The Compact Disk

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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The compact disk, also known as the CD, was invented in 1965 by James T Russell.

James was born in Bremerton, Washington in 1931. James was always a smart boy which makes it no surprise that he could invent such an extraordinary and complex item. At the age of six James invented a remote-control battleship with a storage compartment for his lunch. He attended Reed Collage in Portland and earned his BA in physics. After he graduated he went on to work at General Electric (GE) in Richland.

Most people think nothing can happen here in little old Ohio. But, in 1965 Columbus, Ohio - based Battelle Memorial Institute opened its Pacific Northwest Laboratory Russell joined the effort as Senior Scientist.

James was an avid music listener and was quite frustrated with the wear and tear of vinyl records and their sound quality. He even tried using a cactus needle for a stylus but did not succeed in the improvement of the record player.

In his frustration James sketched out his own design of a music system and was inspired with an idea that has truly changed the lives of most people.

Russell had a sketch of a CD. He had realized that the wear and tear on the records was from all the contact from the stylus to the record and he figured that he could use a light to read the music without physically touching the disk. He was familiar with digital data so he could accomplish this task more efficiently and effective.

The CD is not physically touched, so no matter how many times you play it will never wear out. On a CD sound is stored as digital information in tiny pits on the surface. A laser reads tiny pits in the disk and turns them into electrical signals then into vibrations. Because of this process the CD can NOT be effected by scratches or dust. A CD can hold about an hour of music.

Russell is not very well known, but the CD is and is so popular that it has a common place in households all around the world, probably even yours!