EINDHOVEN, The Netherlands - March 4, 2009

IEEE, the world's largest technical professional society, announced today that it will be granting its prestigious IEEE Milestone Award to Royal Philips Electronics for its contribution to the development of the Compact Disc (CD) on March 6th 2009. The award coincides with the 30th anniversary of the historic demonstration of the first CD prototype codenamed "Pinkeltje" on March 8th 1979.

Compact Disc in every home

The CD was the first ever digital mass consumer product to find its way into almost every consumer's home. Since its introduction in 1982, over 3.5 billion audio CD players, 3 billion CD-ROM drives and an astonishing 240 billion CD discs have been sold. This means an average of 40 discs per person on Earth!

"The compact disc was a revolutionary new concept that fulfilled a great consumer demand for a robust, high quality compact audio medium," says John Vig, 2009 IEEE President and Chief Executive Officer. "By leveraging research advances in optics, mechatronics, microelectronics, digital signal processing and error control coding, a unique platform was created that has really changed the audio as well as the computing world".

Joop Sinjou demonstration Compact Disc system 8 March 1979 Joop Sinjou at the demonstration of the Compact Disc system, 8 March 1979


"The vinyl LP format was too large for the new integrated audio systems that were emerging at that time, so we needed to develop a suitable alternative that would take us forwards for decades," says Joop Sinjou former Philips' Chief Engineer and world's first presenter of the CD prototype. Unlike its predecessors, Thomas Edison's phonograph in 1877 and Emil Berliner's gramophone in 1888, the Compact Disc cannot be attributed to a single inventor. "It was clearly a team effort, like any innovation nowadays," says Mr. Sinjou. "To come up with innovations like the CD you need to have the right critical mass in R&D and partners, who can truly create synergies between different disciplines which consequently lead to major breakthroughs."

World Standard

"The Philips board were very clear in their instructions that the CD needed to be a worldwide industry standard to succeed," says Mr. Sinjou. To bring this disruptive product to market, Philips teamed up with Sony, which previously had shown a 30 cm digital record with a playing time of 150 minutes in 1977. Through the co-operation with Sony, the final diameter was set to 12 cm with 60 minutes of music and the digital resolution was increased to 16 bits.

Despite the recession of the early 1980s, Philips and Sony invested and planned for the successful commercial introduction of the Compact Disc in 1982. Initially, major record labels did not want to be associated with the new format. As far as they were concerned everyone had to keep their hands off the good old LP. But soon the music industry, with PolyGram taking the lead, was able to revitalize its declining music business thanks to the new CD. In 1988 the CD became the dominant audio medium.

Philips Pinkeltje prototype demonstration 1979

"By building a strong IP position in optics and signal processing, Philips has contributed to a high point in convenience, comfort and quality in the consumers' audio & video experience, and to the related global business success in optical storage (CD, DVD and Blu-ray). This also led to spin-offs in the Eindhoven region for the lithography of semiconductors and the future generation of biomedical sensors," says Rick Harwig, Chief Technology Officer of Philips Electronics. "The Compact Disc demonstrated clearly that continued long-term investments in breakthrough innovation during an economic downturn can not only contribute significantly to the company's success, but even have the power to revitalize a complete industry in decline."

IEEE Milestone Award

The Milestone award is an initiative of the IEEE History Center. To be eligible for IEEE Milestone status, developments need to be significant achievements that have stood the test of time for at least 25 years, involving a unique solution to an engineering problem and must have made a major regional impact at the very least. Since the program was established in 1983, the IEEE has only awarded 83 milestone awards, although it has received many applications from around the world. Successful applicants include companies like Seiko Epson (quartz watches), IBM (magnetic disk memory), Hydro-Québec (735 kV transmission technology), Toshiba (Japanese language word processor), Sydney Mines (first transatlantic telephone cable), JVC (VHS video) and now Philips with the commemoration of Compact Disc.

IEEE CD Milestone bronze plaque, presented 6 March 2009 IEEE CD Milestone bronze plaque, presented 6 March 2009

About IEEE

IEEE is the world's largest professional association in the technical domain, celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year. Through its 375,000 members in 150 countries, the society is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Dedicated to the advancement of technology, IEEE publishes 30 percent of the world's literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields, and has developed 950 active industry standards. The organization also sponsors or co-sponsors more than 900 international technical conferences each year. Additional information about IEEE can be found at www.ieee.org.

Background information

CD prototype 'Pinkeltje' - towards the first digital consumer product

The vinyl LP record with its recorded analog audio signal also had the disadvantage that it was very vulnerable to scratches. A scratch on the surface of a disc spoiled the enjoyment of the reproduced music. To prevent similar problems with the CD disc, the recorded audio signal was made digital. A digital audio signal can be protected against errors, caused for example by scratches, by using a suitable error correcting code. As a consequence, the reproduced digital audio signal is identical to the digital signal before recording. Furthermore, the shift from analog to digital audio signals resulted also in a more accurate registration of a signal from the output of a microphone. By using 14-bit signal quantization, a signal-to-noise ratio of 84 dB was realized. This made noise inaudible something impossible in analog recording and reproduction.

Specifications:     'Pinkeltje' prototype Final 'red book' specification
Disc diameter     11.5 cm 12 cm
Disc thickness       1.2 mm 1.2 mm
Playtime       60 min 60 min
Pit size       0.6 µm wide, 0.12 µm deep and 0.9 to 3.3 µm long
Track pitch       1.6 µm 1.6 µm
Resolution       14 bits 16 bits
Dynamic range       85 dB 90 dB
Laser       780nm 780 nm (infrared)

Snippets facts

  • Pinkeltje was the first compact prototype CD player from Philips. The name Pinkeltje originates from a character in the children books series by the Dutch author Dick Laan.
  • The spindle hole of the CD is exactly the size of the former Dutch 10-cent coin the 'dubbeltje' that came from the wallet of Mr. Sinjou.
  • The maximum playtime was chosen so that Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the Herbert von Karajan recording with the Berlin Philharmonic would fit in its entirety.
  • The reflective layer of the first discs was made from silver.
  • The disc capacity chosen was 700 Mbytes, 140 times the hard disk capacity (5 Mbytes) of microcomputers at the time.
  • CBS proposed a different CX (Compatible Expansion) system to extend the life of the vinyl LP.