One of the revolutionary technological breakthroughs of the late 20th Century was the creation of the compact disc. The CD technology was first developed by Sony in the late 1970s, and became available commercially in the 1980s. By the end of the 1980s, the CD had emerged as the medium of choice for audio playback, replacing the vinyl album, 8 track and cassette tape.
Though it first gained popularity as an audio playback solution, the CD later became popular with the rise of personal computing as a means to store large amounts of data. As early as 1985, the first CD-ROM was already in use on a few personal computers. A couple years later the first CD recorders emerged (originally known as the CD-WO) and later changed to the CD-RW. This breakthrough gave consumers the ability to record whatever they wanted onto their CDs.
The CD was first introduced as a video tool in 1987 with the development of the CD-V, but this technology did not last because its creators could not overcome the major flaw in the technology, which was the lack of sufficient space to store the data necessary to make the video play. For this reason, the CD-V was completely off the market by 1991.
In 1993, video on CDs made a comeback with the introduction of the VCD. Unlike its forerunner, the VCD was more successful because it had the storage to hold up to 80 minutes of video with quality similar to the VHS tape. Today, the video format of choice is the DVD, but VCDs are still popular in some parts of the world. Their affordability make them an attractive video option. Also, most DVD players have the ability to play VCDs, so they will likely be around for the foreseeable future.
Today, audio CD sales are threatened by the ever-growing popularity of MP3 players. However, CDs remain useful because of their ability to inexpensively store data.