Commercial Compact Disc (1982)
Lasers once evoked futuristic fodder. Yet, way back in 1979 (based on experiments five years in the making), Phillips and Sony cracked heads on an optical 12-centimeter audio disc that could reproduce hi-fi-worthy sound. All it took was harnessing surface laser-beam reflections that converted digital data into analog sound. In 1982, Billy Joel's 52nd Street became commercially available on Compact Disc in Japan, and the next overnight tech phenomenon was birthed. The CD instantly threatened extinction for vinyl and cassettes, though ironically, it currently battles obsolescence against the mighty MP3 (more on that later).