PCM adaptor. This technology could store six samples (three samples per each stereo channel) in a single horizontal line. A standard NTSC video signal has 245 usable lines per field, and 59.94 fields/s, which works out at 44,056 samples/s/stereo channel. Similarly, PAL has 294 lines and 50 fields, which gives 44,100 samples/s/stereo channel. This system could either store 14-bit samples with some error correction, or 16-bit samples with almost no error correction.
There was a long debate over whether to use 14-bit (Philips) or 16-bit (Sony) quantization, and 44,056 or 44,100 samples/s (Sony) or around 44,000 samples/s (Philips). When the Sony/Philips task force designed the Compact Disc, Philips had already developed a 14-bit D/A converter, but Sony insisted on 16-bit. In the end, 16 bits and 44.1 kilosamples per second prevailed. Philips found a way to produce 16-bit quality using their 14-bit DAC by using four times oversampling.
The extra 14 minute playing time subsequently required changing to a 120 mm disc. Kees Immink, Philips' chief engineer, however, denies this, claiming that the increase was motivated by technical considerations, and that even after the increase in size, the Furtwängler recording would not have fit on one of the earliest CDs. According to a Sunday Tribune interview, the story is slightly more involved. At that time (1979) Philips owned Polygram, one of the world’s largest distributors of music. Polygram had set up a large experimental CD plant in Hanover, Germany, which could produce huge numbers of CDs having, of course, a diameter of 115 mm. Sony did not yet have such a facility. If Sony had agreed on the 115 mm disc, Philips would have had a significant competitive edge in the market. Sony decided that something had to be done. The long playing time of Beethoven's Ninth imposed by Ohga was used to push Philips to accept 120 mm, so that Philips’ Polygram lost its edge on disc fabrication.
The 74-minute playing time of a CD, which was much longer than the 15 to 20 minutes per side possible with long-playing vinyl albums, was often used to the CD’s advantage during the early years when CDs and LPs vied for commercial sales. CDs would often be released with one or more bonus tracks, enticing consumers to buy the CD for the extra material. However, attempts to combine double LPs onto one CD occasionally resulted in an opposing situation in which the CD would actually offer fewer tracks than the LP equivalent. An example is the 1987 album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me by The Cure, which states in the CD liner notes: "The track Hey You!!! which appears on the double album and cassette has been omitted so as to facilitate a single compact disc." The 2006 re-release of this album saw the re-inclusion of the missing track. Another example is the original late-1980s Warner Bros. Records reissue of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk album, which substituted the long album version of "Sara" with the shorter single version. Enough complaints were lodged to eventually convince Warner Bros. to remaster the album in the mid-1990s with the original contents intact.
The program area is 86.05 cm² and the length of the recordable spiral is (86.05 cm² / 1.6 µm) = 5.38 km. With a scanning speed of 1.2 m/s, the playing time is 74 minutes, or around 650 MB of data on a CD-ROM. If the disc diameter were only 115 mm, the maximum playing time would have been 68 minutes, i.e., six minutes less. A disc with data packed slightly more densely is tolerated by most players (though some old ones fail). Using a linear velocity of 1.2 m/s and a track pitch of 1.5 µm leads to a playing time of 80 minutes, or a capacity of 700 MB. Even higher capacities on non-standard discs (up to 99 minutes) are available at least as recordables, but generally the tighter the tracks are squeezed the worse the compatibility.
These 588-bit frames are in turn grouped into sectors. Each sector contains 98 frames, totaling 98 × 24 = 2352 bytes of music. The CD is played at a speed of 75 sectors per second, which results in 176,400 bytes per second. Divided by 2 channels and 2 bytes per sample, this results in a sample rate of 44,100 samples per second.
For CD-ROM data discs, the physical frame and sector sizes are the same. Since error concealment cannot be applied to non-audio data in case the CIRC error correction fails to recover the user data, a third layer of error correction is defined, reducing the payload to 2048 bytes per sector for the Mode-1 CD-ROM format. To increase the data-rate for Video CD, Mode-2 CD-ROM, the third layer has been omitted, increasing the payload to 2336 user-available bytes per sector, only 16 bytes (for synchronization and header data) less than available in Red-Book audio.
In contrast to DVD-Audio, the SACD format has the feature of being able to produce hybrid discs: in addition to the SACD audio, these discs contain a standard audio CD layer which is playable in standard CD players, thus making them backward compatible.
Overall picture quality is intended to be comparable to VHS video. Poorly compressed VCD video can sometimes be lower quality than VHS video, but VCD exhibits block artifacts rather than analog noise, and does not deteriorate further with each use, which may be preferable.
352x240 (or SIF) resolution was chosen because it is half the vertical, and half the horizontal resolution of NTSC video. 352x288 is similarly one quarter PAL/SECAM resolution. This approximates the (overall) resolution of an analog VHS tape, which, although it has double the number of (vertical) scan lines, has a much lower horizontal resolution.
SVCD has two-thirds the resolution of DVD, and over 2.7 times the resolution of VCD. One CD-R disc can hold up to 60 minutes of standard quality SVCD-format video. While no specific limit on SVCD video length is mandated by the specification, one must lower the video bit rate, and therefore quality, in order to accommodate very long videos. It is usually difficult to fit much more than 100 minutes of video onto one SVCD without incurring significant quality loss, and many hardware players are unable to play video with an instantaneous bit rate lower than 300 to 600 kilobits per second.
Replicated CDs are mass-produced initially using a hydraulic press. Small granules of raw polycarbonate plastic are fed into the press while under heat. A screw forces the liquefied plastic into the mold cavity. The mold closes with a metal stamper in contact with the disc surface. The plastic is allowed to cool and harden. Once opened, the disc substrate is removed from the mold by a robotic arm, and a 15 mm diameter center hole (called a stacking ring) is removed. The cycle time, the time it takes to "stamp" one CD, is usually 2–3 seconds.
This method produces the clear plastic blank part of the disc. After a metallic reflecting layer (usually aluminum, but sometimes gold or other metals) is applied to the clear blank substrate, the disc goes under a UV light for drying and it is ready to go to press. To prepare to press a CD, a glass master is made using a high-power laser on a device similar in principle to a CD writer. The glass master is a positive image of the desired CD surface (with the desired microscopic pits and lands). After testing, it is used to make a die by pressing it against a metal disc.
The die is a negative image of the glass master: several are typically made, depending on the number of pressing mills that are to be making the CD. The die then goes into a press and the physical image is imposed onto the blank CD, leaving a final positive image on the disc. A small amount of lacquer is then applied as a ring around the center of the disc, and a fast spin spreads it evenly over the surface. Edge protection lacquer is also applied before the disc is finished. The disc can then be printed and packed.
Recordable compact discs, CD-Rs, are injection molded with a "blank" data spiral. A photosensitive dye is then applied, after which the discs are metalized and lacquer-coated. The write laser of the CD recorder changes the color of the dye to allow the read laser of a standard CD player to see the data, just as it would with a standard stamped disc. The resulting discs can be read by most CD-ROM drives and played in most audio CD players.
CD-R recordings are designed to be permanent. Over time the dye's physical characteristics may change, however, causing read errors and data loss until the reading device cannot recover with error correction methods. The design life is from 20 to 100 years, depending on the quality of the discs, the quality of the writing drive, and storage conditions. However, testing has demonstrated such degradation of some discs in as little as 18 months under normal storage conditions. This failure is known as CD rot. CD-Rs follow the Orange Book standard.
Original CD-RW drives can only write to original ReWritable CD discs. High Speed CD-RW drives can typically write to both original ReWritable CD discs and High Speed ReWritable CD discs. Both types of CD-RW discs can be read in most CD drives.
Even higher speed CD-RW discs, Ultra Speed (16x to 24x write speed) and Ultra Speed+ (32x write speed), are now available.
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