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CD celebrates 25th anniversary

The first compact disc was produced 25 years ago in a factory in Germany following years of development by Philips and Sony.

Electronics giant Philips manufactured the world's first CD, which was ABBA's "The Visitors", at a Philips factory in Langenhagen just outside Hanover, Germany 25 years ago on 17 August 1982.

The CD was jointly developed by Philips and Sony after they signed a deal in 1979 to create a disc which could hold an hour of audio.

"When Philips teamed up with Sony to develop the CD, our first target was to win over the world for the CD. We did this by collaborating openly to agree on a new standard. For Philips, this open innovation was a new approach and it paid off." said Piet Kramer, who was a member of the optical group at Philips during the disc's development.

Jacques Heemskerk, who was one of the senior engineers involved with the optical side of CD players, said the company had always planned on the format lasting at least 20 to 25 years. He said the Philips team knew they were building a revolutionary product.

"It was revolutionary in many fields - the optics were new, the disc was new. At the start of development there wasn't even a laser that would work well enough for our needs. The most advanced laser at the time had a lifespan of only 100 hours." He added that it had been a big culture shock for Philips when they had allied with Sony.

"The world was not as globalised as it is today. Our management had told us to be as open as possible and to share everything because that was the only way to have success. But we were suspicious and so were their engineers. But after a few days it became clear we could work together. There were other companies working on similar technologies, so there was pressure."

In 1980 Philips and Sony produced their Red Book which laid down all the standards and technical specifications for all CD and data CD-ROMs.

The capacity was extended to 74 minutes and the disk was made larger to accommodate a complete performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

The first CDs were mainly classical recordings went on sale in November 1982.

Worldwide, 200 billion CDs have now been sold since the format was launched. 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 CDs peaked at 2.455 billion. In 2006 that figure was down to 1.755 billion. In the last 10 years CD sales have been dropping worldwide while digital download sales have risen. Downloads will account for a quarter of all worldwide music sales by 2010 according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). CD sales in the UK have dropped 10 per cent in the first half of this year, while download purchases have increased by 50 per cent.

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