A Basic Introduction to Compact Disc

A Compact Disc (also known as a CD) is an optical disc for electronically recording, storing and playing back audio, video, text, and other information in digital form. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage (CD-ROM), write-once audio and data storage (CD-R), rewritable media (CD-RW), Video Compact Discs (VCD), Super Video Compact Discs (SVCD), Photo CD, Picture CD, CD-I, and Enhanced CD. Audio CDs and audio CD players have been commercially available since October 1982. The Compact Disc ultimately emerged the winner of audio formats, only to be replaced themselves by solid state memory storage devices.


A CD is made from 1.2 millimeters (0.047 in) thick with a diameter of 120mm, polycarbonate plastic and weighs 15-20 grams. From the center outward, components are: the center spindle hole (15 mm), the first-transition area (clamping ring), the clamping area (stacking ring), the second-transition area (mirror band), the program (data) area, and the rim. The inner program area occupies a radius from 25 to 58 mm.

The original storage capacity of a CD was 680 MB or 74 minutes of audio. Currently 700 MB of data or about 80 minutes of audio is what one would typically encounter. However, larger sizes do exist. Also available are smaller Mini CD’s which can vary in both size and playback time, but the most common ones are 80 mm in diameter or approximately 3 inches. These hold 24 minutes of audio or 210 MB of data.


The Compact Disc (CD) comes in various formats. The most commonly used are the Audio CDs, which can hold up to 80 mins of audio that will play in most hi-fi CD players. 78 minutes is the maximum playing time, 4 seconds is the minimum track duration and 99 tracks is the maximum number of tracks which can be held on a CD.

Video CD (VCD) and Super Video CD (SVCD) are another 2 formats of CD’s. VCD hold video and audio content (like a small film but the quality is low) and SVCD is a much a higher quality version.

There are also other formats like Photo CD, Picture CD, CD-I, Enhanced CD and much more.


For audiophiles of the time, the new Compact Disc seemed to be a dream comes true. It was highly praised as the superior method of playback by classical music connoisseurs who were one of the first groups to really get behind the new trend. As the 1980’s progressed, the price of CD players slowly fell allowing the format to gain mainstream popularity, especially in the rock and pop categories. By 1989, almost a half billion CDs were manufactured on a yearly basis.

Data and Video on the CD

While it was originally intended as an audio format, the Compact Disc found use as a data storage method for computer programs. In June of 1985, the first CD-ROM was created for use in computers. A few years of progress later saw the development of CD-Recordable (originally called CD-WO) and eventually CD-RW, allowing consumers to record whatever they wanted onto the discs.

In 1987 the CD-V (Compact Disc – Video) was introduced using laser disc technology on a CD format to create moving pictures. The fatal flaw, however, was that there was simply not enough room for the necessary video data, and the format quickly fell into decline, disappearing completely by 1991.

Time continues to march on, however, and the Compact Disc is slowly getting left in the dust. Since the advent of solid state MP3 players, large label CD sales have consistently dropped. The CD still has a place in the computer world, however as an inexpensive way to store data.

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