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Pits

Any medium read by physical contact with a mechanism—a phonograph needle, an electrical contact, a mechanical actuator—is degraded slightly with each access. Additionally, because the read mechanism is mechanical, there are practical limits to how small it can be made, which limits the density of information storage. The diode laser, invented in 1962, offered the possibility of using light to read the medium, thus eliminating direct wear during access. Laser light can be focused on an extremely small spot (∼1.0 µm for a CD), which means information can be stored at a much higher density. The information is stored as pits or indentations of varying length stamped into the disc and is read by reflecting laser light off the disc as it spins. Light is reflected differently at the transition between the flat surface of a pit and the surface between pits (known as lands). Both analog and digital information can be stored, depending on how the distance between transitions is interpreted.

LaserDisc

The glue used to bind LaserDiscs is breaking down. Years of improper storage and neglect, shuttered away in dark, damp garages—LaserDiscs are falling apart because we forgot about them. …When we forsake the physical, we also lose a sense of history. …There are versions of films that were released on LaserDisc that don't exist (in an official capacity) on DVD or through any streaming service.
—Alice Lesperance, "LaserDiscs Are Dying—Here's Why That Matters", Electric Lit, Nov. 2, 2018.

LaserDiscs were introduced in 1978, soon after the Betamax (1975) and VHS (1976) videotape formats. Although still an analog format (unlike later CDs and DVDs), it offered far higher quality than videotape. But, although discs were produced through 2002, LaserDiscs never achieved the widespread popularity of VHS. The player was expensive and watching an entire movie required flipping the disc midway through or loading multiple discs in sequence. And, unlike videotape, they weren't generally recordable.

LaserDiscs store video as pits and lands (the surface between pits) in a reflective metal layer, just like CDs and DVDs. Unlike these later digital formats, however, LaserDiscs store video in analog form. This seems counterintuitive; the difference between a pit and a land seems binary. But the length of a pit or land is a continuous variable. The video signal is frequency modulated and the length of a pit or land represents the frequency of the FM signal at that point. (It's a little more complicated than that, but that's the general idea.)

  • MCA DiscoVision

    1978–1982
    The first commercial laserdiscs were made by MCA under the name DiscoVision. Jaws was the first laserdisc released.

    MCA DiscoVision

    1978–1982
    The first commercial laserdiscs were made by MCA under the name DiscoVision. Jaws was the first laserdisc released.

    MCA DiscoVision

    1978–1982
    The first commercial laserdiscs were made by MCA under the name DiscoVision. Jaws was the first laserdisc released.

    MCA DiscoVision

    1978–1982
    The first commercial laserdiscs were made by MCA under the name DiscoVision. Jaws was the first laserdisc released.

    MCA DiscoVision

    1978–1982
    The first commercial laserdiscs were made by MCA under the name DiscoVision. Jaws was the first laserdisc released.
  • LaserDisc

    1978–2002
    LaserDisc video and audio is analog. The signal is frequency modulated, with the length of the pits on the disc representing the wavelength of the analog signal. Jurassic Park.

    LaserDisc

    1978–2002
    LaserDisc video and audio is analog. The signal is frequency modulated, with the length of the pits on the disc representing the wavelength of the analog signal. Jurassic Park.

    LaserDisc

    1978–2002
    LaserDisc video and audio is analog. The signal is frequency modulated, with the length of the pits on the disc representing the wavelength of the analog signal. Jurassic Park.

    LaserDisc

    1978–2002
    LaserDisc video and audio is analog. The signal is frequency modulated, with the length of the pits on the disc representing the wavelength of the analog signal. Jurassic Park.

    LaserDisc

    1978–2002
    LaserDisc video and audio is analog. The signal is frequency modulated, with the length of the pits on the disc representing the wavelength of the analog signal. Jurassic Park.
  • Videobook

    1982
    Video with teletext

    Videobook

    1982
    Video with teletext

    Videobook

    1982
    Video with teletext

    Videobook

    1982
    Video with teletext

    Videobook

    1982
    Video with teletext
  • LaserKaraoke

    c. 1982–c. 1999
    Karaoke on LaserDisc

    LaserKaraoke

    c. 1982–c. 1999
    Karaoke on LaserDisc

    LaserKaraoke

    c. 1982–c. 1999
    Karaoke on LaserDisc

    LaserKaraoke

    c. 1982–c. 1999
    Karaoke on LaserDisc

    LaserKaraoke

    c. 1982–c. 1999
    Karaoke on LaserDisc
  • 8 in. LaserDisc

    c. 1983–2001
    Smaller disc often used for music videos

    8 in. LaserDisc

    c. 1983–2001
    Smaller disc often used for music videos

    8 in. LaserDisc

    c. 1983–2001
    Smaller disc often used for music videos

    8 in. LaserDisc

    c. 1983–2001
    Smaller disc often used for music videos

    8 in. LaserDisc

    c. 1983–2001
    Smaller disc often used for music videos
  • Arcade Video Game

    1983
    First laserdisc video game, Dragon's Lair, with animation by Don Bluth.

    Arcade Video Game

    1983
    First laserdisc video game, Dragon's Lair, with animation by Don Bluth.

    Arcade Video Game

    1983
    First laserdisc video game, Dragon's Lair, with animation by Don Bluth.

    Arcade Video Game

    1983
    First laserdisc video game, Dragon's Lair, with animation by Don Bluth.

    Arcade Video Game

    1983
    First laserdisc video game, Dragon's Lair, with animation by Don Bluth.
  • CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds digital audio in CD format and analog video in LaserDisc format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds digital audio in CD format and analog video in LaserDisc format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds digital audio in CD format and analog video in LaserDisc format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds digital audio in CD format and analog video in LaserDisc format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds digital audio in CD format and analog video in LaserDisc format.
  • BBC Domesday Disc

    1986

    BBC Domesday Disc

    1986

    BBC Domesday Disc

    1986

    BBC Domesday Disc

    1986

    BBC Domesday Disc

    1986
  • Compact Laserdisc

    1986
    12 in. LaserDisc containing a complete album with music videos. Chicago, Chicago 17.

    Compact Laserdisc

    1986
    12 in. LaserDisc containing a complete album with music videos. Chicago, Chicago 17.

    Compact Laserdisc

    1986
    12 in. LaserDisc containing a complete album with music videos. Chicago, Chicago 17.

    Compact Laserdisc

    1986
    12 in. LaserDisc containing a complete album with music videos. Chicago, Chicago 17.

    Compact Laserdisc

    1986
    12 in. LaserDisc containing a complete album with music videos. Chicago, Chicago 17.
  • CD Video (12 in.)

    1987–c. 1991
    12 in. version of CD Video, used for both music and movies. Decade, Duran Duran.

    CD Video (12 in.)

    1987–c. 1991
    12 in. version of CD Video, used for both music and movies. Decade, Duran Duran.

    CD Video (12 in.)

    1987–c. 1991
    12 in. version of CD Video, used for both music and movies. Decade, Duran Duran.

    CD Video (12 in.)

    1987–c. 1991
    12 in. version of CD Video, used for both music and movies. Decade, Duran Duran.

    CD Video (12 in.)

    1987–c. 1991
    12 in. version of CD Video, used for both music and movies. Decade, Duran Duran.
  • Laser Juke

    c. 1990–c. 2002
    8 inch disc holding 10 music videos for the Pioneer video jukebox. Discs were rented from Pioneer.

    Laser Juke

    c. 1990–c. 2002
    8 inch disc holding 10 music videos for the Pioneer video jukebox. Discs were rented from Pioneer.

    Laser Juke

    c. 1990–c. 2002
    8 inch disc holding 10 music videos for the Pioneer video jukebox. Discs were rented from Pioneer.

    Laser Juke

    c. 1990–c. 2002
    8 inch disc holding 10 music videos for the Pioneer video jukebox. Discs were rented from Pioneer.

    Laser Juke

    c. 1990–c. 2002
    8 inch disc holding 10 music videos for the Pioneer video jukebox. Discs were rented from Pioneer.
  • Video Single Disc (VSD)

    1990–1991
    5 min. of video in LaserDisc format with digital soundtrack. Johnny B. Goode, Johnny Winter.

    Video Single Disc (VSD)

    1990–1991
    5 min. of video in LaserDisc format with digital soundtrack. Johnny B. Goode, Johnny Winter.

    Video Single Disc (VSD)

    1990–1991
    5 min. of video in LaserDisc format with digital soundtrack. Johnny B. Goode, Johnny Winter.

    Video Single Disc (VSD)

    1990–1991
    5 min. of video in LaserDisc format with digital soundtrack. Johnny B. Goode, Johnny Winter.

    Video Single Disc (VSD)

    1990–1991
    5 min. of video in LaserDisc format with digital soundtrack. Johnny B. Goode, Johnny Winter.
  • LaserActive

    1993–1996
    Game disc in LD-ROM format for the Pioneer LaserActive console. Manhattan Requiem.

    LaserActive

    1993–1996
    Game disc in LD-ROM format for the Pioneer LaserActive console. Manhattan Requiem.

    LaserActive

    1993–1996
    Game disc in LD-ROM format for the Pioneer LaserActive console. Manhattan Requiem.

    LaserActive

    1993–1996
    Game disc in LD-ROM format for the Pioneer LaserActive console. Manhattan Requiem.

    LaserActive

    1993–1996
    Game disc in LD-ROM format for the Pioneer LaserActive console. Manhattan Requiem.
  • MUSE Hi-Vision LD

    1994–1997
    Used the Japanese Hi-Vision format, with a resolution of 1035 lines, the same as used for the first HD TV broadcasting in Japan.

    MUSE Hi-Vision LD

    1994–1997
    Used the Japanese Hi-Vision format, with a resolution of 1035 lines, the same as used for the first HD TV broadcasting in Japan.

    MUSE Hi-Vision LD

    1994–1997
    Used the Japanese Hi-Vision format, with a resolution of 1035 lines, the same as used for the first HD TV broadcasting in Japan.

    MUSE Hi-Vision LD

    1994–1997
    Used the Japanese Hi-Vision format, with a resolution of 1035 lines, the same as used for the first HD TV broadcasting in Japan.

    MUSE Hi-Vision LD

    1994–1997
    Used the Japanese Hi-Vision format, with a resolution of 1035 lines, the same as used for the first HD TV broadcasting in Japan.

Capacitance Electronic Disc

Inventors often take successful media as a model for new media. The analogy is not always helpful: one of Edison's earliest attempts at moving pictures involved hundreds of tiny images wrapped around a cylinder. But the inspiration sometimes bore fruit: Charles Babbage and Herman Hollerith were aware of and based their use of punch cards at least partly on Jacquard's automated looms. Record discs, because of their pervasive consumer adoption, were a particularly compelling model. In the 1970s, RCA found a way to store analog video on a grooved disc similar to a record. Video requires far more information than audio, so a central challenge was vastly increasing the density of grooves.

  • RCA SelectaVision

    1981–1986
    Analog video stored as pits of varying width along the bottom of a groove, which cause variations in capacitance as the stylus passes over them. The 12 in. (30 cm) disc is stored in a caddy. The Wizard of Oz.

    RCA SelectaVision

    1981–1986
    Analog video stored as pits of varying width along the bottom of a groove, which cause variations in capacitance as the stylus passes over them. The 12 in. (30 cm) disc is stored in a caddy. The Wizard of Oz.

    RCA SelectaVision

    1981–1986
    Analog video stored as pits of varying width along the bottom of a groove, which cause variations in capacitance as the stylus passes over them. The 12 in. (30 cm) disc is stored in a caddy. The Wizard of Oz.

    RCA SelectaVision

    1981–1986
    Analog video stored as pits of varying width along the bottom of a groove, which cause variations in capacitance as the stylus passes over them. The 12 in. (30 cm) disc is stored in a caddy. The Wizard of Oz.

    RCA SelectaVision

    1981–1986
    Analog video stored as pits of varying width along the bottom of a groove, which cause variations in capacitance as the stylus passes over them. The 12 in. (30 cm) disc is stored in a caddy. The Wizard of Oz.
  • Video High Density (VHD)

    1983–1986
    Similar to the SelectaVision, but without the groove; the stylus is guided electronically. To support interactivity, the stylus can jump to different locations on the disc. Magical Trip.

    Video High Density (VHD)

    1983–1986
    Similar to the SelectaVision, but without the groove; the stylus is guided electronically. To support interactivity, the stylus can jump to different locations on the disc. Magical Trip.

    Video High Density (VHD)

    1983–1986
    Similar to the SelectaVision, but without the groove; the stylus is guided electronically. To support interactivity, the stylus can jump to different locations on the disc. Magical Trip.

    Video High Density (VHD)

    1983–1986
    Similar to the SelectaVision, but without the groove; the stylus is guided electronically. To support interactivity, the stylus can jump to different locations on the disc. Magical Trip.

    Video High Density (VHD)

    1983–1986
    Similar to the SelectaVision, but without the groove; the stylus is guided electronically. To support interactivity, the stylus can jump to different locations on the disc. Magical Trip.

CD

The compact disc digital audio system offers the best possible sound reproduction—on a small, convenient sound-carrier unit.
—Warner Brothers Records, Making Movies, Dire Straights, 1985 release on CD

The Compact Disc (CD) was introduced in 1982 by Philips and Sony. CDs store digital data as pits on a reflective metal layer sandwiched between polycarbonate and acrylic. Analog audio is sampled and converted to binary data, which is encoded and written to the disc as a series of pits or depressions separated by "lands". (Note that writable CD media like CD-R and CD-RW use chemical and phase changes, respectively, to store information and are dealt with in those sections.)

  • CD

    1982–present
    Real-life example pulled from broken jewel case in back seat.

    CD

    1982–present
    Real-life example pulled from broken jewel case in back seat.

    CD

    1982–present
    Real-life example pulled from broken jewel case in back seat.

    CD

    1982–present
    Real-life example pulled from broken jewel case in back seat.

    CD

    1982–present
    Real-life example pulled from broken jewel case in back seat.
  • CD-ROM

    1984–2000s
    Used to store software, video games and multi-media.

    CD-ROM

    1984–2000s
    Used to store software, video games and multi-media.

    CD-ROM

    1984–2000s
    Used to store software, video games and multi-media.

    CD-ROM

    1984–2000s
    Used to store software, video games and multi-media.

    CD-ROM

    1984–2000s
    Used to store software, video games and multi-media.
  • CD+G

    1985–present
    CD audio plus low-resolution graphics.

    CD+G

    1985–present
    CD audio plus low-resolution graphics.

    CD+G

    1985–present
    CD audio plus low-resolution graphics.

    CD+G

    1985–present
    CD audio plus low-resolution graphics.

    CD+G

    1985–present
    CD audio plus low-resolution graphics.
  • Mini CD

    1987–2004
    8 cm CD typically holding one song.

    Mini CD

    1987–2004
    8 cm CD typically holding one song.

    Mini CD

    1987–2004
    8 cm CD typically holding one song.

    Mini CD

    1987–2004
    8 cm CD typically holding one song.

    Mini CD

    1987–2004
    8 cm CD typically holding one song.
  • Mini CD Single

    1987–c. 2004

    Mini CD Single

    1987–c. 2004

    Mini CD Single

    1987–c. 2004

    Mini CD Single

    1987–c. 2004

    Mini CD Single

    1987–c. 2004
  • CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds video in LaserDisc format and audio in CD format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds video in LaserDisc format and audio in CD format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds video in LaserDisc format and audio in CD format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds video in LaserDisc format and audio in CD format.

    CD Video

    1987–c. 1991
    Holds video in LaserDisc format and audio in CD format.
  • CD-I

    1988–1996
    Extension of CD-ROM format with better sync of audio and video.

    CD-I

    1988–1996
    Extension of CD-ROM format with better sync of audio and video.

    CD-I

    1988–1996
    Extension of CD-ROM format with better sync of audio and video.

    CD-I

    1988–1996
    Extension of CD-ROM format with better sync of audio and video.

    CD-I

    1988–1996
    Extension of CD-ROM format with better sync of audio and video.
  • Double-Length CD

    late 1980s–present
    First half of mono recording on left track, second half on right track.

    Double-Length CD

    late 1980s–present
    First half of mono recording on left track, second half on right track.

    Double-Length CD

    late 1980s–present
    First half of mono recording on left track, second half on right track.

    Double-Length CD

    late 1980s–present
    First half of mono recording on left track, second half on right track.

    Double-Length CD

    late 1980s–present
    First half of mono recording on left track, second half on right track.
  • Sony Data Discman

    1990–c. 2000
    An early e-reader.

    Sony Data Discman

    1990–c. 2000
    An early e-reader.

    Sony Data Discman

    1990–c. 2000
    An early e-reader.

    Sony Data Discman

    1990–c. 2000
    An early e-reader.

    Sony Data Discman

    1990–c. 2000
    An early e-reader.
  • Holographic CD

    1992–1993
    Audio on inner ring, iridescent graphics on outer ring

    Holographic CD

    1992–1993
    Audio on inner ring, iridescent graphics on outer ring

    Holographic CD

    1992–1993
    Audio on inner ring, iridescent graphics on outer ring

    Holographic CD

    1992–1993
    Audio on inner ring, iridescent graphics on outer ring

    Holographic CD

    1992–1993
    Audio on inner ring, iridescent graphics on outer ring
  • Video CD

    1993–2010s
    Up to 74 min. of digital video and audio in MPEG-1 format.

    Video CD

    1993–2010s
    Up to 74 min. of digital video and audio in MPEG-1 format.

    Video CD

    1993–2010s
    Up to 74 min. of digital video and audio in MPEG-1 format.

    Video CD

    1993–2010s
    Up to 74 min. of digital video and audio in MPEG-1 format.

    Video CD

    1993–2010s
    Up to 74 min. of digital video and audio in MPEG-1 format.
  • DTS

    1993–present
    Soundtrack for theatrical projection, sync'd with optical timecode on the film.

    DTS

    1993–present
    Soundtrack for theatrical projection, sync'd with optical timecode on the film.

    DTS

    1993–present
    Soundtrack for theatrical projection, sync'd with optical timecode on the film.

    DTS

    1993–present
    Soundtrack for theatrical projection, sync'd with optical timecode on the film.

    DTS

    1993–present
    Soundtrack for theatrical projection, sync'd with optical timecode on the film.
  • XRCD

    1995
    Extended Resolution using "K2 Super Coding."

    XRCD

    1995
    Extended Resolution using "K2 Super Coding."

    XRCD

    1995
    Extended Resolution using "K2 Super Coding."

    XRCD

    1995
    Extended Resolution using "K2 Super Coding."

    XRCD

    1995
    Extended Resolution using "K2 Super Coding."
  • Enhanced CD

    1995–mid-2000s
    A CD audio section plus a CD-ROM section for multimedia.

    Enhanced CD

    1995–mid-2000s
    A CD audio section plus a CD-ROM section for multimedia.

    Enhanced CD

    1995–mid-2000s
    A CD audio section plus a CD-ROM section for multimedia.

    Enhanced CD

    1995–mid-2000s
    A CD audio section plus a CD-ROM section for multimedia.

    Enhanced CD

    1995–mid-2000s
    A CD audio section plus a CD-ROM section for multimedia.
  • MovieCD

    1996–c. 2000
    Video disc intended for Windows computers.

    MovieCD

    1996–c. 2000
    Video disc intended for Windows computers.

    MovieCD

    1996–c. 2000
    Video disc intended for Windows computers.

    MovieCD

    1996–c. 2000
    Video disc intended for Windows computers.

    MovieCD

    1996–c. 2000
    Video disc intended for Windows computers.
  • Minimax CD

    1990s–2010s
    Mini CD with graphics on transparent outer ring

    Minimax CD

    1990s–2010s
    Mini CD with graphics on transparent outer ring

    Minimax CD

    1990s–2010s
    Mini CD with graphics on transparent outer ring

    Minimax CD

    1990s–2010s
    Mini CD with graphics on transparent outer ring

    Minimax CD

    1990s–2010s
    Mini CD with graphics on transparent outer ring
  • Shaped CD

    1990s–present
    Arbitrary shape leaving the equivalent of a mini CD for audio.

    Shaped CD

    1990s–present
    Arbitrary shape leaving the equivalent of a mini CD for audio.

    Shaped CD

    1990s–present
    Arbitrary shape leaving the equivalent of a mini CD for audio.

    Shaped CD

    1990s–present
    Arbitrary shape leaving the equivalent of a mini CD for audio.

    Shaped CD

    1990s–present
    Arbitrary shape leaving the equivalent of a mini CD for audio.
  • Daisy Digital Talking Book

    1996–present
    For people with reading disabilities, with embedded data supporting navigation.

    Daisy Digital Talking Book

    1996–present
    For people with reading disabilities, with embedded data supporting navigation.

    Daisy Digital Talking Book

    1996–present
    For people with reading disabilities, with embedded data supporting navigation.

    Daisy Digital Talking Book

    1996–present
    For people with reading disabilities, with embedded data supporting navigation.

    Daisy Digital Talking Book

    1996–present
    For people with reading disabilities, with embedded data supporting navigation.
  • DTS 5.1 Music Disc

    1997–present
    5.1 surround sound encoded using DTS compression.

    DTS 5.1 Music Disc

    1997–present
    5.1 surround sound encoded using DTS compression.

    DTS 5.1 Music Disc

    1997–present
    5.1 surround sound encoded using DTS compression.

    DTS 5.1 Music Disc

    1997–present
    5.1 surround sound encoded using DTS compression.

    DTS 5.1 Music Disc

    1997–present
    5.1 surround sound encoded using DTS compression.
  • GD-ROM

    1998–2001
    For Sega Dreamcast game console.

    GD-ROM

    1998–2001
    For Sega Dreamcast game console.

    GD-ROM

    1998–2001
    For Sega Dreamcast game console.

    GD-ROM

    1998–2001
    For Sega Dreamcast game console.

    GD-ROM

    1998–2001
    For Sega Dreamcast game console.
  • Super Audio CD (SACD)

    1999–present

    Super Audio CD (SACD)

    1999–present

    Super Audio CD (SACD)

    1999–present

    Super Audio CD (SACD)

    1999–present

    Super Audio CD (SACD)

    1999–present
  • VideoNow

    2003–2006

    VideoNow

    2003–2006

    VideoNow

    2003–2006

    VideoNow

    2003–2006

    VideoNow

    2003–2006
  • Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD.

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD.

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD.

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD.

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD.
  • Extended Copy Protection (XCP)

    2005
    Sony BMG's release of XCP discs created security issues for purchasers.

    Extended Copy Protection (XCP)

    2005
    Sony BMG's release of XCP discs created security issues for purchasers.

    Extended Copy Protection (XCP)

    2005
    Sony BMG's release of XCP discs created security issues for purchasers.

    Extended Copy Protection (XCP)

    2005
    Sony BMG's release of XCP discs created security issues for purchasers.

    Extended Copy Protection (XCP)

    2005
    Sony BMG's release of XCP discs created security issues for purchasers.
  • Vinyldisc

    2007
    CD bonded with 33⅓ rpm vinyl record.

    Vinyldisc

    2007
    CD bonded with 33⅓ rpm vinyl record.

    Vinyldisc

    2007
    CD bonded with 33⅓ rpm vinyl record.

    Vinyldisc

    2007
    CD bonded with 33⅓ rpm vinyl record.

    Vinyldisc

    2007
    CD bonded with 33⅓ rpm vinyl record.
  • MQA-CD

    2017–present
    A compression scheme designed for streaming and download, later applied to CDs.

    MQA-CD

    2017–present
    A compression scheme designed for streaming and download, later applied to CDs.

    MQA-CD

    2017–present
    A compression scheme designed for streaming and download, later applied to CDs.

    MQA-CD

    2017–present
    A compression scheme designed for streaming and download, later applied to CDs.

    MQA-CD

    2017–present
    A compression scheme designed for streaming and download, later applied to CDs.

DVD

Although LaserDiscs offered high quality analog video, the format was expensive and watching an entire movie typically required flipping the disc, or even inserting a second or third disc. Compact Discs had demonstrated the quality and convenience of a digital format for audio, but storing two hours of digital video was a much greater challenge. In 1995, companies had gathered around two competing solutions. With memories of the BetaMAX/VHS format war still fresh, all stakeholders agreed on a common format.

  • DVD

    1996–present
    A read-only, single-sided, single-layer optical disc holding 4.7 GB.

    DVD

    1996–present
    A read-only, single-sided, single-layer optical disc holding 4.7 GB.

    DVD

    1996–present
    A read-only, single-sided, single-layer optical disc holding 4.7 GB.

    DVD

    1996–present
    A read-only, single-sided, single-layer optical disc holding 4.7 GB.

    DVD

    1996–present
    A read-only, single-sided, single-layer optical disc holding 4.7 GB.
  • Dual Layer

    1996–present
    2 layers on the same side of the disc, increasing capacity to 8.5 GB.

    Dual Layer

    1996–present
    2 layers on the same side of the disc, increasing capacity to 8.5 GB.

    Dual Layer

    1996–present
    2 layers on the same side of the disc, increasing capacity to 8.5 GB.

    Dual Layer

    1996–present
    2 layers on the same side of the disc, increasing capacity to 8.5 GB.

    Dual Layer

    1996–present
    2 layers on the same side of the disc, increasing capacity to 8.5 GB.
  • Double-Sided DVD

    1996–present
    Holds 4.7 GB on each side.

    Double-Sided DVD

    1996–present
    Holds 4.7 GB on each side.

    Double-Sided DVD

    1996–present
    Holds 4.7 GB on each side.

    Double-Sided DVD

    1996–present
    Holds 4.7 GB on each side.

    Double-Sided DVD

    1996–present
    Holds 4.7 GB on each side.
  • DIVX

    1997–1999
    Discs were purchased for around $4.50 and viewable for 48 hours following first viewing.

    DIVX

    1997–1999
    Discs were purchased for around $4.50 and viewable for 48 hours following first viewing.

    DIVX

    1997–1999
    Discs were purchased for around $4.50 and viewable for 48 hours following first viewing.

    DIVX

    1997–1999
    Discs were purchased for around $4.50 and viewable for 48 hours following first viewing.

    DIVX

    1997–1999
    Discs were purchased for around $4.50 and viewable for 48 hours following first viewing.
  • MiniDVD

    1997–present
    3.15 in. (8 cm) diameter, holding 1.2 GB.

    MiniDVD

    1997–present
    3.15 in. (8 cm) diameter, holding 1.2 GB.

    MiniDVD

    1997–present
    3.15 in. (8 cm) diameter, holding 1.2 GB.

    MiniDVD

    1997–present
    3.15 in. (8 cm) diameter, holding 1.2 GB.

    MiniDVD

    1997–present
    3.15 in. (8 cm) diameter, holding 1.2 GB.
  • DVD Audio

    2002–007
    Uses the extra capacity to store surround sound or longer duration audio.

    DVD Audio

    2002–007
    Uses the extra capacity to store surround sound or longer duration audio.

    DVD Audio

    2002–007
    Uses the extra capacity to store surround sound or longer duration audio.

    DVD Audio

    2002–007
    Uses the extra capacity to store surround sound or longer duration audio.

    DVD Audio

    2002–007
    Uses the extra capacity to store surround sound or longer duration audio.
  • Nintendo Gamecube

    2001–2007
    Encrypted miniDVDs used by the Gamecube and Wii consoles.

    Nintendo Gamecube

    2001–2007
    Encrypted miniDVDs used by the Gamecube and Wii consoles.

    Nintendo Gamecube

    2001–2007
    Encrypted miniDVDs used by the Gamecube and Wii consoles.

    Nintendo Gamecube

    2001–2007
    Encrypted miniDVDs used by the Gamecube and Wii consoles.

    Nintendo Gamecube

    2001–2007
    Encrypted miniDVDs used by the Gamecube and Wii consoles.
  • Universal Media Disc

    2004–2014
    Developed by Sony to hold games for the Playstation Portable.

    Universal Media Disc

    2004–2014
    Developed by Sony to hold games for the Playstation Portable.

    Universal Media Disc

    2004–2014
    Developed by Sony to hold games for the Playstation Portable.

    Universal Media Disc

    2004–2014
    Developed by Sony to hold games for the Playstation Portable.

    Universal Media Disc

    2004–2014
    Developed by Sony to hold games for the Playstation Portable.
  • Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD

    Dualdisc

    2004–c. 2007
    One side a CD, the other a DVD
  • DVDplus

    2004–present
    Almost identical to the DualDisc: a DVD on one side, a CD on the other.

    DVDplus

    2004–present
    Almost identical to the DualDisc: a DVD on one side, a CD on the other.

    DVDplus

    2004–present
    Almost identical to the DualDisc: a DVD on one side, a CD on the other.

    DVDplus

    2004–present
    Almost identical to the DualDisc: a DVD on one side, a CD on the other.

    DVDplus

    2004–present
    Almost identical to the DualDisc: a DVD on one side, a CD on the other.
  • M-DISC DVD-R

    2009–present
    Designed to last far longer than standard writable discs.

    M-DISC DVD-R

    2009–present
    Designed to last far longer than standard writable discs.

    M-DISC DVD-R

    2009–present
    Designed to last far longer than standard writable discs.

    M-DISC DVD-R

    2009–present
    Designed to last far longer than standard writable discs.

    M-DISC DVD-R

    2009–present
    Designed to last far longer than standard writable discs.
  • Interactive Movie

    1998
    Allowed viewers to choose the direction of the plot at certain points.

    Interactive Movie

    1998
    Allowed viewers to choose the direction of the plot at certain points.

    Interactive Movie

    1998
    Allowed viewers to choose the direction of the plot at certain points.

    Interactive Movie

    1998
    Allowed viewers to choose the direction of the plot at certain points.

    Interactive Movie

    1998
    Allowed viewers to choose the direction of the plot at certain points.
  • DVD ROM


    DVD ROM


    DVD ROM


    DVD ROM


    DVD ROM


High Definition

Digital television officially replaced analog TV in the United States in 2009. Digital TV did not imply high resolution, but the lower bandwidth requirements of digital vs. analog TV made high definition TV (HDTV) broadcasting practical. Around the same time, the emergence of flat screen technologies made it economically possible to display high resolution, wide screen video. DVDs, however, supported the standard vertical resolution of 525 lines (625 lines outside the United States) with an aspect ratio of 4:3. The desire and opportunity for high definition, widescreen video recording was apparent to consumer electronics companies like Sony and Toshiba, as well as movie studios and computer companies like Microsoft.

The invention of the blue diode laser by Shuji Nakamura in 1995 made higher density optical storage possible (once the patent dispute between Nakamura and Nichia, the company he had worked for, was resolved). Consumer electronics companies, movie studios and computer companies backed two competing standards for high-definition video discs: HD-DVD and Blu-ray. A format war reminiscent of VHS vs. BetaMAX followed, with Blu-ray emerging as the winner in 2008.

  • Blu-Ray

    2006–present
    720p and 1080p high-resolution video, 25 GB per layer.

    Blu-Ray

    2006–present
    720p and 1080p high-resolution video, 25 GB per layer.

    Blu-Ray

    2006–present
    720p and 1080p high-resolution video, 25 GB per layer.

    Blu-Ray

    2006–present
    720p and 1080p high-resolution video, 25 GB per layer.

    Blu-Ray

    2006–present
    720p and 1080p high-resolution video, 25 GB per layer.
  • HD DVD

    2006–2008
    Supports all HDTV resolutions. 15 GB per layer.

    HD DVD

    2006–2008
    Supports all HDTV resolutions. 15 GB per layer.

    HD DVD

    2006–2008
    Supports all HDTV resolutions. 15 GB per layer.

    HD DVD

    2006–2008
    Supports all HDTV resolutions. 15 GB per layer.

    HD DVD

    2006–2008
    Supports all HDTV resolutions. 15 GB per layer.
  • High Fidelity Pure Audio

    2013–present
    Audio-only Blu-Ray disc. High resolution audio: 24-bit, 96 or 192 kHz.

    High Fidelity Pure Audio

    2013–present
    Audio-only Blu-Ray disc. High resolution audio: 24-bit, 96 or 192 kHz.

    High Fidelity Pure Audio

    2013–present
    Audio-only Blu-Ray disc. High resolution audio: 24-bit, 96 or 192 kHz.

    High Fidelity Pure Audio

    2013–present
    Audio-only Blu-Ray disc. High resolution audio: 24-bit, 96 or 192 kHz.

    High Fidelity Pure Audio

    2013–present
    Audio-only Blu-Ray disc. High resolution audio: 24-bit, 96 or 192 kHz.
  • Blu-Ray 3D

    2009–present

    Blu-Ray 3D

    2009–present

    Blu-Ray 3D

    2009–present

    Blu-Ray 3D

    2009–present

    Blu-Ray 3D

    2009–present
  • 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray

    2015–present
    3840 × 2160 pixel resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR), up to 60 fps.

    4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray

    2015–present
    3840 × 2160 pixel resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR), up to 60 fps.

    4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray

    2015–present
    3840 × 2160 pixel resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR), up to 60 fps.

    4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray

    2015–present
    3840 × 2160 pixel resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR), up to 60 fps.

    4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray

    2015–present
    3840 × 2160 pixel resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR), up to 60 fps.

Optical Memory Card

The Canon optical memory card uses the same basic mechanism to store information as a compact disc, except that the pits are laser-etched into the recording layer instead of stamped. This is a form of write-once storage that allows custom information like name and medical information to be stored for a particular user.

  • Canon

    1990

    Canon

    1990

    Canon

    1990

    Canon

    1990

    Canon

    1990