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Japan Music Sony Entertainment

Father of the CD, Norio Ohga, Dead At 81 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
lightbox32 writes "Norio Ohga, who was Sony's president and chairman from 1982 to 1995, died Saturday at the age of 81. He has been credited with developing CDs, which he insisted be designed at 12 centimeters (4.8 inches) in diameter to hold 75 minutes worth of music — in order to store Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in its entirety."
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Father of the CD, Norio Ohga, Dead At 81

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  • by MrKevvy (85565) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:28PM (#35923054)

    "After a private ceremony, Mr. Ohga will be microwaved."

    • by paiute (550198)

      "After a private ceremony, Mr. Ohga will be microwaved."

      I hear the Mythbusters are going to spin him on a modified Rotozip.

    • Let's hope the hinges on his coffin lid don't snap off.

    • He will be buried in a flimsy plastic case that will crack if you look at it wrong.
      • I lol'd for real and startled my poor dog. Glad I'd finished my tea few minutes before.

        :D
  • by Anonymous Coward

    to store Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in its entirety

    It is also the case that they chose that size because it's slightly too large to fit in most pockets, thus discouraging casual sharing.

    • by Le Marteau (206396) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:42PM (#35923152) Journal

      Back in the day, the problem with Beethoven's ninth, and cassettes in particular, was the times of the movements. From one version:

      1st Movement: 13'32"
      2nd Movement: 13'09"
      3rd Movement: 14'21"
      4th Movement: 23'22"

      There is no way to put these movements on a two sided cassette without having about 17 minutes of unused space, unless the 3rd movement was split between sides.

      So what many (if not most) versions on cassette would do to conserve tape is put the 1st, 2nd, and PART of the 3rd movement on side A of the cassette, and the remaining part of the 3rd movement and the 4th movement on side B. It was kind of jarring to have the tape fade out in the middle of the 3rd movement to switch to the other side.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        Pink Floyd also did this with some (maybe not all) cassette versions of the album Animals. The song "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" would be split half on one side, half on the other. There was a trick to hitting the auto-reverse button at just the right moment, so the song wouldn't be interrupted by the leader tape.

        As far as I know, the album was never presented this way on the LP vinyl version, because it's less important that a record be the same length on both sides of the vinyl. You don't end up with dea

      • by RDW (41497)

        'There is no way to put these movements on a two sided cassette without having about 17 minutes of unused space, unless the 3rd movement was split between sides.'

        Well, there was the approach taken by DG's excellent value 'Walkman Classics' series, which was just to stuff something else on the tape until it came close to 90 minutes:

        http://www.talkclassical.com/7444-performers-old-dg-walkman.html [talkclassical.com]

        (Note to younger readers: the 'Walkman' was one of the technologies that bridged the gap between wax cylinders and

    • by jd (1658)

      Never had any problems fitting CD cases in jacket pockets. Mind you, I don't wear American jackets, so maybe you should check to see if the RIAA owns the fashion industry that side of the pond.

    • The CD single failed in the marketplace.

  • by Atmanman (1651259) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:33PM (#35923086)
    Good thing he wasn't a Wagner fan!
    • by kc8jhs (746030)
      Or Ramones. No track would be allowed to be longer than 2 minutes.
    • by Solandri (704621) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:59PM (#35926440)
      Or not so good. CDs could potentially hold 2 hours of music losslessly, except the spec calls for sound intensity to be stored on a linear scale. Human hearing works on a logarithmic scale. So on the really quiet parts, there probably isn't enough granularity between different intensity levels. Meanwhile on the loud parts, the granularity is so fine that there's no way you'll notice even (relatively) large changes on the linear scale. If they'd gone with a logarithmic scale, they could have cut down the sound file size considerably and squeezed more music onto a single CD. An 8-bit u-law (logarithmic) sound file is considered roughly equivalent to a 14-bit wav (linear) sound file (CDs are 16-bit linear).

      There are lots of theories as to why they did this. The most credible IMHO is that the studios balked when a 2 hour CD was proposed. They wanted something around 1 hour to better match the length of an LP (45-50 min) or cassette (60 min) album. They didn't want their customers questioning why they were only filling up half the CD with music, and they didn't want to have to put 2 hours of music on each CD. So they picked a deliberately inefficient sound format to fill up half of the CD with useless "data".

      Of course they got hoisted by their own petard when MP3s came out. Because the raw files ripped from CDs were about twice as big as they needed to be, it made MP3 files look twice as small in comparison. That increased the desirability of and accelerated the adoption of MP3s.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    his invention of the cd has given me endless joy. thank you Mr Ohga.

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @04:14PM (#35923834)

    Too bad they couldn't have used even a $0.10 (back then) codec to get the bit density up, though. Even four more bits per sample (each for left and right), or, better, eight, and, 56,000 samples/second, would have made the CDs actually sound pretty good, and would not have changed the cost of production of the CDs, themselves.

    Sure, they were more difficult to scratch than vinyl, and repeated plays on low-cost equipment didn't do damage, but the dynamic range is way down (12-18 dB, depending on the vinyl preamp quality) and the lower sample rate led to audible filter artifacts that particularly affect imaging, most noticeably on orchestral pieces.

    All-in-all, I'd really rather he had waited to do it better, or not bothered.

    • by Dogtanian (588974) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @05:10PM (#35924274) Homepage
      You seem to forget that the equipment required to decode and handle even uncompressed CD audio would have been very complicated by early-1980s standards. And for any very primitive compression techniques that they could have come up with, you could have used the "wait a bit longer" argument because something better would have come along soon, all the way up to the early-1990s when the compressed MiniDisc media came out.

      Oh, except the compression on that is crude by modern standards, so you could argue that they should have waited a bit longer... and a bit longer....

      Yes, it would have been an *excellent* idea for them to have postponed the CD by 20 years! *cough*
      • by lowy (91366)

        Perhaps, but there is no excuse for not including meta-information like track names. That would only have taken up less than 1Kb

        • by Dogtanian (588974)

          Perhaps, but there is no excuse for not including meta-information like track names. That would only have taken up less than 1Kb

          Well, yes, but that's something entirely different to the point you were originally trying to make.

          For what it's worth, I *do* however agree on this point 100% and I've made it myself in the past. Some have argued that full-text information displays would have been too expensive/complex to implement when the CD format launched. However, if that *had* been the reason it would have been extremely short-sighted; technology was moving all the time and it should have been doable in the near future- all they ha

          • by lowy (91366)

            Well, yes, but that's something entirely different to the point you were originally trying to make.

            I was not this thread's original poster. My first and only comment was about the meta-data.

            Glad to hear we agree, though. :-)

    • Even four more bits per sample (each for left and right), or, better, eight, and, 56,000 samples/second, would have made the CDs actually sound pretty good, and would not have changed the cost of production of the CDs, themselves.

              CDs 'sound pretty good' as they are. If they don't, get a better DAC.

    • by Haeleth (414428) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @09:09PM (#35925800) Journal

      Yes, it was terrible that they were so inept as to replace a fragile crackly hissy medium with one that the vast, vast majority of people are literally physically incapable of distinguishing from a live performance.

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @04:26PM (#35923914) Journal

    Gregg invented in the laserdisc in 1958 (!), selling patent to MCA who developed commercially with Philips. Sony contributed some work on error correction to the Red Book standard, but the hard work of hardware design and modulation technique came from Philips, building on their laserdisc work.

    What Sony did, and has ever done since, was see a market to exploit.

    • by dfghjk (711126)

      Right, because Laserdisc and CD are nearly the same.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        They're certainly more similar than the CD is to the DVD (except, obviously, for diameter). I thought it was widely accepted that Philips and Sony collaborated to produce the compact disc, based on the earlier laserdisc work.

        • by nwf (25607)

          They're certainly more similar than the CD is to the DVD (except, obviously, for diameter). I thought it was widely accepted that Philips and Sony collaborated to produce the compact disc, based on the earlier laserdisc work.

          I disagree. Laserdiscs were analog, whereas CDs and DVDs are all digital. CDs and DVDs are just bit buckets where you can put whatever digital data you'd like. They had video CDs for a time. There are standards as to how to encode stuff to be playable, but they are still much more similar than an analog format.

          • by PCM2 (4486)

            Laserdiscs were analog, whereas CDs and DVDs are all digital. CDs and DVDs are just bit buckets where you can put whatever digital data you'd like.

            No, this isn't really true. Red Book audio CDs can't store anything but audio, and the data is played back at a consistent rate of speed, in a kind of "mock analog." Laserdiscs also supported digital audio tracts that were encoded in the same way as CD audio, though you are right in that some laserdiscs were pure analog. Still, the CD-ROM format came later, and was more of a "bit bucket," but there was no way for commercial CD players to play back audio from CD-ROMs until the invention of CD players that su

            • "but there was no way for commercial CD players to play back audio from CD-ROMs until the invention of CD players that supported MP3 " Isnt that what that little 4 pin cable that used to go from CD-ROM drive to soundcard was for?
              • by jonwil (467024)

                No, that was a way for CD-ROM drives to play audio CDs, and was used until OSs and media players could read the data from the audio CD digitally.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I disagree. Laserdiscs were analog, whereas CDs and DVDs are all digital. CDs and DVDs are just bit buckets where you can put whatever digital data you'd like. They had video CDs for a time. There are standards as to how to encode stuff to be playable, but they are still much more similar than an analog format.

            From your post I can tell that you live in softwareland.

            The difference between decoding a laserdisc and a CD is pretty much a firmware issue. The difference is that for CD's you will have to check the sampled value against a treshold to decide if it should be encoded as a 0 or a 1 whereas for laserdic you will input the analog value to the video decoding code.
            DVDs require different electronics.

            The development work to turn a CD-player into a laserdic player vs the work to turn a CD-player into a DVD-player w

          • Well, early Laserdiscs were totally analogue, but digital audio eventually dominated. And the CD didn't start digital audio recording - PCM was discovered in the 1930s and we've had recorders since around 1970. Worthwhile historical overview. [aes.org]

            Whether CD is more like laserdisc or more like DVD depends on how you weight the differences (purpose, physical structure, manufacturing technique, modulation, encoding / error correction, data structure, etc.), of course. And LD too 's just pits and lands [access-one.com].

        • What are you talking about? Laserdisc was analogue. It almost has more in common with vinyl than with CD...

    • Gregg invented in the laserdisc in 1958 (!), selling patent to MCA who developed commercially with Philips. Sony contributed some work on error correction to the Red Book standard, but the hard work of hardware design and modulation technique came from Philips, building on their laserdisc work.

      What Sony did, and has ever done since, was see a market to exploit.

      Jesus H Christ on a popsicle stick, comparing the laserdisc to CD is total engineering fail! The laserdisc is an ANALOG medium - it uses pulse width modulated analog signals, not digital - not ones and zeroes. The length of the "pits" in a laserdisc is not a quantized value. The CD uses a digitally coded signal (so the length of the pits is quantized, which introduces some engineering challenges in exactly counting the number of digits that a given length of a pit represents) with addressing and redundant

  • FYI, the inner diameter was chosen by Philips to match the Dutch 10 cent coin at the time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's pure speculation until you check the diameter of ohga's willy.

    • It's a cute myth, and the coin does fit in the center hole very nicely, but most likely both hole and coin sizes were picked for practical reasons, using a round number: 15mm.

      The better myth is that the platter size was picked to be the same as a Heineken coaster. Perhaps the engineers foresaw the whole AOL CD spam thing, knowing how most of these CDs would end up being used...
  • by jensend (71114) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @06:33PM (#35924786)

    Lots of people grumbling about how they think CDs are inferior etc. I don't get why.

    Sony plucked this guy from an operatic career, and his passion for sound quality made a big difference. The CD standard is pretty darn nice, especially compared to cassettes, and this guy was responsible for a lot of the push to make it a market reality. He also provided a lot of good leadership for Sony in other ways (getting them into gaming, for instance) and was an important supporter of the arts.

    After his retirement Sony has had a lot more trouble both avoiding being evil (rootkit saga!) and finding vision. Furthermore, while Philips and Sony designed the CD standard around engineering constraints and human perception, media formats since that time have instead been designed around marketing (OMG this says 192 kHz! it must be 4 1/3 times as good as CDs!) and content protection/DRM. I certainly wish more companies would find executives like Mr. Ohga.

    • In my mind Sony started to lose its way then it bought out CBS Records becoming Sony Music and Columbia Pictures becoming Sony Pictures. Before the vision of the company was to make consumer electronics. By owning media companies, there was now an internal conflict of interest. Sony electronics now had to make products that didn't conflict with the goal of protecting content sales. While everyone else jumped on the MP3 bandwagon, Sony had to make ATRAC players.
      • And that's why I try to avoid buying hardware from companies that also do business in content production (Sony) or distribution (Apple, Amazon).
    • Lots of people grumbling about how they think CDs are inferior etc. I don't get why.

      There's nothing to get. We're talking about audiophiles here; the kind of people who claim that they can tell the difference between gold and copper cabling in headphones. To them, of course CD players are inferior when compared with whatever obscure technology they use to make themselves feel superior to the common man.

      Apparently, a scratchy vinyl analogue copy on a turntable will sound superior to a digitised recording mad

      • They're not comparing to your dad's turntable. They're using fancy turntables with cartridges that cost more than your computer. Under ideal conditions, vinyl can sound really good.

        • by demonbug (309515)

          They're not comparing to your dad's turntable. They're using fancy turntables with cartridges that cost more than your computer. Under ideal conditions, vinyl can sound really good.

          Plus, vinyl's got the electrolytes that your ears crave!

  • http://www.snopes.com/music/media/cdlength.asp [snopes.com] — apparently it is unknown whether the audio CD was designed specifically to fit Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

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