University of Pittsburgh
August 29, 2007

After 25 Years As a Linchpin of the Digital Revolution, Will Compact Discs Survive?

Pitt professors available for comment on the evolution, significance, and future of the CD
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-Twenty-five years after the compact disc crept onto the commercial market, the plastic circle with the rainbow sheen has evolved from a novelty of the early digital age to among the most versatile commercial products ever. University of Pittsburgh professors are prepared to discuss the rise and possible future of the CD-a linchpin of the digital revolution:

CDs enabled the public to embrace the digital age, says Ahmed Amer, a professor of computer science in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences. Originally intended to record music digitally, the CD, with its simplicity and enormous storage capacity (583 times the capacity of a 3.5-inch floppy disk) was the ideal vehicle for delivering digital media from films and novels to encyclopedias and computer programs. Technology such as CD-ROM and DVD players were developed and enhanced to mine the CD's potential, while the disc itself has remained nearly unchanged, Amer says. Contact Ahmed Amer at 412-624-8454;; or through Pitt news representative Morgan Kelly.

The CD especially changed how people listen to and interact with music, says Brent Malin, a media historian in the communications department of Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences. Prior to the phonograph and subsequent recording technology, popular music was circulated via sheet music. CDs restored people's ability to not only listen to music, but also control it to the point of creating customized albums at home, Malin says. This hunger for personalized, portable music turned against the CD in recent years as self-styled "digital DJs" sought the larger capacity of iPods and MP3 players to digitally fashion near-endless streams of favorite tunes (with a sacrifice of quality for quantity). Contact Brent Malin at 412-624-6798;; or through Pitt news representative Patricia Lomando White.

After a quarter-century, the CD's dominance as an all-purpose media device is vulnerable, says Martin Weiss, a professor in and the associate dean of Pitt's School of Information Sciences. Today, devices such as flash memory drives offer greater storage capacity, durability (although they can be corrupted), and are reusable. Flash drive ports, or USB ports, increasingly appear on consumer products. Contact Martin Weiss at 412-624-9430;; or through Pitt news representative Morgan Kelly.