Kornelis A. Schouhamer Immink
Coding method for CD, DVD and Blu-ray
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2015
In 1974, Immink and his team at Philips were tasked to come up with a digital alternative to vinyl records. But going from analogue to digital was not an easy process; the grooves and needle of the record were replaced by a laser that reads binary code of the CD surface without touching it. During the inventive process, Immink came up with an ingenious coding system, called Eight-to-Fourteen Modulation (EFM), turning the long grooves into short pits (zeroes) and lands (ones).
Over the following years, Immink went on to develop the coding technology for both the DVD and the Blu-ray, finding new ways to create more storage space on the flat discs.
Three decades after the launch of the first commercial CD, it is easy to overlook the effects that CDs, DVDs and later Blu-ray discs had on the music, entertainment and computer industries.
In the mid-1980s CDs were the first portable format for high-quality digital recordings. Their unrivalled popularity was evidenced in unit sales that quickly soared in the 1990s, far outstripping earlier cassette and vinyl record sales.
CD-ROMs also revolutionized computing. At the time of the first CD-ROM they offered significantly more storage space than the average computer hard drive. Suddenly a world of encyclopaedias, maps, pictures and even video files was available to users.
Since 1982, billions of CDs have been sold, peaking in 2004 with around 30 billion recorded and recordable discs selling that year. And though sales have been on the decline since 2008, the global revenue in 2012 was still € 4.7 billion.
The DVD became the industry standard and fastest-adopted electronic consumer product, generating billions for the film industry – while Immink was already working on the third generation of his invention, the Blu-ray. But this time around, using the new, blue laser was still far too costly for commercial use. That’s why Blu-ray technology first hit the market in 2006 – with sales reaching to almost € 20 billion in 2013.
How it works
For the DVD, Immink invented a new code to contain high-quality audio and video, which he called EFM Plus. Essentially this code operates on the same principles as the EFM, but it creates more space for high-quality data on a disc by reorganising the strings.
Because Blu-ray technology uses a different, more concentrated laser, the strings of ones and zeroes can be rearranged in a more concentrated way, too – which leaves more space for high-definition quality.
Immink lives and works in Rotterdam. He has a house near the Rhine, where he often goes rowing with friends.
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