Step back in time and discover the history of the revolutionary Philips Compact Disc System. Our timeline charts the development of this game-changing technology, from its humble beginnings to its status as a household name. Follow the journey of the CD system as it changed the way we listen to music and paved the way for modern digital media.

Get a glimpse of the key moments, milestones, and innovations that shaped this industry and be amazed at the impact it has had on our world. So, let's delve into the past and relive the story of the Philips Compact Disc System.



  • Kees Wols, responsible for educational applications at ELA, was seeking innovative methods to store images and audio that went beyond magnetic tapes. He approached Hajo Meyer, the deputy director, for collaboration. Together, they discussed the idea with Eddy de Haan, the deputy director, who then granted Piet Kramer, the head of the optics research group, the authority to explore and bring Wols' concept to life.


  • In 1970, a trial setup featuring a plate with optical tracks, built by Piet Burgstede, Klaas Compaan, Gerrit Gerritsen, and Gerard van Rosmalen, was demonstrated to Piet Kramer, with disappointing results. There was no image, but there was sound. Later that year, the VLP was developed.
  • In the fall of 1970, there was a meeting at ELA with Piet Kramer, Hajo Meyer, Eddy de Haan, and Lou Ottens to discuss the image plate and competing systems such as Teldec TED.


  • Lou Ottens tasked researcher Loek Boonstra and Toon van Alem with conducting a feasibility study on the possibilities of optical storage for music. Ottens' starting point was to create a new music carrier that could store up to one hour of music on each disk.
  • Philips VLP Press Conference - Tuesday, September 5, 1972


  • Research on solid-state lasers instead of helium-neon lasers. Boonstra and Van Alem are experimenting with 3 or 4 semiconductor lasers. These were expensive but due to their dimensions, they were a requirement for a compact player. The gas laser in the VLP was replaced with a semiconductor laser.
  • March 14th - A meeting of the ALP-VLP was held at Audio. The meeting was presided over by Ir. J. Wessels and focused on determining the modulation method for the ALP. Wessels proposed using FM, but Vries and the author recommended using digital audio recording with error-correcting codes.
  • December 15th - The first ALP player using a helium-neon laser was developed by Boonstra and Van Alem. However, the music was only in mono.
  • A project group, specially assembled by Audio's Technical Director, was formed to undertake an ALP project. The group consists of five Audio members and two members from the NatLab's Radio and Digital Signal Processing group. Ir. Loek Boonstra of Audio is the project leader. The Audio members started working on the development of a compact ALP player for a 20 cm disc, while Vries and Diepeveen initiated a study and the construction of an audio FM modem. Two types of demodulators were created to examine the impact of errors on the ALP. Ottens demanded that the ALP should have better sound quality than the VLP. He required the ALP to have a signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB. However, with the modulation technique, it was not possible to meet the requirements.
  • In a meeting regarding ALP and VLP, Hans Peek (computer expert) and Lorend Vries highlight the advantages of storing music in the form of binary, digital codes consisting of ones and zeros. They reference Mariner 9, the NASA spacecraft that reached Mars in late 1971, as an example of the successful application of digital coding.
  • The ALP team focused on the simplification of the ALP system. An alternative for the helium laser had to be found. The solution came in the form of a semiconductor laser. With this semiconductor laser, the team of researchers were able to build a compact ALP player.


  • The audio developers were working on integrating the aluminum gallium arsenide solid-state laser into the ALP player. In 1975, the cost of the aluminum gallium arsenide solid-state laser was several thousand dollars.
  • The ALP Project Group is making progress on the development of the ALP player and audio FM modem. In addition, they are continuing their research on incorporating error-correcting codes for digital audio recording.


  • The ALP project team accomplished the creation of a compact ALP player and an audio FM modem. Despite this success, the group discovered that the FM modulation method was not adequate for the ALP and that to achieve the desired audio quality, digital audio recording with error-correcting codes was necessary.
  • Joop van Tilburg is appointed as the Commercial Director for the Audio Main Industrial Group. Van Tilburg becomes friends with Ottens. Ottens shows Van Tilburg the ALP player. Van Tilburg was open to innovation and saw opportunities in the ALP player
  • Loek Boonstra and Hans Mons investigate various modulation techniques. A definitive choice was made in 1976 for 14-bit digital pulse modulation. Based on this choice, Boonstra was able to calculate the size of the optical discs. Based on the 80dB signal-to-noise ratio, an hour of stereo, the hole in the middle of the disc, the size of the pits and the channel coding, Boonstra calculated a diameter of 11.5 cm.


  • On November 25th, the presentation of the Alp player by Ottens to the top management of Philips took place. The Alp player operated based on delta modulation. However, delta modulation proved to be no better than analog storage and playback.
  • The ALP project team has redirected its efforts towards creating a digital audio recording system for ALP. This innovative system utilizes the advanced "Cross-Interleaved Reed-Solomon Code" (CIRC) method of digital audio recording.
  • Lou Ottens was given the green light for the official development of an audio product.
  • Joop van Tilburg did not like the name "ALP" (Audio Long Play). A new name for the ALP was created, called "Compact Disc." This name was in line with "Compact Cassette." The name was also used for the laboratory within NatLab where the product would be developed: the CD Lab.
  • Joop Sinjou was appointed to head the CD-lab. Sinjou's task was to ensure the development of a prototype CD player that would sound great and look good.


  • The CD lab presented the first prototype: the Philips Pinkeltje. In the Swiss town of Ouchy, the Philips Pinkeltje was presented by Loek Boonstra, Hans Mons, and Joop Sinjou to top executives such as Rodenburg, Wisse Dekker, and Cor van der Klugt. During the presentation, Maurice Ravel's Bolero was played. Francois Dierckx informed the audience about the launch plan.
  • Rodenburg, Philips president in the late seventies, demonstrated the player to Konosuke Matsushita, which made a great impression on him.

1979 - 1980

  • February - The Philips Pinkeltje prototype was presented by Hans Mons and Hans Peek to audio experts from Polygram in Baarn.
  • March 8th - The Philips Compact Disc System was presented to the worldwide press by Joop van Tilburg and Joop Sinjou at the Kastanjelaan in Eindhoven.
  • March - Philips brought a prototype CD player to Japan to demonstrate it. The team from the Netherlands included Lou Ottens, technical director of the Philips Audio Industry Group, Joop Sinjou, also from the Audio Industry Group, and chief engineer Jacques Heemskerk.
  • April - Akio Morita (along with Masaru Ibuka co-founder of Sony) speaks with Joop van Tilburg and offers to collaborate with Philips on the Compact Disc System. Norio Ohga, the leader of Sony's music division and Morita's right-hand man, travels to Eindhoven.
  • Six meetings were held in Eindhoven and Tokyo to establish specifications:
    • First meeting: August 27-28, 1979, Eindhoven
    • Second meeting: October 3-5, 1979, Tokyo
    • Third meeting: December 17-19, 1979, Eindhoven
    • Fourth meeting: March 17-19, 1980, Tokyo
    • Fifth meeting (May 13-15, 1980, Eindhoven)
    • Sixth meeting: June 17-18, 1980, Tokyo
  • October - Philips and Sony officially confirm partnership.



  • March - Marantz releases the compact disc player Marantz CD-63
  • Philips and Sony both have product ready to go. The Compact Disc Technology is introduced to Europe and Japan in the fall.



  • Third generation CD Players released.
  • CD-ROM drives hit the computer market.


  • The CD-I (Interactive CD) concept created.
  • The United States saw a huge surge in the popularity of CD players and CDs, with 3 million CD players sold and 53 million CDs sold.


  • The Video CD format created.
  • Allen Adkins of Optical Media International joins with SonoPress in Amsterdam and demonstrates a desktop system for pre-mastering CD's (Adkins and SonoPress, produced a replicated CD in less than 24-hours using this system).


  • Philips and Sony introduce the CD-Recordable Disc/Recorder Technology


  • 28% of households in the United States owned CDs, with an annual sale of 9.2 million players. The United States alone saw a total of 288 million CDs sold annually, with worldwide sales reaching close to 1 billion.