Posts filed under “Technology”
We love lists at TBP. The 25th anniversary of the CD is a convenient excuse for these fascinating yet irrelevant data points about the development of CD technology.
Via the BBC, consider this:
• The compact disc project was launched following Philips’ failure with its video disc technology in 1978.
• The video disc was one of the first commercial products to take advantage of laser technology that could read information from a disc without any physical contact.
• Research into the video disc began as far back as 1969, and itself was inspired by Italian Antonio Rubbiani, who had demonstrated a rudimentary video disc system 12 years earlier.
• In 1970 Philips began work on what was called the ALP (audio long play) – an audio disc system to rival vinyl records, but using laser technology.
• Lou Ottens, technical director of the audio division at Philips, was the first to suggest that the ALP be made smaller than the dominant vinyl format and should aim for one hour of music.
• The project initially flirted with the idea of quadraphonic sound but a disc with one hour of music had to be 20cm in diameter and so the plan was abandoned.
• In 1977 Philips began to take the development of a new audio format much more seriously. A new name for the product was discussed and names considered included Mini Rack, MiniDisc, and Compact Rack.
• The team settled on Compact Disc because it was felt it would remind people of the success of the Compact Cassette.
• In March 1979 Philips conducted a press conference to show off the audio quality of its CD system in production and also to impress upon rivals how well it was progressing.
• A week later Philips travelled to Japan after the Japanese Ministry of Industry and Technology (MITI) had decided to convene a conference to discuss how the industry could create a standard for the audio disc. The company left Japan having agreed a deal with Sony.
• Philips’ plan for a CD with a 11.5cm diameter had to be changed when Sony insisted that a disc must hold all of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
• The longest recording of the symphony in record label Polygram’s archive was 74 minutes and so the CD size was increased to 12cm diameter to accommodate the extra data.
• In 1980 Philips and Sony produced their Red Book, which laid down all the standards for compact discs. From that time on the companies worked separately on their own CD equipment but in the early days agreed to share components.
• In April 1982 Philips showed off a production CD player for the first time. "From now on, the conventional record player is obsolete," said Lou Ottens.
• The first commercial CDs pressed were The Visitors by Abba and a recording of Herbert von Karajan conducting the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss.
• US record labels were initially very sceptical about the CD. A year after launch there were 1,000 different titles available.
• In 1985 Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms became the first CD to sell more than one million copies. It is still the world’s most successful CD album.
• In 2000 global sales of CD albums peaked at 2.455 billion. In 2006 that figure was down to 1.755 billion.
How the CD was developed
BBC, Friday, 17 August 2007, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Compact disc hits 25th birthday
17 August 2007, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
The reviews for the iPhone are coming in, and they are breathless (see below).
Rather than add to the over-the-top-hype about the gorgeous little thing, I would rather think about what lessons can be drawn from its mere existence.
I believe there are quite a few practical things to be taken away from the development and marketing of this. An education is available to those companies, corporate mangements, engineers, inventors and investors who are paying attention:
1. Committees Suck: The old joke is that a Camel is a Horse designed by a committee. As we have seen all too often, what comes out of large corporations are bland-to-ugly items that (while functional and reliable) do not excite consumers.
When a company decides to break the committee mindset and give a great designer the reins, you get terrific products that sell well. The Chrysler 300 does not looks like it was designed by a corporate committee. Think of Chris Bangle’s vision for BMW — and its huge sales spike — and you can see what the upside is in having a visionary in charge of design.
Better pick a damned good one, though . . .
2. Present Interfaces Stink: How bad is the present Human Interface of most consumer items? Leaving the improving, but still too hard to use Windows aside for a moment, let’s consider the mobile phone market: It was so kludgy and ugly that the entire 100 million unit, multi-billion dollar industry now finds itself at risk of being completely bypassed, all because some geek from California wanted a cooler and easier to use phone.
What other industries may be at risk?
3. Industrial Design Matters: We have entered a period where industrial design is a significant element in consumer items. From the VW Bug to the iPod, good design can take a ho-hum ordinary product and turn it into a sales winner.
4. R&D is Paramount: While most of corporate America is slashing
R&D budgets (and buying back stock), the handful of companies who
have plowed cash back into R&D are the clear market leaders this
cycle: Think Apple, Google (Maps, Search), Toyota (Hybrid), Nintendo (Wii). A well designed, innovative product can create — or upend — an entire market. Even Microsoft did it with the X-box;
What other companies have the ability to disrupt an entire market?
5. Disdain for the Consumer can be Fatal: As we have seen with Dell, Home Depot, The Gap, Sears, etc., the consumer experience is more important than most corporate management seem to realize. Ignore the public at your peril.
What other lessons are there for companies in the business of designing products for consumers to use?
For the moment, let’s put the iPhone aside and answer the questions above: What markets, companies, products , segments are at risk due to their poor designs? (Use the comments to answer).
Note: Some of the commenters are missing the point of the post — this is about the business of creativity and innovation.
We are not looking for a discussion of Apple in general; Off topic comments will be unpublished.