What is an Inventor?
Credits/Citations and References
Inventor of the Compact disk
The Digital Compact Disc
Most of us think of compact discs (CDs), which have become an essential
component of audio, video, and computer systems, as an invention of the
1980s; but in fact the optical digital recording and playback processes and
materials were created in 1965, by James T. Russell.
In the mid-60s, Russell found himself frustrated by the wear and tear
suffered by his vinyl phonograph records. So he resolved to devise a system
which would never wear out---a system for recording, storing, and replaying
information by light rather than touch. Russell invented a method of
recording onto a photosensitive platter in binary bits ("dots" of light and
dark, each 1 micron in diameter). He used a laser to read the patterns of
light and dark, which were converted by computer into an electronic signal,
which was then made audible or visible. The result, as anyone who has used
a music or video CD knows, is near-perfect playback which will never wear
Russell was granted a total of 22 patents for various elements of his
system. But despite numerous successful demonstrations, potential investors
and even scientists were skeptical about long-term applications and
profits. It was not until 1980 that Russell's company, Battelle, first
licensed his system; and it was 1985 before major electronics corporations
like Philips and Sony bought manufacturing rights and began mass production.
While it is true that these corporations made modifications to facilitate
mass marketing and household use, still the basic mechanics of the CDs in
nearly 25 million American homes today, and of the CD-ROMs used by
academic, commercial, medical and scientific communities, are those of
Russell's original system. Russell himself is currently working on an even
newer optical information storage and retrieval system, which he hopes will
supercede the CD he himself invented 30 years ago.