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Last Updated:  Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 21:37 GMT
Happy 20th birthday to the CD
How long will the CD last?
The compact disc celebrates its 20th anniversary in the UK in March.

For many back in 1983 there was immense scepticism that a shiny round space-age looking disc would ever replace the popular and convenient cassette tape.

There were those who refused to believe that the death of vinyl was nigh, unwilling to give up their vast record collections which dated back years.

But with the promise of their indestructibility - as demonstrated on BBC's Tomorrow's World - there was a slow realisation that perhaps the culture of music listening was set to change.

But there was still a general feeling among the less technically advanced of not wanting to shell out on the latest audio equipment in case it fell flat.

Many feared CDs would go the way of the Betamax video.

After years in the planning stages the first CD players were put on the market in Japan in 1982 with Billy Joel's 52nd Street being the first available album.

Limited supply

But when the buzz started to reach British shores record companies were wary of its impact, believing the players would be difficult to buy.

The first batch of 100 CDs went on sale in March 1983, with a limited supply of players already available.

But record companies were only pressing small amounts of CDs for fear of ruining their lucrative cassette and vinyl markets.

Billy Joel
Billy Joel's 52nd Street was the first available CD album
The exponent of the CD was Polygram, which is now Universal, with the technology pioneered by Bayer, Philips and Polygram.

It is widely held that the first CD was made to hold a recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - some 74 minutes long.

From its humble beginnings there have been more than 1.8bn CDs sold around the world.

Bruce Springsteen's hugely successful Born in the USA was the first CD to be manufactured in the US.

One of the most influential moments in the history of the CD was the release of the Dire Straights album Brothers in Arms in 1985 which featured heavy promotion of the Philips brand.

It was at this stage that many people became switched on to the fact that CDs probably had a future and Brothers in Arms became the starting block for many households' collections as the price of hardware fell.

A few years later record companies became switched on to the fact that consumers were now not just buying new CDs but were replacing their old vinyl LPs with copies on compact disc.

According to Music Week magazine, it was in 1988 that CD revenue overtook that of vinyl - 167.9m compared to 144.1m for the old format.

A year later CDs were outselling vinyl by nearly than four million in the UK.

U2's Joshua Tree became the first million-seller in the UK in 1989.

Casual listener

But it was not long before the industry began looking at what would be the next progression on from the CD, which had finally killed off vinyl and cassette tape.

DAT players never took off and then Sony followed with the more popular MiniDisc.

MP3 players have become the latest fashionable medium, storing music downloaded from the internet or copied from other sources.

After a record year for CDs in 1999 the industry started to see a decline in sales with the advent of alternative formats.

But it had also failed to foresee what the impact of new computer technology and the internet would have on CDs.

Download sites such as Napster sprang up, allowing people to record music for nothing, but the industry was slow to react leading to dire consequences for record company profits.

There is also the increasing disillusion, especially in the UK, that CDs are still too expensive and are far from indestructible.

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