[JPL] Why the CD Is 74 Minutes Long?

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Jan 10 16:27:39 EST 2011

When the Compact Disc Digital Audio standard came out in 1980, there was 
a curious fact about it: It was 74 minutes long. Not 60 minutes. Or an 
even 70 minutes. No, 74. And it was all one deaf man's fault.

The fault of a deaf man and one of the best musical compositions ever 
written---one that gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it on my 
big honking Denon reference headphones: The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, 
Op. 125, the final great work of a Herr Ludwig van Beethoven, of Bonn, 

But how?

Picture this. The end of the 70s, the greatest rock era of them all. 
Plus, /disco/. It was 1979, the year the Rolling Stones recorded 
/Emotional Rescue/, Debby Harry rocked everyone with /Heart of Glass/, 
and Chic made the world dance with /Good Times/. It was also the year in 
which Philips and Sony were working on the first audio CD standard.

Philips wanted a 11.5-centimeter disc, while Sony wanted a 10-centimeter 
format. Both were enough to fit any of those vinyls, the smaller size 
capable of storing 60 minutes of 16-bit 44,056 Hz stereo music.

But that wasn't enough. Norio Ohga said so. Ohga was a man mad about 
audio. He trained as an opera singer and, after listening to Sony's tape 
recorder for the first time, he sent a letter criticizing its audio 
quality. He was offered a job at the company, and his influence was so 
big that he became /president/ of Sony in the 80s. But back then, he was 
just overseeing the project and he demanded that the CD format should be 
able to play back the whole Ninth Symphony.

According to Philips, the "longest known performance lasted 74 minutes 
[...] a mono recording made during the Bayreuther Festspiele in 1951 and 
conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler." 60 minutes wouldn't cut it, and so it 
became 74 minutes---12 centimeters.

At least, that's what /some/ people say. Others say that it was famed 
Austrian orchestra and opera conductor Von Karajan who wanted the format 
to hold the entire Ninth. Von Karajan was instrumental in making the 
format big among the audio connoisseurs, and put that as a condition for 
supporting it.

According to Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Disc>, 
however, Philips' chief engineer Kees Immink says that 12 centimeters 
was the final length because it was a neutral size. Not Sony's neither 
Philips'. But that, my friends, I don't want to believe. I prefer to 
believe that it were the crazy German and the mad Japanese that made it 
74 minutes.

Send an email to Jesus Diaz, the author of this post, at 
jesus at gizmodo.com 
<mailto:jesus at gizmodo.com?subject=http://gizmodo.com/5729864/why-the-cd-is-74-minutes-long>. 

Dr. Jazz
Dr. Jazz Operations
24270 Eastwood
Oak Park, MI  48237
(248) 542-7888
SKYPE:  drjazz99

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