Article by David Julian Price, Technology Journalist
Some say the nineteen eighties only really started when Compact Disc was launched in 1982. This futuristic Philips and Sony-developed music format epitomised a decade of fast moving technological progress – its shiny lacquered aluminium discs read by a laser beam felt like the stuff of science fiction. Understandably it was snapped up by early adopters eager to embrace the shiny new technology, but as a way of actually listening to music it didn’t fare quite so well.
Many music lovers thought it a little sterile sounding. Although the world was wowed by its inky-black inter-track silences, some felt it was still processed and artificial. There were all sorts of explanations, from conventional hi-fi systems not being ‘digital-ready’ to the fact that most discs were analogue mastered, and thus couldn’t get the full benefit of the new technology. Most were wide of the mark; in truth the early CD players simply weren’t quite up to the job.
Indeed, it took over a decade to really get the sound of digital discs right, and it was left to specialist manufacturers to do this, not the format’s creators. Philips and Sony turned their corporate gaze to newer technologies, leaving the field open for specialist companies to wring the last ounce of fidelity from CD. The opportunity was seized by Data Conversion Systems of Cambridge, England. At the time this bleeding-edge technology company had only recently stopped making ultra high precision radar systems for the British military.