will take a while
yet, but in the meantime, watch out for those so-called fast CD-ROM
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #361 September 24, 1996 High Tech Office
quest for more, DVD sounds good. (Don't worry about what the initials
stand for: it used to be Digital Video Disk, but it's way beyond that
already.) DVD is promised as the next generation of digital everything,
potentially replacing your home audio CD-player and VCR, as well as
your computer's CD-ROM, with a disk the same size as today's CD, but
holding 4.7 gigabytes (billions of characters). Subsequent models
will hold even more.
times as much data as today's audio CDs or CD-ROMs, that's room enough
to store a feature-length movie or lots of multimedia computer data.
The system is even planned to be "backwards-compatible," allowing
you to play your current audio CDs or digital CD-ROMs in it. Promised
for a year or so later are read-write models which, among other things,
could finally replace the 1987-style floppy disks we're still using
in our computers. Sounds good: so what's holding it up?
been announced for this fall, with several Japanese electronic
including Toshiba and Matsushita (Panasonic),
clearly aiming for the consumer Christmas market. But powerhouse Sony
is prepared to pass on the holiday shopping, and says it won't have
products on the market until next spring at the earliest.
can expect to pay top dollar for the privilege of being the first
on the block. Home users will find only a few movies available: the
big studios are holding off until their concerns about digital piracy
are met. (Similar concerns virtually killed digital audio
a few years ago.) And the first generation of drives won't let you
record onto them.
CD-ROMs don't need the capacity of DVD yet, and few are prepared to
create products for what will, at first, be a very limited market,
although Microsoft has said that it will release a
DVD edition of its Encarta encyclopedia.
want to wait
for the big Hollywood studios: the release of feature films will
trigger real consumer demand, both for home entertainment and for
computer use. You may want to remember that the first computer industry
conference on data CD-ROMs was sponsored by Microsoft in 1985, and
it took about eight years for that format to become commonplace. Things
move faster now, but it will still take time for use of DVD to become
widespread. Analysts for Disk/Trend in Mountain View,
expect that it will take until 2000 for DVD use to surpass the current
CD and CD-ROM formats. But if you want to be on top of the DVD buzz
right now, you may want to contact Vancouver's Rainmaker Digital
Pictures (phone 874-8700, fax 874-1719), which is pioneering DVD
you wait for DVD to be released, and then to become a common standard,
you may be tempted to upgrade your CD-ROM. Prices are low, and looking
at the ads, you'll see lots of units listed as 6x, 8x, or even 10x
speed. What's it all mean? Single-speed (1x) runs at the same speed
as an audio CD, which is fine for listening to music or for accessing
a text-based database, but just too slow to play video clips without
annoying stops and starts. A year or so ago, double speed (2x) was
common, while quad-speed (4x) has become common more recently.
units have been released and have become affordable, but you may not
want to rush to upgrade to these. Because multimedia software is
for the more common 2x and 4x drives, it doesn't necessarily run any
faster on a speedier drive (sort of like driving a Porsche on the
city streets that aren't designed to allow you to use your car's power
to its full capacity).
that many of the lower-priced units have a bit of a problem. It seems
that many of their distributors actually have been buying 4x drives
from major manufacturers and then resetting them to run at higher
speeds. They do run at the advertised speed, but because the
hardware wasn't actually designed for such a rate, users are
that their life expectancy has dropped dramatically.