By CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER, Star Tribune
Once praised for its clear, crisp audio quality but panned for its susceptibility to scratches and smudges, the compact disc passed away in 2007 after a quick but painful illness. It was 25 years old.
The final cause of death has not been determined, but friends and fans blamed digital-download sites such as iTunes and illegal file-sharing among rich kids. In addition, doctors pointed to the big record companies and mega-selling artists who put out CDs in recent years that featured only a few good songs and lots of filler.
Simon Cowell, who is also a suspect in a mass plot to ruin pop music, is being questioned by police.
The CD was preceded in death by its siblings, the cassette and 8-track tape. Its older cousin, the vinyl record, has been hanging on for two decades, with life support from nerdy audiophiles.
Conceived in 1979 by engineers at Sony and Philips, the CD first went on the market in 1982. The inaugural album was Abba's "The Visitors," which led to Jerry Falwell's accusation that it was a gay technology.
The CD survived, though, and went on to account for about 200 billion album sales worldwide.
Its success led to a record-industry heyday in the 1990s, when such substantive and high-quality artists as Garth Brooks, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, the Backstreet Boys and Ace of Base sold CDs like umbrellas during monsoon season.
"The compact disc was such a great friend," mourned Brooks, the country singer who sold about 80 million albums in the CD era, many of them at Wal-Mart. "You could pop a CD into the stereo on your pickup truck or Lear jet and let it just keep spinning and spinning."
Since 2004, CD sales have declined by one-third while digital album sales have quintupled. Last year's 19 percent slide from 2006 led doctors to finally sign off on its death notice.
"I sure am going to miss the CD," said Paul McCartney, whose Beatles are one of the last groups to refuse to sell their albums on iTunes. "On the bright side, new technology means that Beatles lovers now can buy our albums for the third or fourth time."
Memorial services have not been finalized, but Elton John has committed to singing at the funeral. In lieu of flowers, please send $17.99 to the record-store owner of your choice.
5 reasons to mourn the CD
1. No, really, they do sound better. Most MP3s feature data that's compressed for quicker downloads.
2. Remember looking at album artwork? Granted, you often needed bifocals to read the lyrics and liner notes on CDs, but at least it was something.
3. You can't throw MP3s out the window like frisbees. What are you going to do now for dramatic effect when your wife/girlfriend plays her Madonna, J. Lo or Gwen Stefani MP3s to the point of insanity?
4. Computer/electronics companies, not record companies, will soon run the music business. Compact discs were overpriced, sure, but at least they profited corporations that actually discovered and developed new artists (who then got taken for everything they were worth).
5. The CD's 74-minute max was enough. With MP3s taking over, we could face 150-minute hip-hop albums -- featuring 28 annoying skits, two good songs and four different remixes of those songs.
5 reasons to cheer its death
1. No more mad dashes to the player when the disc starts skipping. A CD skip was 20 times more annoying than a vinyl album skip. It sounded like you were back-masking a Slayer album for a hidden satanic message -- even if the CD was by the Carpenters.
2. No more cellophane wrap. Those genius scientists figured out how to cram 10,000 songs onto an iPod small enough to hold in your butt crack, but could never invent a plastic wrap on CDs that didn't take minutes to get off, dangerously heighten your blood pressure and occasionally require stitches when you resorted to scissors.
3. Those old silvery discs are great for arts and crafts projects. You can string them up as mobiles or cool doorway curtains, or even construct lawn ornaments out of them.
4. It's good for the Earth. No toxic plastic or downed trees are used in the making of digital downloads.
5. Gen-X-ers have to own up to being old. Remember how you rolled your eyes when an "old" guy said, "Man, if it ain't on vinyl, it ain't on!" You're that guy now.