How CDs Work
by, 27th March 2011 at 04:04 AM (1219 Views)
CDs and DVDs are everywhere these days. Whether they are used to hold music, data or computer software, they have become the standard medium for distributing large quantities of information in a reliable package. Compact discs are so easy and cheap to produce that America Online sends out millions of them every year to entice new users. And if you have a computer and CD-R drive, you can create your own CDs, including any information you want.
In this article, we will look at how CDs and CD drives work. We will also look at the different forms CDs take, as well as what the future holds for this technology.
Understanding the CD
As discussed in How Analog and Digital Recording Works, a CD can store up to 74 minutes of music, so the total amount of digital data that must be stored on a CD is:
44,100 samples/channel/second x 2 bytes/sample x 2 channels x 74 minutes x 60
seconds/minute = 783,216,000 bytes
To fit more than 783 megabytes (MB) onto a disc only 4.8 inches (12 cm) in diameter requires that the individual bytes be very small. By examining the physical construction of a CD, you can begin to understand just how small these bytes are.
A CD is a fairly simple piece of plastic, about four one-hundredths (4/100) of an inch (1.2 mm) thick. Most of a CD consists of an injection-molded piece of clear polycarbonate plastic. During manufacturing, this plastic is impressed with microscopic bumps arranged as a single, continuous, extremely long spiral track of data. We'll return to the bumps in a moment. Once the
clear piece of polycarbonate is formed, a thin, reflective aluminum layer is sputtered onto the disc,
covering the bumps.
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