In the 1970s, Philips felt that the vinyl disc was coming to the end of its lifetime, because it was cumbersome, dusty and scratchy. In the US, the music market had been completely taken over by the cassette tape, but they were mostly used in cars and were awful quality. So the idea was to come up with a small disc that would be digital, not analogue, for better sound.
At first, there was mistrust. But as soon as you start talking, you realise the other team have the same problems and experiences. We had two years of meetings before settling on a 12cm disc of polycarbonate [plastic], with a reflective layer holding data readable by laser beam. It would take up to 74 minutes of music - because the president of
We developed the discs and the players at the same time, then licensed the technology to other companies to make their own. Once we convinced
We needed to do a lot of advertising and knew pop music would be the largest market, but we couldn't start with anything extreme, like punk. So we made a deal with Dire Straits to promote it: their music was all put on CD, and they appeared in posters and advertisements. When Brothers in Arms became the first million-selling compact disc, we knew we'd underestimated how quickly it would become the dominant format.
When CDs first came in, I was decorating my house. So I decided to get rid of all my vinyl albums and get my old Rolling Stones and Beatles records on CD. It still hurts. Even though I worked on the CD, I'm not sure people will have the same warm, emotional feeling towards them as I did with the vinyl album, with the beautiful 12in artwork.
I joined Philips in the early 90s with a PhD in physics. By 1999, the CD had become the established format and developed into DVD, which had been another revolution and superseded video. DVDs were smaller and better quality, and you didn't have to mess about fast-forwarding tapes.
So my role was to make the next leap into Blu-ray. From a technology point of view, CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs are much the same - a digitally encrypted optical disc is read by a laser beam - but going from one generation to the other involved 10 years of research and hundreds of engineers. The main advantage of Blu-ray over DVD is storage capacity. On a DVD, you cannot record or play a high definition (HD) movie, because there's too much information. So we needed a disc that could fit it all in.
Of course, once we'd cracked this, the internet improved beyond recognition. Now, if you want to watch a movie, you stream it from the internet. So after all those years of research, we suddenly stopped. Blu-ray is the last in the family, so I've been sacked. I'm joking. I'm working on something completely different.
Small wonder . . . (above) the new format dazzles 80s consumers; (below) Dire Straits' CD promotion for Philips
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