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back to article Happy birthday, Compact Disc

The Compact Disc is 30 years old - at least if you work back to when the platform first went on sale to punters. The first commercially release disc and player - respectively, Billy Joel's 52nd Street and Sony's CDP-101 - were introduced in Japan on 1 October 1982. The disc was released by Sony's recorded music subsidiary, CBS …

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Anonymous Coward

Like DVD this was the first move to digital and its success has also made it hard for anything better to come along. Not to mention that DVD and CDs can be ripped for transfer to portable devices.

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CDs could always be ripped to a digital device... if you had a digital format to copy them to, but hardly anyone did until the late nineties. Most of the Sony devices which could record a digital input wouldn't then allow you to make a digital copy of the copy. This was certainly true of MiniDisc Recorders, I'm not sure about DATs (but only Japanese kids had those). It seemed fair enough. Where Sony took the piss was introducing errors into the TOCs of pre-recorded CDs so that whilst they would probably work in an audio CD player, they would never in a CD ROM (including many car CD players that used CD ROM drives). And then there was that Sony rootkit on CDs ('XCP')... and thats before we even mention their SonicStage software. My favourite is from New Scientist in 2005:

We can only speculate on the acrimony of the dialogue between Sony and Microsoft that produced this message, because we have never seen one like it: "Error Caused By Sony Corporation: No Specific Solution Found...An analyst at Microsoft has investigated this problem and determined that an unknown error occurred in OpenMG-SonicStage Jukebox. This software was created by Sony Corporation:Microsoft has researched this problem with Sony Corporation, and they do not currently have a solution for the problem".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Copy_Management_System

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_copy_protection_rootkit_scandal

DVDs couldn't be ripped until the CSS was broken.

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Linux

DRM cracking in the forest where no one can hear...

> DVDs couldn't be ripped until the CSS was broken.

...which happened before the format even became widely used.

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FIA

Most of the Sony devices which could record a digital input wouldn't then allow you to make a digital copy of the copy. This was certainly true of MiniDisc Recorders, I'm not sure about DATs (but only Japanese kids had those).

Oh, DAT drives had DRM too, it's not a new phenomenon, and back then it was just as irritating and restrictive by the sounds of it.[1]

Ironically, whilst MiniDisc prevented generational digital copying the format was actually lossy, so subsequent copies would never be as good regardless. (the SPDIF signal being the reconstructed audio, not the actual stored data).

[1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/24/digital_audio_history_part_one/ - Page 2

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Alert

The coming of commercialisation

This is just my personal feeling but vinyl presented me with something that I cherished as much as the record/music itself, the Cover.

Some of the covers were/still are works of art and on rare occassion you also had the double cover, oooohhhhhh Whilst listenging to your favorite LP you could hold/read and admire the cover, it wass a small personal paradise.

Then CDs came out a blew it all away, removing the insert of a CDRom, hopefully not ripping the paper does not present the same tactile experince. It is a delicate task which often ends up in the insert becoming tatty if great care is not taken.

I'm getting old and Cds will always represent, for me, the coming of the "Commercial Pop Culture" and with it a hell of a lot of shit music..

I don't think i'll ever be nostalgique about a CD.

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Re: The coming of commercialisation

At least you can hold a CD. In twenty years time you'll be longing for a CD insert to hold as all music will be downloaded and the concept of going to a "shop" to "buy" music will be reserved purely for the type of weirdos that today collect vinyl.

Disclaimer - I still have a record player...

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WTF?

Re: The coming of commercialisation

Yeah, the covers were crappy....but the sound was amazing! I remember being wowed by classical music on CDs. I could switch on my hi-fi, start a track and not know what volume I'd left my amp at until the music started. No matter how careful I was with vinyl, the snap, crackle and pop was always in the mix.

I'm getting old too but I am nostalgic about the dawn of the CD. I don't link the event to crap music at all. Of course these days it's all MP3, with it's inferior sound quality...or so I'm told. At my age I've lost sensitivity to a good portion of the audio spectrum.

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Re: The coming of commercialisation

Dunno about commercial per se being new, but yes, I agree that the small size of the CD was probably a mistake for the music industry. Almost no matter what you do to it the packaging of the CD is going to look cheap and nastyish compared to 12" recordings, and in addition the small size encouraged things like newspaper giveaways which I think were a factor in encouraging the customer to think music cold be a giveaway.

All this was,what with smaller distribution volume, quick wins for the beancounters, but I think it was a long term loss to the industry.

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Re: The coming of commercialisation

Yeah, I like covers too, but that said, you can fetishise "the package" too much. I remember some guys I knew in the 80s complaining about cassettes not because of the sub-vinyl sound quality but because they weren't the whole "package". Yet the sound wasn't serious worse than dusty LP - ah, the clicks and pops of mucky/damaged vinyl - and tapes were bloody convenient, and the only option for on-the-go listening.

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Re: The coming of commercialisation

"Yet the sound wasn't serious worse than dusty LP"

Total bollocks on two counts:

Count one - No-one played dusty LPs because everyone had disc preener gear. Serious audio nutjobs had Zerostat pistols too to neutralise static buildup from the previous LP playing turning the mat into an electrophorus. I had a brush that tracked with the stylus on a separate arm.

Count two - the prerecorded tape industry was cheaper than Jack Benny on a bad day. Brothers in Arms was recorded on Chrome Dioxide tape. You can tell because the tape insert says so in big letters. Of course, Chrome Dioxide wears the tape heads and was superseded in the home recording industry a decade before by various proprietary substrates - my favourite was TDK's Super Avalyn, so the tape manufacturers were, in fact, overstocked with otherwise unsellable Chrome Dioxide tape stocks. It was a source of ironic amusement to everyone back then that the company that bleated longest and loudest about illegal home recording - EMI - was also the world leader in sales of blank tape.

Count three - The cassette versions of recordings not only typically (but not always) shorted people on the artwork but also often were missing tracks. OF course, sometimes you got an extra track, but that usually meant the LP version was over-short. Okay, three counts.

Cassettes do have a couple of virtues - of all the formats they are the only one that you can leave in your car in the heat of summer and the freeze of winter and still expect to work, and no-one is going to smash your window to steal a cassette player in this day and age. For all the talk of tape degradation I own twenty-five year old recordings on TDK AD that are still good.

In any case, this misses the point: that in the Auld Days playing recorded music was a ritual. Anyone can play an MP3 but before you could play an LP you had to have set up your kit and balanced it and adjusted the anti-skate mechanism. Some of the transcription decks were works of art. My Dad had a Goldring Lenco deck that featured chrome-plated weights hung over corckscrew cranes. The cueing device was damped to serene beauty, and was operated by a humungous lever. Today it would be prized by any Steampunk just for it's look. Swivel head tangential tracking styli, parallel servo-driven transcription arms, the deck was often a prominently-displayed piece of techno-sculpture in the home and visits to other's homes in my youth would usually feature music if only to showcase the gear in action.

The cover art was also part - a big part - of the experience, and anyone who says otherwise is a product of the 80s. The fantastic concept of the Roger Dean Yes covers was a good part of the anticipation of each new recording. Proper sleeve notes you didn't need an electron microscope to read (after all, you have a square foot on the dust jacket and possibly two inside the cover to work with) along with clever tricks like the fold-out of the Man album or the Reformation era distorted art and decoder device of the Wakeman album all worked with the recording to provide a multi-media experience you just don't get staring at the visualizer in Windows media player. Every record shop was a people's art gallery in a way the My Amazon page isn't.

Now: get off my lawn!

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Re: The coming of commercialisation

I dispute the claim about tapes slightly.

I once had a compact cassette go banana shaped due to being in my car in hot weather.

On the plus side, like most mass-production cassettes, I could crack it open and the contents were transferred to a fresh shell.

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Unhappy

Re: The coming of commercialisation

Stevie may be a bit of a purist compared to me and my friends back in the late 70's/early 80's, but I knew nobody at all who would play their vinyl dirty. LPs were tenderly taken from their covers, always checked for any dirt or dust and cleaned if necessary, then after playing returned reverantly to BOTH covers, ensuring the paper inner sleeve was inserted so the opening was in a different direction to the outer cardboard sleeve. They would then be placed upright in the proper place whether proper record case or bookcase. These were precious and expensive items, treasured for the beauty of their artwork as well as the music on them.

Nowadays I see CDs thrown in a heap in the corner, often without their cases, as they don't seem to be valued.

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time flies ...

does anyone remember Tomorrows World reporting on CDs ? Was it jam they smeared over it ?

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Re: time flies ...

Peanut butter wasn't it?

Not sure whether it was smooth or crunchy though.

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Re: time flies ...

as I recall they smeared the jam on the title side not the "data" side.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: time flies ...

My recollection is that it was premiered on the BBC breakfast TV show. A manufacturer's rep smeared various items from the handy breakfast food onto the CD - particularly honey. He then roughly wiped it off and played the CD.

A friend lashed out £500 for a CD player. He demonstrated how amazingly silent it was - followed by deafening sound. I remember nervously trying to get a CD out of its case - it seemed incredibly fragile after being used to 12" vinyl records. I still get annoyed when I see people taking no care to avoid scuffs and scratches. Secondhand DVDs are often unplayable in places due to previous owners' careless handling.

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Re: time flies ...

Thank goodness BluRay won over HDDVD... because the BluRay standard makes a scratch-proof layer mandatory, the Microsoft-backed format didn't (amusingly, XBOXes tend to scratch DVDs yet MS claim you have no legitimate reason to copy your XBOX discs... if they merely charged cost to swap a damaged disc for a new one, I would take their point).

I remember those Tomorrows World demonstrations... Wasn't it supposed to be the case that a CD can suffer a 1mm radial scratch and yet leave all the data recoverable? There was also a TW feature on the MD player: the Sony rep removed the disc and reinserted it without a break in the music. This was presumably to demonstrate the anti-skip buffer, rather than being a feature in itself.

Buying second hand DVDs is buying eggs... have a peek inside the box before you part with your money.

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Windows

Re: time flies ...

Does anyone else feel absolutely fricking ancient right now? I remember going to college and my main method of listening to music was on tape! CDs I dallied with briefly but found them too much of pain lugging around everywhere. Minidisc felt like it might have been a solution and then I got my Rio MP3 player with a whopping 32Mb of storage on an MMC card....Goddamn kids and their 160Gb iPods.

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Pint

Re: time flies ...

>>Does anyone else feel absolutely fricking ancient right now?<<. Err....... Yes !

My younger brother had an 8 Track stereo system in his E-Type Jag in 1970.

I've always hated my brother...........

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Re: time flies ...

> on the MD player: the Sony rep removed the disc and reinserted it without a break in the music.

Just tested that, doesn't work mate, it just plays from the start again, which would be expected I'd day.

Maybe you mean when you press pause? Coz that definitely works.

My memory of TW was the jamming, but I also seem to remember an ad on the telly with the sex pistols driving over a CD. Or did I dream that? I could google it but cannot be arsed.

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Boffin

Re: time flies ...

> Just tested that, doesn't work mate, it just plays from the start again, which would be expected I'd day.

> Maybe you mean when you press pause? Coz that definitely works.

I remember that sequence and the Sony rep definitely removed the disc from the player. I presume the player was either specially modified for the purpose of the demonstration or the music playback was simply faked for the TV audience -- it's certainly not a feature I could see having any value in a production device...

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Re: time flies ...

The PS3 does that with DVD's - to remember where you were in the film.

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Meh

Credit where credit is due?

I see there is no mention of James T Russell. The actual person who first came up with the concept of the CD and created them in the first place.

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Track information

It's always been a disappointment that with a capacity of 650 Mb or more, the designers of the CD format couldn't spare the space for a few kilobytes of track information.

You could say this is just 2020 hindsight. But other digital disk formats of the time, such as magnetic disks, always allowed space for metadata. Perhaps it was because the CD designers were thinking in terms of vinyl, so the resulting CD was higher-quality and higher-capacity, but still an unstructured stream of audio like an LP.

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Re: Track information

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD-Text

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Bod
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Re: Track information

CD-TEXT was an extension to the standard that provides this while being compatible with the standard red book and has been available for ages, but I think few CD players ever supported it and probably few CDs were pressed with it either. Supported by a lot of CD burning software.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Track information

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD-Text

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Re: Track information

There was a Sharp mini hifi system that supported CD-TEXT, but then very few CDs did. It was one of the first bits of kit I saw that was festooned in hideous blue LEDs, when they were still novel.

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Meh

Re: Track information

My last Sony car stereo supported CD Text, but I only ever found one Album of mine that actually had the information encoded. (Room Noises by Eisley for those that are interested)

However, that stereo was stolen a few years back and the model that replaced it, which I still use, may or may not, as it has never to my knowledge had a CD inserted in it. The front USB port and a 32GB miniature USB stick has seen to that, comfortably holding a good proportion (about a fifth) of my entire digital music collection.

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Re: Track information

Ah, CD Text. In my experience, the only company that seemingly supported it was Sony - I (still) have a CD/MD player that supports it and the only retail CDs that came with it (on the very rare occasions) was Sony ones (or its subsidaries).

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Happy

Re: Track information

I too was about to say that I'd only ever seen it on Sony equipment, and have only ever seen it on one disc, which I think was Sony, too.

My car radio still has it, too, not that it gets used very often. For fear of damaging the discs most of the originals were copied onto blanks, which then had the CD-TEXT data put on as well. I always wondered why it wasn't taken up by more players and record companies, and still have no good reason other than that, by the time it was getting popular, "soft" music came along and did away completely with the disc anyhow.

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Re: Track information

My partner recently put a new Sony stereo in her car and I have found that Zoom by ELO and The Best of The Move both support CD text.

I believe the ELO album was released on Epic which I think is owned by Sony, while The Move album carries the Fly Records mark, and I believe they are independent.

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Re: Track information

My last car audio would display CD text, but I only ever saw one album that included text (Bach Sonatas and Partitas by Julia Fischer).

Having read the replies, I think I can answer my own question. The reason that the original CD spec didn't include text (and CD text never seems to have been widespread), has nothing to to with shortcomings in CD technology. It's because the technology to display it was not possible or too expensive for most players during most of the CD's life. It's only during the past decade that memory-mapped displays have become widely available. I overlooked this because I've always mostly played CDs on a computer.

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Sony Cdp101

Ah Nosatalga Went to Laskys to buy a Nakamechi Tape Dec ...

Listened to a Sony CDP101 Went round the corner to Buy a Dire Straights CD

Could not leave the shop without the Cd Player ...

In the days when Sony was a quality Hardware maker !! ( I think I have The Circuit Diagram Still)

Dous Anybody Know what the Blue Ribbon Socket on the Back was For ????

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Happy

Re: Sony Cdp101

"Dous Anybody Know what the Blue Ribbon Socket on the Back was For ????"

Not sure. The connector is labeled "Accessory Connector" but I don't recall what the plan was was for that port. I'll have to see if I can dig out the instruction manual.

BTW, I still have my CDP-101 and 30 years later it still works!

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Happy

Re: Sony Cdp101

From memory Sony CD players could hook directly into a Sony "Hi-Fi". I guess it was some sort of propriety digital connector, I think it meant the remote worked for the "Hi-Fi" and CD player. But it was I long time ago, so I may be wrong, but it certainly hooked into the Hi-Fi

PS <Snob Value> I bought Dire Straights on day of release. £17.99 and still have it, may play it for a toast to the CD player.

However as for lasting a squillion years as it was implied, I've noticed many of my earlier ones, the lacquer has started to yellow slightly and some really struggled to play on some devices a couple of years ago when I ripped my entire collection. Can I have a refund please?

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Re: Sony Cdp101

Hi, the blue ribbon socket was for the Midi hifi system which it was designed to work with, there was a long ribbon which connected to the amp, cassette etc although the first remote did not have controls for the CD player, later versions did.

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Bod
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Quality

CD was a step up in quality for most people (debatable I know with Vinyl audiophiles), but after all this time it's sad that higher def formats haven't taken off and quality has arguably degraded in favour of convenience. If it's good enough to allow people to make out the tune on very crappy & leaky MP3 player ear buds playing a compressed to hell MP3 (and if not a legit one, probably badly ripped or mangled along the way also), then that's fine for the vast majority. But then to be fair most people were happy to go with hissy cassette for a while over vinyl.

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Re: Quality

"debatable I know with Vinyl audiophiles"

If reading the internet has taught me anything, it's that audiophiles generally have no idea what they're talking about. They'll pay the better part of 100 quid for a 'high quality' HDMI cable and honestly can't see the pointlessness of gold plated TOSLINK jacks.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Quality

Considering this is El Reg and all, try connecting your speakers with a single (well, one for each speaker, obviously) twisted pair ripped out of a CAT-5 cable. No connectors, bare wire. Sounds great, costs nothing. Obviously, don't try this on a monster Yank transistor amp, but for anything up to 200 W RMS, it works.

Black chopper, cause the cable mafia will be on to me now.

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Re: Quality

A mate at work said "use solid core 35 amp mains cable to connect your speakers" and he wasn't wrong :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Is there any truth

in the rumour that those early cds have oxidised and are unaplayable?

'Unfortunately' I do not have any Billy joel cds to test

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Re: Is there any truth

No - the first CDs I bought are still perfectly playable, and of them did fall out of my bedroom window, slide down a slate roof, bounce across some concrete and end up in the flower bed. The Philips CD101 which I bought at the same time still works (or it did the last time I checked it a couple of years ago).

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Re: Is there any truth

It's possible that some could get disc rot, but on the whole no. My first CD (Sisters of Mercy, for my sins) still plays 100%, as does every other CD I own. You could possibly be thinking of "laser rot" which affected some, improperly made, LaserDiscs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disc_rot%23Laser_rot - this was much more common than it is with CDs.

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Unhappy

Re: Is there any truth

No, but DVDs are made differently and some are unplayable due to deterioration of the reflective layer.

Since they are pressed, in theory they could be repaired.,

CDs and DVDs you "write" yourself only have the groove pressed. The 1s and 0s are dark and light (or opaque and clearish) dye instead of bits. They do become unreadable. Especially if left exposed to light.

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Re: Is there any truth

Some, at least, CDs made in the UK.

I own a Status Quo CD on which the silver stuff has turned brown, as though it had been smoking 20 Capstan Full Strength a day for it's 20 year or so lifetime. Still plays.

A friend has a Frankie Goes to Hollywood CD that has rotted into unplayability with big holes in the silver stuff. Mercifully, that one won't play at all.

I own other UK made CDs that have pinholes in the silver that show when the disc is held to the light. Doesn't seem to be a problem with my US-made CDs (though I couldn't swear they were made in the domestic US these days). The pinholes do not seem to alter the discs' ability to play, though I don't have equipment that tracks the error rate.

There are various stories as to why this CD Rot effect is so, from the wrong ink used on the CDs to porous plastic used in the sandwich. Don't know if any is more trustworthy than the next, but personal experience had me not buying UK versions (can't call 'em pressings really) if a US one existed for years, which was a problem since most of my listening is to UK acts like Tull, Yes, Fairport Convention, Caravan, Bowie etc. The irony of this is that during the LP age the reverse was true. American pressings were notoriously known to be vastly inferior to domestic UK ones.

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Re: Is there any truth

Yes. Some truth at least.

The discs pressed by PDO in the UK, for a certain period, all had a habit of turning bronze and becoming unreliable/unplayable. I still have a couple left that won't rip, though I haven't tried playing them in a normal player recently.

At the time (and I think I'm talking about 10-15 years ago now), PDO did the decent thing and offered to swap-out the affected discs. An offer I accepted... I can't imagine the industry, as it is today, being quite so honourable.

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Re: Is there any truth

Nah. The closest I came to invoking that rumor was with my first CD player, a Technics SLP-1 (this was in the 1980s), and I found after a couple of years that some of my CDs weren't playing. But they were all Arista CDs (Alan Parsons Project), and they had played before, and I deduced that the Technics was getting old enough that it was missing some encoding that Arista had failed to do correctly.

A new CD player found me able to play all my discs again.

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Happy

Re: Is there any truth

My 1985 Klaus Nomi CDs still read "and rip" fine So does my first printing "Dark Side of the Moon"

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Linux

Re: Is there any truth

There are a lot of CD's in the Library of Congress that have rotted away. It doesn't seem to be an age thing in particular. If anything it seems to be just down to a matter of luck in terms of who fabricated the disc. A lot of my own old disks are still perfectly playable.

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