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Compact Disc Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Legends abound about how the size of the CD was chosen: Some said it matched a Dutch beer coaster; others believe a famous conductor or Sony executive wanted it just long enough for Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Kramer said the decision evolved from "long conversations around the table" about which play length made the most sense.

The jump into mass production in Germany was a milestone for the CD, and by 1982 the companies announced their product was ready for market. Both began selling players that fall, though the machines only hit U.S. markets the following spring.

Sony sold the first player in Japan on Oct. 1, with the CBS label supplying Billy Joel's "52nd Street" as its first album.

The CD was a massive hit. Sony sold more players, especially once its "Discman" series was introduced in 1984. But Philips benefited from CD sales, too, thanks to its ownership of Polygram, now part of Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group.

The CD player helped Philips maintain its position as Europe's largest maker of consumer electronics until it was eclipsed by Nokia Corp. in the late 1990s. Licensing royalties sustained the company through bad times.

"The CD was in itself an easy product to market," said Philips' current marketing chief for consumer electronics, Lucas Covers. It wasn't just the sound quality _ discs looked like jewelry in comparison to LPs.

By 1986, CD players were outselling record players, and by 1988 CDs outsold records.

"It was a massive turnaround for the whole market," Covers said.

Now, the CD may be seeing the end of its days.

CD sales have fallen sharply to 553 million sold in the United States last year, a 22 percent drop from its 2001 peak of 712 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Napster and later Kazaa and BitTorrent allowed music fans to easily share songs over the Internet, often illegally. More recently, Apple Inc. and other companies began selling legal music downloads, turning the MP3 and other digital audio formats into the medium of choice for many owners of Apple's iPods and other digital players.


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© 2007 The Associated Press