How Napoleon Bonaparte Invented the Compact Disc
Sound & Vision|April - May 2021
You can admit it. You are intrigued. Of course, it can’t be true. But is it purely nonsensical? Is it a “pigs can fly” kind of declaration? Or is there someway, somehow, a grain of truth in it? And if that’s the case, how on earth could you conceivably connect the dots between the Little Corporal and the Compact Disc?
KEN C. POHLMANN

The story begins in 1815. French soldiers needed a way to read documents at night, without a light source. Charles Barbier, serving in the French army, devised a coding system using tactile patterns of bumps embossed on paper. Ingenious, but far from perfect. The patterns were complicated and hard to read. Moreover, instead of directly representing the alphabet, messages had to be expressed in a quasi-phonetic manner.

Imagine running your fingers over complex patterns, trying to phonetically sound out the encoded message “The left flank shall attack at dawn.” And what if you misinterpreted the bumps as “The left flank shall attack at dusk.” Uh, oh. After evaluation, the military determined that the code was difficult to use, and prone to error. They passed.

That might have been the end of our story. But Monsieur Barbier had faith in his invention and, crucially, realized that there might be another very nonmilitary application. In 1821 he demonstrated his system at the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. One of the young blind students there was named Louis Braille.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM SOUND & VISIONView All

The Power Station

True story. My very first hi-fi system featured a Rotel integrated amplifier—if memory serves, a model RA-20 of some 20 watts per channel.

8 mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

XGIMI – A Potent Portable

Even as TVs grow ever-larger, the projector category continues to be an active one, with more recent designs like ultra-short throw models giving viewers an alternative to room-dominating hangfrom-ceiling setups.

10+ mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

A Classic Reimagined

KLH model five loudspeaker

10+ mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

Instant Atmos

KLIPSCH’S NEW Cinema series soundbars are the latest effort of an iconic, 75-year-old speaker maker to push new performance barriers while delivering a product that is quintessential, well, Klipsch.

10 mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

MEDIA ROOM INSIDER: SENECA CINEMA

Do-It-Yourself Theater with a Twist

9 mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

LCD Reloaded

IN 2020, Sound & Vision tested Samsung’s 65-inch Q90T series TV, an LCD model that lacked some of the features and refinements found in the company’s flagship sets from the previous year.

10+ mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

OLED For Less

SONY’S NEW XR-65A80J OLED TV isn’t a member of the company’s Master Series—that designation belongs to its XR-A90J OLED models, which are spec’d to deliver higher brightness than the XR-A80J sets. And while we haven’t yet tested those pricier Sony OLEDs, the XR-65A80J is far from being a second-class citizen. Read on to find out why.

10+ mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

Rack Your World

IF YOU’RE A boomer who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s like I did, you’ll remember that no home was complete unless it had a stereo system in the living room.

9 mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

SPATIAL AUDIO RELATIONS

Ears-on with Apple Music’s new Atmos offerings

10+ mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021

THX Onyx DAC/ Headphone Amplifier

THX Does High-Res Audio

3 mins read
Sound & Vision
October - November 2021
RELATED STORIES

APPLE TV+ TO PRODUCE RIDLEY SCOTT'S NAPOLEON EPIC STARRING JOAQUIN PHOENIX

Ever since Stanley Kubrick’s unrealized dream biopic, Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French conqueror and rules, has been a very elusive character for directors. The life of Napoleon Bonaparte is an amazing story of revolutionary ideals crushed by the seductiveness of power and his ultimate demise is a story that is one of the best known in history. Kubrick would have been able to make an epic but he never got to it during his lifetime and now, legendary director Sir Ridley Scott has signed a deal with Apple to direct and produce Kitbag, a biopic based on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte.

3 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #486

A User's Guide to Living: Part 2

THE SCIENCE OF CREATING A DAILY MEDITATION PRACTICE

10+ mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
February 2020

Tour of duty

Al Murray asks if Britain’s military record is all it’s cracked up to be…

2 mins read
TV & Satellite Week
October 16, 2021

London's little Italy

Maida Vale took its name from a small Italian town and an even smaller pub, so it’s the perfect place to celebrate the end of lockdown, says Carla Passino

5 mins read
Country Life UK
April 07, 2021

DIABETES D.I.Y.

How patients built a simple phone app that does a better job than your pancreas

9 mins read
Reader's Digest Canada
December 2020

Hauss style

Joanna Leggett learns all about Georges-Eugène Haussmann – the man who designed the Paris that we know and love

7 mins read
French Property News
November 2020

Sweet Honey Bee

As Chaumet’s Bee My Love collection expands, the french jeweller’s ambassador Korean actress Song Hye-Kyo returns to front the campaign and talk about her relationship with the 240-year-old maison

5 mins read
ELLE Singapore
September 2020

WAITING FOR THE EMPEROR ROME AND THE TWO NAPOLEONS

Inspired by exhibitions in Rome and Paris, Dalu Jones explores the intersections of imperial ideology and Classical archaeology in the reigns of Napoleon I and Napoleon III.

10 mins read
Minerva
September/October 2020

The last Bonaparte emperor

St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire Exiled from France in 1870, Napoleon III and his son lie buried in England. In the second of two articles, Anthony Geraghty explains how their Mausoleum, which remains a flourishing monastery, is inspired by French and Spanish precedent

8 mins read
Country Life UK
August 19, 2020

An imperial cottage

Farnborough Hill, Hampshire The property of the Farnborough Hill Trust The Empress Eugénie of France died in exile 100 years ago in July 1920. In the first of two articles, Anthony Geraghty looks at the house she adapted as the final seat of the French Second Empire

8 mins read
Country Life UK
August 12, 2020