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Compact Disc

Compact Disc

Background

Ever since the invention of the phonograph in 1876, music has been a popular source of home entertainment. In recent years, the compact disc has become the playback medium of choice for recorded music.

A compact disc, or CD, is an optical storage medium with digital data recorded on it. The digital data can be in the form of audio, video, or computer information. When the CD is played, the information is read or detected by a tightly focused light source called a laser (thus the name optical medium). This article will focus on audio compact discs, which are used to play back recorded music.

The history of the compact disc can be traced back to the development of electronic technology and particularly digital electronic technology in the 1960s. Although the first applications of this technology were not in the recording area, it found increasing use in audio components as the technology evolved.

During the same period, many companies started experimenting with optical information storage and laser technology. Among these companies, electronic giants Sony and Philips made notable progress in this area.

By the 1970s, digital and optical technologies had reached a level where they could be combined to develop a single audio system. These technologies provided solutions to the three main challenges faced by the developers of digital audio.

The first challenge was to find a suitable method for recording audio signals in digital format, a process known as audio encoding. A practical method of audio encoding was developed from the theories published by C. Shannon in 1948. This method, known as pulse code modulation (PCM), is a technique that samples a sound during a short time interval and converts the sample to a numerical value that is then modulated or stored for later retrieval.

The storing of audio signals in digital form requires a large amount of data. For instance, to store one second of music requires one million bits of data. The next challenge, therefore, was to find a suitable storage medium to accommodate any significant amount of sound. The solution to this problem came in the form of optical discs. An optical disc can store large amounts of data tightly compressed together. For example, one million bits of data on a CD can occupy an area smaller than a pinhead. This information is read by means of a laser beam that is capable of focusing on a very narrow area as small as 1/2500th of an inch.

The final challenge of digital audio was to process the densely packed information on compact discs quickly enough to produce continuous music. The solution was provided by the development of integrated circuit technology, which allow the processing of millions of computations in just micro-seconds.

By the late 1970s, a common set of standards for the optical storage discs had been developed by the joint efforts of Sony and Philips. A consortium of 35 hardware manufacturers agreed to adopt this standard in 1981 and the first compact discs and compact disc players were introduced in the market in 1982.

Raw Materials

A compact disc is a deceptively simple looking device considering the technology required to make it. CDs consist of three layers of materials:

  • A base layer made of a polycarbonate plastic.
  • A thin layer of aluminum coating over the polycarbonate plastic.
  • A clear protective acrylic coating over the aluminum layer.

Some manufacturers use a silver or even gold layer instead of the aluminum layer in the manufacture of their compact discs.

Design

The compact disc is designed strictly according to the standards established by Sony and Philips in order to maintain universal compatibility. A CD is 4.72 inches (120 millimeters) in diameter and .047 inches (1.2 millimeters) thick. The positioning hole in the middle is .59 of an inch (15 millimeters) in diameter. A CD usually weighs around .53 of an ounce (15 grams).

A standard CD can store up to 74 minutes of data. However, most CDs contain only about 50 minutes of music, all of which is recorded on only one side of the CD (the underside). The recorded data on the CD takes the form of a continuous spiral starting from the inside and moving outward. This spiral or track consists of a series of indentations called pits, separated by sections called lands. A tiny laser beam moving along the track reflects light back to a photo sensor. The sensor sees more light when it is on a land than when it is on a pit, and these variations in light intensity are converted into electrical signals that represent the music originally recorded.

The Manufacturing
Process

Compact discs must be manufactured under very clean and dust free conditions in a "clean room," which is kept free from virtually all dust particles. The air in the room is specially filtered to keep out dirt, and occupants of the room must wear special clothing. Because an average dust particle is 100 times larger than the average pit and land on a CD, even the smallest dust particle can render a disc useless.

Preparing the disc master

  • 1 The original music is first recorded onto a digital audio tape. Next, the audio program is transferred to a 3/4-inch (1.9 centimeters) video tape, and then data (called subcodes) used for indexing and tracking the music is added to the audio data on the tape. At this point, the tape is called a pre-master.
  • 2 The pre-master tape will be used to create the disc master (also called the glass master), which is a disc made from specially prepared glass. The glass is polished to a smooth finish and coated with a layer of adhesive and a layer of photoresist material. The disc is approximately 9.45 inches (240 millimeters) in diameter and .24 of an inch (six millimeters) thick. After the adhesive and photoresist are applied, the disc is cured in an oven.
  • 3 Next, both the pre-master tape and the disc master are put into a complex laser cutting machine. The machine plays back the audio program on the pre-master tape. As it does so, the program is transferred to a device called a CD encoder, which in turn generates an electrical signal. This signal powers a laser beam, which exposes or "cuts" grooves into the photoresist coating on the glass disc (the disc master).
  • 4 The grooves that have been exposed are then etched away by chemicals; these etched grooves will form the pits of the CD's surface. A metal coating, usually silver, is then applied to the disc. The disc master now contains the exact pit-and-land track that the finished CD will have.

Electroforming

  • 5 After etching, the disc master undergoes a process called electroforming, in which another metal layer such as nickel is deposited onto the disc's surface. The phrase "electro" is used because the metal is deposited using an electric current. The disc is bathed in an electrolytic solution, such as nickel solphamate, and as the electric current is applied, a layer of metal forms on the disc master. The thickness of this metal layer is strictly controlled.
  • 6 Next, the newly applied metal layer is pulled apart from the disc master, which is put aside. The metal layer, or father, contains a negative impression of the disc master track; in other words, the track on the metal layer is an exact replica, but in reverse, of the track on the disc master.
  • 7 The metal father then undergoes further electroforming to produce one or more mothers, which are simply metal layers that again have positive impressions of the original disc master track. Using the same electroforming process, each mother then produces a son (also called a stamper) with a negative impression of the track. It is the son that is then used to create the actual CD.
  • 8 After being separated from the mother, the metal son is rinsed, dried, polished and put in a punching machine that cuts out the center hole and forms the desired outside diameter.

Replication

  • 9 The metal son is then put into a hollow cavitya dieof the proper disc shape in an injection molding machine. Molten polycarbonate plastic is then poured into this die to form around the metal son. Once cooled, the plastic is shaped like the son, with the pits and groovesonce again in a positive impression of the original disc master trackformed into one side.
  • 10 The center hole is then punched out of plastic disc, which is transparent at this stage. Next, the disc is scanned for flaws such as water bubbles, dust particles, and warps. If a flaw is found, the disc must be discarded.
  • 11 If the disc meets the quality standards, I it is then coated with an extremely thin, reflective layer of aluminum. The coating is applied using vacuum deposition. In this process, aluminum is put into a vacuum chamber and heated to the point of evaporation, which allows it to be applied evenly to the plastic disc.
  • 12 Finally, a clear acrylic plastic is applied to the disc to help protect the underlying layers from physical damage such as scratches. After the label is printed, generally using a silk-screening process, the compact disc is complete and ready for packaging and shipment.

Quality Control

A compact disc is a very precise and accurate device. The microscopic size of the data does not allow for any errors in the manufacturing process. The smallest of dust particles can render a disc unreadable.

The first quality control concern is to ensure that the clean room environment is properly monitored, with controlled temperature, humidity, and filtering systems. Beyond that, quality control checkpoints are built into the manufacturing process. The disc master, for instance, is inspected for smoothness and its photoresist surface for proper thickness by means of laser equipment. At later stages in the process, such as before and after the aluminum coating is deposited and after the protective acrylic coating is applied, the disc is checked automatically for warps, bubbles, dust particles, and encoding errors on the spiral track. This mechanical checking is combined with human inspection using polarized light, which allows the human eye to spot defective pits in the track.

In addition to checking the discs, the equipment used to manufacture them must be carefully maintained. The laser cutting machine, for instance, must be very stable, because any vibration would make proper cutting impossible. If strict quality control is not maintained, the rejection rate of CDs can be very high.

The Future

The massive storage capabilities, accuracy of data, and relative immunity from wear and tear will continue to make compact discs a popular medium for music and video applications. The hottest new product stirring public interest is CD-Interactive or CD-I, a multimedia system that allows users to interact with computers and television.

Manufacturing techniques will continue to be streamlined and improved, requiring smaller facilities and less human intervention in the process and resulting in lower CD rejection rates. Already in the first decade of CD manufacture, the manufacturing and quality control processes have become almost completely automated.

Where To Learn More

Books

Brewer, Bryan. The Compact Disc Book: A Complete Guide to the Digital Sound of the Future. Harcourt Brace, 1987.

Nakajima, H. Compact Disc Technology. IOS Press, 1991.

Pohlmann, Ken C. Principles of Digital Audio. 1985.

Pohlmann, Ken C. The Compact Disk Handbook, 2nd ed., A-R Editions, 1992.

Periodicals

Bernard, Josef. "Compact Discs-Bit by Bit," Radio-Electronics. August, 1986, p. 62.

Birchall, Steve. "The Magic of CD Manufacturing," Stereo Review. October, 1986, p. 67.

Rashid Riaz

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Compact Disc

Compact disc

A compact disc (CD), or optical disc, is a thin, circular wafer of clear plastic and metal measuring 4.75 inches (120 centimeters) in diameter with a small hole in its center. CDs store different kinds of data or information: sound, text, or pictures (both still and moving). Computer data is stored on CDs in a format called CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory).

All CDs and CD-ROMs are produced the same way. Digital data (the binary language of ones and zeroes common to all computers) is encoded onto a master disc, which is then used to create copies of itself. A laser burns small holes, or pits, into a microscopic layer of metal, usually aluminum. These pits correspond to the binary ones. Smooth areas of the disc untouched by the laser, called land, correspond to the binary zeros. After the laser has completed burning all the pits, the metal is coated with a protective layer.

Audio CDs

Audio or music CDs were introduced in 1982. They offered many advantages over phonograph records and audio tapes, including smaller size and better sound quality. By 1991, CDs had come to dominate the record industry. In an audio CD player, a small infrared laser shines upon the pits and land on the metal layer of the disc as the disc spins. Land reflects the laser light while pits do not. A mirror or prism between the laser and the disc picks up the reflected light and bounces it onto a photosensitive diode (an electronic device that is sensitive to light). The diode converts the light into a coded string of electrical impulses. The impulses are then transformed into waves for playback through stereo speakers.

CD-ROMs

CD-ROMs (and audio CDs) contain information that cannot be erased or added to once the discs have been created. While audio CDs contain only sound information, CD-ROMs store incredible amounts of

text, graphic (video), or sound information. Discs that contain information in more than one of these media are referred to as multimedia. Since video and sound require large amounts of disc storage space, most multimedia CD-ROMs are text-based with some video or sound features added. Information on a CD-ROM is retrieved the same way it is on an audio CD: a laser beam scans tracks of microscopic holes on a rotating disc, eventually converting the information into the proper medium. Because of their high information storage capacity, CD-ROMs have become the standard format for such large published works as software documentation and encyclopedias.

WORMs

WORM (Write Once, Read Many) systems are a little more complicated than CD-ROM systems. Writable WORM discs are made of different material than consumer CD-ROMs. When a WORM disc is created, a laser does not burn pits into a microscopic layer of metal as with a CD-ROM. Instead, in a heat-sensitive film a laser creates distortions that reflect light. These distortions represent bits of data. To read the disc, the laser is scanned over the surface at lower power. A detector then reads and decodes the distortions to obtain the original signal.

WORM discs allow the user to write new information onto the optical disc. Multiple writing sessions may be needed to fill the disc. Once recorded, however, the data is permanent. It cannot be rewritten or erased. WORM discs are especially suited to huge databases (like those used by banks, insurance companies, and government offices) where information might expand but not change.

MODs

Magneto-optical discs (MODs) are rewritable, and operate differently than either ROM or WORM disc. Data is not recorded as distortions of a heat-sensitive layer within the disc. Rather, it is written using combined magnetic and optical techniques. Digital data (binary ones and zeros) is encoded in the optical signal from the laser in the usual manner. Unlike the ROM or WORM discs, however, the MOD write layer is magnetically sensitive. An external magnet located on the write/read head aligns the binary ones and zeros in different directions. The MOD is read by scanning a laser over the spinning disc and evaluating the different directions of the digital data. The MOD is erased by orienting the external magnet so that digital zeros are recorded over the whole disc.

[See also Computer, digital; DVD technology; Laser ]

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Compact Discs

COMPACT DISCS

COMPACT DISCS (CDs) are small, thin, plastic discs twelve centimeters in diameter that contain a metallized surface that holds optically recorded digital information, such as sound, images (still and motion), and computer programs. Data is recorded by creating microscopic pits along a single track on the metallized surface; playback incorporates a red laser beam reflected onto the surface that measures the pits and translates them into binary information. A standard CD can hold between 74 and 82 minutes of audio, or approximately 780 million bytes of data. CDs are nearly unaffected by the number of times they are played. The disc's durable surface tolerates fingerprints and small scratches, making it an ideal solution for optically storing and preserving digital information.

Development of the CD to replace vinyl records began in the 1970s with Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands and Sony Corporation of Japan. Philips produced the optical storage technologies, while Sony pioneered error correction circuitry. The result was a set of industry standards established in the late 1970s for the CD's physical and logical characteristics, which among other things, ensured compatibility among discs and players from diverse manufacturers. This standard, known as the Compact Disc Digital Audio system, was in place in the early 1980s, and in 1983, the compact disc and the first CD players were introduced to consumers.

As standards evolved, so did the uses for CDs. Changes in recording techniques allowed for specialized uses such as the CD-Read-Only Memory (CD-ROM) for use in computers, CD-Interactive (CD-I), a stand-alone audio and video hardware system designed for audio and visual data, and the Video-CD (VCD) for high-quality video playback. The rewriteable CD (CD-RW) standard, created in 1996, enabled nearly anyone with a home computer and a CD-RW drive to record music, data, and video on a compact disc.

The future remains bright for the compact disc. The Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) standard has increased storage capacities to nearly five gigabytes (4.7GB) of information, or twenty-eight times that of its CD-ROM cousin, and DVD-Video has pushed VHS videotapes from store shelves as the preferred format for popular movies. Upcoming innovations in manufacturing processes, such as the improved pinpoint light-focusing ability of the blue-violet laser beam and higher transfer rates of players and recorders, will see DVD storage capacities climb to nearly thirty gigabytes of data on one shiny disc.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Armstrong, Elizabeth. "DVD Lasers: Why Blue Beats Red." Wired (June 2002):50.

Pohlmann, Ken C. Principles of Digital Audio. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

MichaelRegoli

See alsoDigital Technology .

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compact disc

compact disc (CD), a small plastic disc used for the storage of digital data. As originally developed for audio systems, the sound signal is sampled at a rate of 44,100 times a second, then each sample is measured and digitally encoded on the 43/4 in (12 cm) disc as a series of microscopic pits on an otherwise polished surface. The disc is covered with a transparent coating so that it can be read by a laser beam. Since nothing touches the encoded portion, the CD is not worn out by the playing process. Introduced in 1982, the CD offered other advantages over the phonograph record and recording tape—smaller size, greater dynamic range, extremely low distortion—and met with rapid consumer acceptance; the CD became the music carrier of choice by 1991, when sales exceeded those of audiocassettes.

Other CD formats include CD-ROM [Compact Disc–Read Only Memory], a form of CD that is read (but not written to) by computer using a CD-ROM drive and that can contain computer programs and digitized text, sound, photographs, and video; CD-R [Compact Disc–Recordable] and CD-RW [Compact Disc–ReWritable], which can be written to one time and multiple times, respectively. Interactive CDs (CD-I, CDTV, and other formats) can store video, audio, and data. Photo CD is a format that holds digitized photographs and sound. There are also CD-ROMs that require special players with built-in microcomputers.

Other optical disk formats include digital versatile (or video) discs and videodiscs. A digital versatile disk (DVD) holds far more information than a CD. DVD players are backward compatible to existing technologies, so they can also play a CD (or CD-ROM), but a CD player cannot be used with a DVD (or DVD-ROM). The videodisc, or laser disk system, uses 12-in. (30-cm) disks for video recording. Its technology, unlike that of the CD, is an analog system that uses a laser to read a variable-width track, much like a conventional phonograph record.

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compact disc

compact disc (CD) Disc used for high-quality digital sound reproduction. It is a plastic disc with a shiny metal layer and a transparent protective plastic coating. The sound signal consists of millions of minute pits, pressed into one side of the metal. On replay, a narrow laser beam is reflected from the rotating disc's surface. A sensor detects changes in the beam, and forms an electrical signal of pulses. This is processed and decoded to form a sound signal that can be amplified for reproduction on loudspeakers. See also CD-ROM

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compact disc

com·pact disc (also com·pact disk) (abbr.: CD) • n. a small plastic disc on which music or other digital information is stored, and from which the information can be read using reflected laser light.See also CD-ROM.

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CD

CD • abbr. ∎  certificate of deposit. ∎  civil defense. ∎  compact disc. ∎  corps diplomatique.

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compact discs

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CD (abbreviation for compact disc)

CD: see compact disc.

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