Except for the Nintendo Switch, which uses cards, today's consoles and PC platforms still use recognizable optical media for the physical distribution of games. Thin, round discs have changed names and capacities over the years, but the shape we know today originates from the first Compact Disc or CD. And yesterday, August 17, he turned 40 years old.
Before the appearance of the CD, the dominant media were (gramophone) records and cassettes. Records were bulky and fragile, while cassettes required "rewinding" after playback. The companies Sony and Phillips were still working on digitizing audio tracks in a compact format at the end of the seventies of the last century. The idea was for the medium to eliminate noises, distortions, and crackles in reproduction, that is, to deliver pure digital sound and become the most efficient medium for storing music.
The physical CD is made of polycarbonate plastic, are 1.2 millimeters thin, 120 millimeters in diameter, and weighs up to 33 grams. It typically contains 74-80 minutes of audio. The first CD was produced in Germany, although the first commercial CD was available in Japan two months later. It is worth noting that the CDs of that time were in the CD-DA format and were intended exclusively for storing audio recordings. It was only later that the CD-ROM format appeared, which was used to store all types of files.
Music CDs were revolutionary because of the ability to quickly select individual songs. In the eighties, it was a kind of luxury because the CDs themselves were not cheap, and the playback devices especially. However, the price fell over the years and CDs reached their peak of popularity in the second half of the nineties.
The advent of the CD-ROM format, which could store up to 700 megabytes of data, opened a real revolution for the video game industry. The capacity played the biggest role here - game manufacturers could deliver generally longer games, and the medium also opened the way for voice acting in games. The CD as a medium in the world of video games was primarily made famous by Sony's PlayStation console. However, it was not the first to use CDs for playing games. In addition to the PlayStation, we also had Sega CD, Amiga CD, 3D0, Atari Jaguar CD, Neo Geo CD, and Sega Saturn consoles.
CDs brought more ambitious games on the one hand, but also some less good stuff on the other. CDs took longer to load than cassettes, and CDs themselves were prone to damage. Appetites grew very quickly, so one 700 MB CD was sometimes not enough for certain games.
The video game industry quickly outgrew the CD and moved to the DVD format, and later to Blu-ray. How fast that transition was is shown by the fact that already in 2013 we received a PlayStation 4 console that could not play CDs.
The music industry stuck to CDs, but the very idea of buying music in physical form quickly fell in popularity at the turn of the century. Although music CDs are still produced and distributed, in less than half a century we have also experienced that the sale of gramophone records in 2021 was greater than the sale of music albums on optical media.
Be that as it may, the vast majority of players and music lovers today have some interesting CD-related memories. Whether you scratched them, broke them, fried them, gave them away, or used them as decorations - they deserved to be congratulated on their 40th birthday.