How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 423

How are the binary numbers represented in the ridges of the CD?
In principle, the binary numbers could be written as the presence or absence of ridges (i.e. a 1000 nanometer long ridge could be a 1 while a 1000 nanometer long flat area could be a 0). However, this technique has technical problems. The main problem is that the number "0" would be a long flat region (16 adjacent flat regions would be one 16000 nanometer flat region). If the flat region became too long, the CD wouldn't be able to follow the track any more. So an encoding scheme is used to make sure that ridges and flat areas are never too long. They use a length-encoding scheme, where ridges of different lengths correspond to a short group of binary bits. Furthermore, a very extensive error correcting arrangement makes sure that the music can be read even if a great many bits are unreadable. About 25% of the CD's surface is dedicated to this error correcting information.

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