Unless you came to the world very recently, chances are that you’ve held optical media in your hands at some point in your life. From music albums to movies, to video games, optical discs have been used to store pretty much any kind of data on them.

What is Optical Media?

Optical media is a broad term that covers several types of discs that are read by a laser. The discs are typically made from aluminum and polycarbonate and are designed for data storage. The data is read by optical disc drives fitted with laser diodes. Once inserted into the drive, the discs spin around at 200-4000 RPM depending on the type of disc.

Many kinds of optical media have been produced, each generation holding some advantages over the previous ones. The LaserDisc, for example, could hold 300MB of data. The newer HVD can hold as much as 6TB.

Here are all the different kinds of optical media in chronological order:

  • LaserDisc (LD)
  • Write Once Read Many Disk (WORM)
  • Compact Disc (CD)
  • Electron Trapping Optical Memory (ETOM)
  • MiniDisc (MD)
  • Magneto Optical Disc (MOD)
  • Digital Versatile Disc (DVD)
  • LIMDOW (Laser Intensity Modulation Direct OverWrite)
  • GD-ROM
  • Fluorescent Multilayer Disc
  • Versatile Multilayer Disc (VMD)
  • Hyper CD-ROM
  • Ultra Density Optical (UDO)
  • FVD (FVD)
  • Enhanced Versatile Disc (EVD)
  • HD DVD
  • Blu-ray Disc (BD)
  • Professional Disc for Data (PDD)
  • Professional Disc
  • Digital Multilayer Disk
  • Multiplexed Optical Data Storage (MODS-Disc)
  • Universal Media Disc (UMD)
  • Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD)
  • Protein-coated Disc (PCD)
  • M-DISC
  • Archival Disc
  • Ultra HD Blu-ray

Of all these different kinds, the CD and DVD have historically been the most popular types for consumers. Music albums were often released on CDs and films on DVDs. Later, the Blu-ray discs offered a superior alternative to the DVD for the film industry.

Each disc has two sides: one for data storage and for for a printed label. Most discs, such as the CD and DVD, have a lacquer coating on the data storage side to protect them from damage. They can still be scratched, however, which often results in the discs rendered useless and the data being lost.

Optical discs come in three variants: Read-only, recordable, and re-writable.

Each variant is used for different purposes. The read-only discs atypically contain a consumer product, such as a music album or a movie. The recordable discs can be used once, and are a cheap way to back up data from a computer. The re-writable discs are usually more expensive than the recordable discs but can be recorded on multiple times.

The first optical disc was invented by Alexander Graham Bell and his colleagues in 1884. They recorded audio onto a glass disc with a light beam. It wasn’t until 1958, however, that David Paul Greff managed to record video data onto an optical disc. Consumers had to wait until 1979 before Sony and Phillips created the first audio CD together.

Other Storage Devices Related to Optical Media

Unless you came to the world very recently, chances are that you’ve held optical media in your hands at some point in your life. From music albums to movies, to video games, optical discs have been used to store pretty much any kind of data on them.

What is Optical Media?

Optical media is a broad term that covers several types of discs that are read by a laser. The discs are typically made from aluminum and polycarbonate and are designed for data storage. The data is read by optical disc drives fitted with laser diodes. Once inserted into the drive, the discs spin around at 200-4000 RPM depending on the type of disc.

Many kinds of optical media have been produced, each generation holding some advantages over the previous ones. The LaserDisc, for example, could hold 300MB of data. The newer HVD can hold as much as 6TB.

Here are all the different kinds of optical media in chronological order:

  • LaserDisc (LD)
  • Write Once Read Many Disk (WORM)
  • Compact Disc (CD)
  • Electron Trapping Optical Memory (ETOM)
  • MiniDisc (MD)
  • Magneto Optical Disc (MOD)
  • Digital Versatile Disc (DVD)
  • LIMDOW (Laser Intensity Modulation Direct OverWrite)
  • GD-ROM
  • Fluorescent Multilayer Disc
  • Versatile Multilayer Disc (VMD)
  • Hyper CD-ROM
  • Ultra Density Optical (UDO)
  • FVD (FVD)
  • Enhanced Versatile Disc (EVD)
  • HD DVD
  • Blu-ray Disc (BD)
  • Professional Disc for Data (PDD)
  • Professional Disc
  • Digital Multilayer Disk
  • Multiplexed Optical Data Storage (MODS-Disc)
  • Universal Media Disc (UMD)
  • Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD)
  • Protein-coated Disc (PCD)
  • M-DISC
  • Archival Disc
  • Ultra HD Blu-ray

Of all these different kinds, the CD and DVD have historically been the most popular types for consumers. Music albums were often released on CDs and films on DVDs. Later, the Blu-ray discs offered a superior alternative to the DVD for the film industry.

Each disc has two sides: one for data storage and for for a printed label. Most discs, such as the CD and DVD, have a lacquer coating on the data storage side to protect them from damage. They can still be scratched, however, which often results in the discs rendered useless and the data being lost.

Optical discs come in three variants: Read-only, recordable, and re-writable.

Each variant is used for different purposes. The read-only discs atypically contain a consumer product, such as a music album or a movie. The recordable discs can be used once, and are a cheap way to back up data from a computer. The re-writable discs are usually more expensive than the recordable discs but can be recorded on multiple times.

The first optical disc was invented by Alexander Graham Bell and his colleagues in 1884. They recorded audio onto a glass disc with a light beam. It wasn’t until 1958, however, that David Paul Greff managed to record video data onto an optical disc. Consumers had to wait until 1979 before Sony and Phillips created the first audio CD together.

Other Storage Devices Related to Optical Media

Optical media has been widely used since 1979 and is still in use today. However, the emergence of other storage media, such as USB sticks, external hard drives, and cloud storage have rendered them less popular.

Features and Benefits of Optical Media

Although the floppy disc came with a protective casing and hard drives can hold more data, optical media still holds some advantages over both. Since they don’t use magnetic charges, they have a longer lifespan and are less likely to lose the data on them.

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Optical media has been widely used since 1979 and is still in use today. However, the emergence of other storage media, such as USB sticks, external hard drives, and cloud storage have rendered them less popular.

Features and Benefits of Optical Media

Although the floppy disc came with a protective casing and hard drives can hold more data, optical media still holds some advantages over both. Since they don’t use magnetic charges, they have a longer lifespan and are less likely to lose the data on them.

Image courtesy of TIME.

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