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The Story of How Beethoven Helped Make It So That CDs Could Play 74 Minutes of Music #MusicMonday

Beethoven e1489473756721

Open Culture has some history on Compact Discs and the link between the Ninth Symphony. While the article can’t verify the Beethoven link beyond marketing spin, it does present some interesting information. Check out the promo video to be transported to the early eighties!:

Back when it first came on the market in 1982 (packaged in longboxes, you’ll recall) it seemed impossibly high-tech, inspiring dreamily futuristic promotional videos like the one below and emerging from a process of development that required the combined R&D and industrial might of both Japan and Europe’s biggest consumer-electronics giants, Sony and Philips.

That years-long coordinated effort, as Greg Milner writes in Perfecting Sound Forever, saw a team of engineers from both companies “shuttling between Eindhoven and Tokyo,” the prototype CD player “given its own first-class seat on KLM.”

Milner also mentions that “Philips wanted a 14-bit system and a disc that could hold an hour of music, while Sony argued for 16 bits and 74 minutes, supposedly because that was the length of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” though he calls the Beethoven bit “likely a digital audio urban legend.” But, like any urban legend, it contains grains of truth, though how many grains nobody quite knows for sure.

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