Optical Disk (CD/DVD)

“If it was any good, IBM would have already invented it.”

James Russell

CD’s and DVD’s increase convenience from analog tapes for music and video. Users may instantly jump to songs or parts of a video. Unlike tapes, CD’s and DVD’s never wear out reducing replacement media cost.

David Paul Gregg

In 1961, Gregg claims to have invented and patented the core technology behind the CD and DVD, initially used for a videodisk. He was working for a Western Electric division but left to patent the technology on his own. Gregg formed Gauss Electrophysics and licensed the technology to the Music Corporation of America (MCA), the predecessor of Vivendi Universal and NBC Universal.

In 1976, MCA released the videodisk system as a consumer product: it was a flop. IBM recognized the potential of the disk for a storage device and partnered with Gauss, which changed its name to Discovision Associates (DVA).

In 1989, Pioneer bought DVA. In 1998, DVA apparently prevailed in a patent dispute, finding that CD’s infringed on a DVA patent. Gregg then disappeared and it is unclear what happened to him or his patents. Pioneer, Sony, and 3M all licensed DVA patents at one time or another.

James Russell

Russell also claims to have invented and patented core CD technology at Battelle, the same incubator that helped with the photocopy machine. Battelle licensed the technology to a venture capitalist for little money.

Those patents were acquired by a Canadian company, Optical Recording, that hired Russell for his expertise. Optical sued Sony, Phillips, and various music publishers, but fired Russell before the cases settled. Russell earned nothing but fame from his innovation, the CD and DVD.

“I didn’t really expect I was going to make a lot of money, because I recognized early on it was going to take a big company to put this all together and get it out on the market, because it was a revolutionary thing.”

James Russell