Father of the CD? No, he wasn't
Norio Ohga, the Sony ex-chairman who has died aged 81, tended to dismiss claims that he was somehow the ‘father of compact disc’.
The facts are these. CD technology was developed by Philips in Holland. Ohga, recovering from a car smash in 1979, saw a prototype of the badly-launched Philips Laservision and put the squeeze on the Dutch to share an accelerated development programme, or else Sony would go it alone. He set tight deadlines and made the Dutch dance to his tempo.
Ohga told me how he persuaded engineers to extend CD capacity from 60 to 90 minutes so that one CD could contain Beethoven’s ninth symphony, his wife’s favourite. When he played a protoype disc to Herbert von Karajan, the conductor said ‘all else is gaslight’, pressuring Philips (which owned his record label Deutsche Grammophon) to invest 100 million German marks in a Hanover pressing plant. Ohga spent $30 million on a parallel facility in Japan
That was the extent of his involvement. He made that plain, on the record, several times. Yet the myth grew that CD was somehow the product of Ohga’s genius and many of today’s headlines are calling him ‘father of the CD’. If anyone deserves that title it is the Dutch team leader Kees A. Schouhamer Immink.
It would be interesting indeed to hear his memories of the hard-driving Ohga.