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First recordable CD device announced

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


First recordable CD device announced
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1988, The Syracuse Newspapers

Sony has invented what is likely to become the standard recording device of the1990s—a compact disc player that can record and erase as well as play back.

Sony's recorder surmounts a problem that has blocked the development of home recorders using CDs for many years. Sony engineers have come up with a way to erase the special laser discs and re-record them any number of times.

Previous systems, most of which never went past the experimental stage, allowed a blank disc to be recorded only once—a fatal drawback in typical home use.

The CD recorder is now in finished form and has been demonstrated in Japan. It even has a model number, CDR-1978A. But it isn't on the market yet. Sony did not say when it would be sold to the public, but it could be marketed within a year.

When Sony's recorder does go on sale, it is likely to set the standard for all other consumer laser-disc recorders. Sony has immense clout as the leading innovator in home electronics and is the main force behind the 7-year-old compact disc. Sony and Philips, a Dutch company, invented CDs and the laser machines that play them.

Ironically, Sony's CD recording system may kill off another device that Sony has spent millions to develop, the digital audio tape cassette recorder.

DAT recorders were introduced three years ago but still are not sold in North America. Sony and other DAT manufacturers had put off exporting the recorders because of a dispute, now settled, over whether they should be able to make exact copies of CDs.

Although the first DAT recorders are expected to arrive here in a few months, many consumers are likely to prefer CD recorders. CDs are much more rugged than tapes, and they have a clear advantage in access time. Any point on a CD can be reached and played back (or re-recorded) in less than a second, while the same operation could take a few minutes on a tape recorder.

Although Sony did not say how much its CD recorder would cost, industry estimates place the likely price tag at $500 as soon as the initial production costs are paid off. This is less than half the price of DAT machines.

Here are details of the new Sony recorder, as reported in the trade press:

Recordable CDs will have a long recording time, equal to regular CDs. This is 74 minutes. If blank-disc makers offer double-sided discs, as expected, total recording time per disc will be nearly 2 hours.

The Sony recorder will be able to play regular CDs in addition to its own recordings. However, CDs recorded at home won't play back on normal players; only a CD recorder will be able to play the special recordable CDs.

The discs can be erased and re-recorded up to 1 million times—three times a day for 1,000 years. Other designs, all of them experimental, allowed only a few hundred to a few thousand record-and-erase cycles.

A description of how the CD recorder works was not made available. In a commercially recorded CD, a laser beam etches pits or varying lengths into very tiny grooves. These pits are permanent. A record-and-erase system must have a way of smoothing these pits so that a new signal can be recorded.


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