The Digital Compact Disc
The digital compact disc, made from a 1.2 mm. Thick, almost pure polycarbonate plastic which weighs 15-20 grams and now commonplace in stereos and computers, was invented in the late 1960s by James T. Russell.
Russell was born in Bremerton, Washington in 1931. At the incredibly young age of six, he invented a remote-control battleship, with a storage chamber for his lunch. In his teen years, Russell went on to earn a BA in Physics from Reed College in Portland, 1953. Afterward, he went to work as a Physicist in General Electric's nearby labs in Richland, Washington.
At GE, Russell initiated many experimental instrumentation projects. He was among the first to use a color TV screen and keyboard as the sole interface between computer and operator, and he designed and built the first electron beam welder. In 1965, when Columbus, Ohio - based Battelle Memorial Institute - opened its Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland, Washington, Russell joined the effort as Senior Scientist. By that time he already knew what avenue of research he wanted to pursue.
Russell was an avid music listener. Like many audiophiles of the time, he was continually frustrated by the wear and tear suffered by his vinyl phonograph records. He was also unsatisfied with their sound quality: His experimental improvements included using a cactus needle as a stylus. Alone at home on a Saturday afternoon, Russell began to sketch out a better music recording system --- and was inspired with a truly revolutionary idea.
Russell envisioned a system that would record and replay sounds without physical contact between its parts; and he saw that the best way to achieve such a system was to use light. Russell was familiar with digital data recording, in punch card or magnetic tape form. He saw that if he could represent the binary 0 and 1 with dark and light, a device could read sounds or indeed any information at all without ever wearing out. If he could make the binary code compact enough, Russell saw that he could store not only symphonies, but entire encyclopedias on a small piece of film
Battelle let Russell pursue the project, and after years of work, Russell succeeded in inventing the first digital-to-optical recording and playback system (patented in 1970). He had found a way to record onto a photosensitive platter in tiny "bits" of light and dark, each one micron in diameter; a laser read the binary patterns, and a computer converted the data into an electronic signal --- which it was then comparatively simple to convert into an audible or visible transmission.
This was the first compact disc. Although Russell had once envisioned 3x5-inch stereo records that would fit in a shirt pocket and a video record that would be about the size of a punch card, the final product imitated the phonographic disc which had been its inspiration. Through the 1970s, Russell continued to refine the CD-ROM, adapting it to any form of data. Like many ideas far ahead of their time, the CD-ROM found few interested investors at first; but eventually, Sony and other audio companies realized the implications and purchased licenses.
By 1985, Russell had earned 26 patents for CD-ROM technology. James T. Russell also has many interests beyond optical data devices. In fact, he has claimed, "I've got hundreds of ideas stacked up --- many of them worth more than the compact disc. But I haven't been able to work on them."
Nowadays, the Compact disc is mass produced and distributed by large companies such as Sony Ericson, Philips, and Creative. The compact disc became famous after its formal introduction during the 62nd AES convention on March 13, 1979, in Brussels, the constitutional capital of Belgium. Up until that time, the floppy disc had been the most widely used device for data storage; it went without saying that, as the CD increased in prominence, the usage of the floppy disc would speedily decrease. Thus began the era of the CD.
Now we will take a look at what each CD must go through in order for it to be ready for use. We will presently observe these processes.
The first step each CD must go through is called Mastering, were the technicians create a glass master covered with a photosensitive layer and engrave all a customer’s information on it with a laser light. Following that, a fine silver coating is applied to the glass master’s surface by a process known as vacuum evaporation.
The Next process is “Electroplating”, wherein the glass master is transformed into a “mould” which is used to press discs. This is achieved by adding a layer of nickel on the glass master by means of electrolysis. The nickel layer is then separated from the glass base to recover the negative of the CD. The result is what is called the “Stamper”. Other masters can be produced by repeating the electrolysis phase.
With the mould ready, CDs can now be replicated. Liquefied polycarbonate is then injected into the mould and, after only a few seconds of pressing, a compact disc containing all the data is quickly created. This process is called “Pressing”.
Now, in order for the CD to be readable, the CD goes through “Metallization” were it must be covered with a micro thin layer of aluminum which is vacuum laid. The aluminum surface acts as a mirror to reflect the laser light back so information can be read.
To protect the CD and its information from harm — scratching, bending, or dropping it — the disc is covered with a layer of varnish in what is called “Varnishing". The lacquer envelops the aluminum and seals it from the elements. The disc is then ready for printing.
The final touch comes with the printing of the label of the producer company right on the disc, both by a silk screen or offset process and with up to six colors. This is [evidently] called “label printing.”The CD is then automatically packaged and prepared for shipping, and thus, the mass production of thousands of CD’s.
Recently many new types and sizes of the CD have been made possible through the higher technology of the age. James Russell wished to invent a CD of a size that would fit in a shirt pocket--nowadays there are even smaller than that! Recently the flash drive has become another popular storage device, the sizes of which range from 5 inches long to even 1 inch long, and some of which can hold up to twenty gigabytes of space.
Who knows but that soon some invention will replace the CD like the CD has replaced the floppy disc? The CD is already decreasing in its usage, what with the flash drive and external hard drive becoming more famous and widely used. There’s no telling what invention will come next to change the world of computers and the world in general.
The CD, however, will always have its honorable place in history as the invention that made it possible for the furthering of the technology of storage devices and data based computer programming. All thanks to the CD and its inventor.