A CD Is Exactly 74 Minutes Long Partly Because Of Beethoven

Brilliance | Dec. 13, 2017

A standard CD can hold exactly 74 minutes worth of audio. Seventy-four is an oddly specific number, no? The length was decided by Sony and Philips in 1980. One seemingly unusual factor that went into choosing this size standard? Ludwig van Beethoven. Though the legendary composer was long gone by the time the CD rolled around, his seminal Ninth Symphony had a big impact on the development of the then-new technology. Several executives from both companies decided it was important that the standard compact disc be able to fit Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in its entirety on one side. Seventy-four minutes is the longest recording of the symphony.

But sorry, Beethoven, you weren't the only thing considered in the standardization of compact discs. Commercial and technical aspects played an even bigger part in determining the 74-minute size of CDs than our pal Beethoven. This Wired article gets down and dirty into those nitty-gritty details. For the rest of the history of the CD (you do remember those, right?), check out the videos below.

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