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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Mr. Steve Scherf and Mr. Ty Roberts

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

If you had to manually input all the information in your iPod– would you use it? Probably not: yet people have suffered for decades with the typical track #1, album #1 description in CD players and car stereos, due to a lack of descriptive information on CDs themselves. This is due to the fact that the only information on CDs is the “TOC” or table of contents, a unique numeric identifier compiled by the length of songs on an album. Steve Scherf created the CDDB service as an easy way of relating these numbers to the albums they represent, including song, album and artist names, as well as other relevant information on a CD. The service was soon put over the Internet, enabling millions of people globally, (now a million a day) to recognize their music and submit their own favorites into the service. This metadata service for digital music really spurred the revolution in digital music we’re seeing today – making all kinds of entertainment devices easier to use - ranging from portables, car and a broad range of home audio devices.

The history of CDDB and Gracenote: In 1995, Steve Scherf created an on-demand Internet based CD recognition service designed to recognize CDs being played on a PC. The service quickly became extremely popular amongst early Internet users who shared it with their friends, who in turn, submitted their own CDs to the service. Due to the viral nature of the online database, it quickly grew to include all kinds of music genres, including international CD submissions from 130 countries. In 1998, Scott Jones, then CEO of Escient, an Indiana maker of audiophile products, realized that CDDB could also be used in home audio devices by embedding a version of the database into a hard drive, and this interest soon led to Escient acquiring CDDB. Around this time, Escient also acquired a company called ION, a multimedia and music technology company that Roberts founded in 1993. While at ION, Roberts produced the recording industry’s first enhanced audio CD titles, including David Bowie’s "Jump" and "Headcandy" from Brian Eno. He was the company’s lead technologist and innovator in adding multimedia content to traditional audio CDs. ION was also widely recognized as a leading provider of enhanced CD production tools utilized by recording and multimedia development companies. Starting Jan 1 2000, Escient divested and the company became CDDB Inc; Jones continued as a majority shareholder of Gracenote. The company was renamed Gracenote in June 2000.

CDDB Inc., pioneered the community database submit model and the service now contains over 2.8 million musically diverse CDs submitted by users from over 130 countries. The service is now used in over 140 million devices globally, ranging from PC media players, portables as well as home and car stereos. The core database service blended the community submit model with patented technology that was developed by Ty Roberts, which enabled related content, (such as discography and album art), to be shared over a network.

Today Scherf and Roberts contribute towards the next generation of digital music and entertainment devices being developed, which include hard drive embedded devices, mobile phones and DVD devices. Both have made considerable contributions to Gracenote’s Mobile Music ID – one of the first and arguably, the broadest international music recognition service for mobile phones. This service gathers international waveform signatures enabling it to recognize music files from all over the world, not just popular music in select regions. Additionally, both Steve and Ty have contributed to Gracenote VideoID, an identification service for DVDs – enabling people to create easy to use DVD libraries.

Brief Biography

Steve Scherf - Co-Founder and Chief Architect

In 1995, Steve Scherf created the CDDB compact disc recognition service with partner Ti Kan as a hobby to get personal computers to display information about the CDs they were playing. The service became extremely popular, so they founded CDDB LLC in 1998. The company was soon acquired by Escient LLC and named Gracenote, where Steve took on the role of Chief Architect for all Gracenote services.

With a lifelong love of computers, Steve wrote his first computer program at age 12. By high school he was teaching programming to the other students, and was voted "Geek of the Year" upon graduation. While Steve did not major in computer science in college, he continued learning about computers by doing other students' programming homework assignments. Steve graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1988 with a Bachelor's degree in Math and Biology. After graduation, he followed his early roots and pursued a career in software engineering. Prior to founding Gracenote, Steve worked as Unix kernel developer for such companies as Altos Computer Systems, Acer America and Stratus Computers, delving into file systems, I/O performance, SCSI subsystems, networking and fault tolerance.

While Steve has little to no musical talent, his love of classic rock (his daughter's middle name was taken from Jimmy Page's secret symbol), compelled him to help create CDDB.

Ty Roberts is widely recognized as one of the inventors of enhanced CD technology and is accredited with producing the industry’s first enhanced CDs. He joined Gracenote in November of 1998 after the company acquired ION, a multimedia and music technology company that he founded in 1993. Roberts serves as Gracenote’s chief technology strategist, providing technology direction and overseeing the creation of products and services that leverage the power of the Gracenote database to deliver information services.

While at ION, Roberts produced the recording industry’s first enhanced audio CD titles, including David Bowie’s "Jump" and "Headcandy" from Brian Eno. He was the company’s lead technologist and innovator in adding multimedia content to traditional audio CDs. ION was also widely recognized as a leading provider of enhanced CD production tools utilized by recording and multimedia development companies. In September 1993, Bertlesmann Music Group created the first interactive record label after acquiring a 50 percent interest in ION. Prior to founding ION, Roberts was a founder and senior manager of LightSource, a software development company that produced multimedia and graphics editing software. Previously, he was a senior engineer at Pixar, where he created several award winning, Apple-based music applications including "Studio Session" and "Jam Session."