The compact disc is just another rung on the ladder of music technology history and sometimes it’s fun to see how impressed we were over it. At the risk of dating myself, I grew up at the end of the eight-track era going into the cassette tape era. The compact disc wasn’t that far away but remained unreachable for the first few years due to the price of the players needed to listen to them. One Australian news program took some time out to do a special about the newly introduced compact disc and their presentation is totally worth watching.
Towards 2000 debuted on the ABC in 1981. It was a half-hour program showcasing developments and inventions in science and technology. One of the early highlights was this report about the imminent arrival of the next big thing in home entertainment – the compact disc.
This technology was considered so exciting that three of the show’s presenters, Sonia Humphrey, Iain Finlay and Jeff Watson combined to tell the story. It’s worth watching just to see them in their 1982 sartorial elegance, but it’s also a treat to hear the use of words such as “radiogram”, and “gramophone”, and “micro-groove long playing record” which you don’t hear so much anymore…
In 1983, when the first compact disc players arrived on the Australian market, they ranged in price from $900-$1800. (This made them a very significant purchase, given that the Australian Bureau of Statistics says average weekly earnings were around $350/week at the time). The price didn’t hold back the rapid adoption of the technology.
But even then, as Sonia put it in her closing remarks, there was an even better technology on the horizon.
It’s interesting to hear Sonia Humphrey mention putting Beethoven’s 9th on a silicon chip, considering that was done years ago now. Music libraries are now streamed from the cloud to your smartphone and through your car stereo. I wonder what video we’ll be looking back at thirty years from now reminiscing about that “old” tech.
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