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Why BeatleBrainia?

What do Eindhoven and The Beatles have in common*
* facts & figures taken from various sources on the web

October 5, 1962 The Beatles released their first single ‘Love Me Do’. Less than 2 years later, on June 6, 1964 they performed the only two concerts ever to be heard on Dutch soil, in the village of Blokker in the region of West-Frisia in the province of North Holland. In the meantime the Dutch electronics company Philips from Eindhoven had invented the compact audiocassette for audio storage, which was introduced in Europe in August 1963. Read more

Although there were other magnetic tape cartridge systems available, the Compact Cassette became the dominant format after Philips chose to license it free of charge, due to pressure from Sony.
Most compact cassettes were sold blank, and were widely used for dubbing vinyl music records (for backup, to play in the car, or to make compilations and share with friends); they were also used for recording music from the radio. This practice was condemned by the music industry with alarmist slogans such as ‘Home taping is killing music’. However, many claimed that the medium was ideal for spreading new music and would increase sales.

It wasn’t until 1968 that the first Beatles album became commercially available on cassette in the UK, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Abbey Road followed up as the 2nd Beatles album to appear on cassette. Read more

By 1972 all of the regular UK Beatle albums (excluding Yellow Submarine) were commercially available on cassette. It is clear however that from 1963 to 1968 a lot of Beatles songs had already been duplicated and disseminated on compact cassettes. This will certainly have contributed to Beatlemania, the intense fan hysteria directed at The Beatles during the early years of their success, as vinyl records were not readily available for all, while recordings on compact cassette were.

The first commercial digital recordings were released in 1971 but it took many years before a suitable sound carrier became available. In 1974 Lou Ottens, a director of the audio industry group within the Philips Corporation in Eindhoven formed a seven-person project group to develop an optical audio disc with a diameter of 20 cm, aiming to provide a sound quality superior to that of the larger vinyl records. Read more

It wasn’t until 1977 that the directors of the group established a digital laboratory in Eindhoven at the factory site named Strijp-S, now known as ‘Philips NatLab’ (Natuurkundig Laboratorium, English translation: Physics Laboratory). Their mission was to create a small optical digital audio disc and a small player. They chose the term ‘Compact Disc’ in line with the already highly successful Philips product: the Compact Cassette. Rather than the original 20 cm size, the diameter of the Compact Disc was set at 11.5 cm, the diagonal measurement of a Compact Cassette.

On March 8, 1979 Philips publicly demonstrated a prototype of their optical digital audio disc at a press conference called “Philips Introduces Compact Disc” in Eindhoven. Read more

According to Philips, the Compact Disc was “invented collectively by a large group of people working as a team.” In August 1982 the first real pressing was ready to begin. The Beatles back catalogue was issued for the first time in Compact Disc format in 1987. The Beatles released two new CD’s in March 1988: Past Masters Volumes 1 and 2. Some of their best-known songs were issued in newly created compilations for the very first time. This text was in the sleeve notes:

“This Compact Disc, and its sister volume issued simultaneously, simplifies matters considerably. If you have the other 13 CD’s, and these two, you have everything that the Beatles, the most successful artists in the history of recorded sound, commercially issued during their remarkable reign. These two sets gather together A and B-sides of singles, those special EP tracks, oddities like the Beatles’ two German-language recordings, a song recorded primarily for the American market and another especially donated to a charity album. But don’t fall under the illusion that these songs are mere “fillers”. ‘She Loves You’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘We Can Work It Out’, ‘Hey Jude’ and many others like then didn’t exactly wallow in the lower reaches of the chart.”

The invention of the Compact Disc in Eindhoven had “simplified matters considerably”. Fans all over the world now had everything from their idols in the best imaginable sound quality. Read more

Compact Discs were originally meant to store and playback sound recordings, but the format was also eventually adapted for the storage of data. Again this was an ideal medium for duplicating and spreading new music, but this time without any deterioration in sound quality. You could say “the rest is history”. As technology has significantly improved since that time, it has been possible to also significantly improve the quality of existing recordings for example by removing technical errors ‘from’ the original analogue tapes. Even upgrading to audiophile Super Audio (SACD) or 5.1 surround sound multichannel audio soon became possible.

In 1987 the original Beatles catalogue was digitally re-mastered for the first time and on September 9 (09-09-09) it was once again released in digital format. One reviewer commented “if you can’t hear the difference in sound quality, you’ve never heard the original versions or you should be visiting an audiologist soon. Read more

“This set of stereo remasters instantly takes it place as the holy grail of Beatles music. Nothing that has come before can possibly do for the true fan anymore.”

November 16, 2010 Apple’s iTunes Store started selling The Beatles remasters. They became one of the biggest iTunes holdouts. In less than a year 1,5 million Beatles albums were sold and over 9 million individual songs of the Fab Four were downloaded. The younger, digital generation had discovered The Beatles and instantly became fans.

The Beatles with George Martin at London's Abbey Road Studios (Copyright © Apple Corps Ltd)

London Abbey Road Studio

The Beatles have remained one of the most reliable franchises in the music business. They changed pop music forever and not only did they inspire musicians world wide they also triggered innovation in the storage of music through their pioneering recording technology: they triggered Eindhoven. Read more

The Beatles’ attitude to the recording process was summed up by Paul McCartney: “We would say, ‘Try it. Just try it for us. If it sounds crappy, OK, we’ll lose it. But it might just sound good’. We were always pushing ahead: Louder, further, longer, more, different”, an attitude similar to that of Gerard and Anton Philips when they founded the NatLab in 1914. Their managerial philosophy was unlike most other labs at that time. Their research was not limited to industrial research and business value; a great deal of fundamental technical research was also performed at the NatLab. For example research into radio technology started back in 1922, and essentially the essence of this story can be traced back to music being played on the radio making it more widely accessible and making it ‘popular’.

Dick Raaijmakers, aka Kid Baltan at the Philips NatLab (copyright: Basta Music)

Eindhoven Natlab

Both The Beatles and Eindhoven Natlab researchers built an experimental garden of progress, which has proved invaluable for both technological innovation and musical creativity. A garden that speaks to the imagination of many people, both now and far into the future.

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