Now as most of you know in this decade we are seeing fewer and fewer CDs, DVDs even 4K UHD Blu-Rays in stores, homes and more. But the question you may want to ask: “Are Optical Discs and Drives dying and will vanish?” Well…I don’t have a promising precise answer, but generally yes we seem to have fewer Optical Discs and Drives. Besides you noticed on how many laptops, iMacs and even many All-In-One PCs lack DVD or Blu-Ray players. The question is why, you may ask? Well it's complicated and before I explain why let me go back to 1978 on how Optical Discs and Players first appeared.

The LaserDisc was the first commercial optical disc and player, which had a similar diameter to a 33 RPM Vinyl Record but without the grooves. LaserDiscs can play videos at a better quality than VHS and BetaMax tapes but don’t store the video media any more than roughly an hour. As many full-length movies and films are usually about 2 hours long. This was why they had to split the movies into 2 sides of the disc or even have 2 separate individual discs. Another disadvantage on LaserDiscs was they weren’t as affordable as VCRs and were suited to rich people mainly in the US and Japan. However, Disney’s former animator, Don Bluth and Rick Dyer made a LaserDisc interactive arcade game Dragon’s Lair in 1983 which was like an early version of those interactive DVD games that appeared in the 2000s. The LaserDisc game had amazing high-quality graphics than most of the 8-bit arcade games, which made this LD game a great success but was very expensive. LaserDisc didn’t offer High Definition until near 1993 with Hi-Vision MUSC, but I won’t go into too much detail. Plus you find out more information and how Optical Discs are made and burned right here:-

Eventually LaserDiscs were replaced by its smaller counterparts like the DVDs for Standard or Enhanced Definition videos near 1997, followed by Blu-Rays for HD Videos near 2006.

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But what about CDs and will they be replaced? Well surprisingly audiophiles and DJs appear to still use CDs as well as Vinyl Records for nostalgic reasons and due to the fact that many CD audio tracks can be ripped and stored in MP3 players or Laptops. But as you know there are online audio streamer apps and networks like iTunes, Deezer, Amazon Music Unlimited and of course, Spotify where some offer free services but with limited control and advertisements - which is common for most media networks and streaming services. It’s no wonder YouTube has suffered some criticism by making their viewers not watch videos with AdBlock Plus, uBlock and more; unless they have to pay for YouTube Premium.

Although CDs are not just for music players but became used for computers and games consoles that started to become more ubiquitous near the mid-1990s. As Sony, Sega, SNR, Philips, Panasonic and even Commodore and more started to use the exciting CD-ROM technology along with the new 32-bit Processor for the PlayStation 1, Sega Saturn, Neo-Geo CD, 3DO, Atari Jaguar-CD and the Philips CDi. However, Sega and NEC had created a CD-ROM player addon for the Sega Mega-Drive/Genesis and the TurboGrafx-CD, slightly earlier before the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation were on the market. Also, Commodore created the Amiga CDTV quite early in 1991 with the 16/32-bit Motorola 68000 CPU, followed by the Amiga CD32 in near 1993 with the newer 32-bit M60EC20. Eventually PCs like the Windows 95 started to support CD-ROM technology, as earlier PCs, Macs and Amigas had to use Floppy Disks that weren’t quite reliable and could only store around 1MB - whereas CD-ROMs can store nearly 600 times more! Eventually, Floppy Disks became obsolete near the end of the 20th Century, despite they were used as recovery disks for Windows 98 and Windows 2000 for emergency purposes until the USB Boot option became a better alternative to the slow and older IDE-powered 3’5-inch Floppy Disk Drives. Floppy Disks maybe obsolete but are still used as a “Save Icon” for many apps and games.

As for DVDs, they started to replace the older VHS (devised by JVC) near 1998 in favour of sharper quality and better features: like subtitles, Dolby-Surround 5.1 and some bonus games and extras. Even PCs started to use DVD-ROM technology near the mid-2000s as DVD-ROMs can store nearly 4.7GB of data compared to CD-ROMs which can only store nearly 650MB or 700MB. Of course the problem was is that not only older PCs need faster Tech Specs but also have a DVD Disc Drive. Fortunately for me, I managed to get a DVD-ROM player from LG in the early 2000s, as Valve had released Half-Life 2 as a DVD-ROM in 2004. Even the PlayStation 2s can be used as DVD players and play games on either CD-ROM or DVDs. The Nintendo GameCube was the first Optical Disc operated console since 2001 to only use optical discs roughly equivalent to a Mini-DVD disc around 1.5GB, followed by Wii Discs that are equivalent to DVDs (dual layer for Super Smash Bros. Brawl) and eventually Wii U discs similar storage to Blu-Rays. Even newer PlayStation 3s, XBox 360s and so on started to use Blu-Ray discs - whereas XBox 360 had used HD-DVD addon technology, but of course, HD-DVD failed to compete against Blu-Ray near 2007.

Nowadays most of us watch and play games in either 1080p or 4K as both the original Blu-Rays and UHD 4K Blu-Rays are capable of that. But wait…isn’t Paramount Plus, Disney Plus as well as NetFlix and Amazon Prime more better and convenient than having to fill your closet with so many bulk-containing cases with discs and old junk, you may ask? Well, that depends because the downside with those paid video-on-demand subscriptions does have some flaws that you don’t get from Blu-Rays and maybe DVDs: ISPs struggle to buffer 4K videos with appalling bandwidth, the removal of some films that are no longer in the library and having to pay for using those services if you are taking a long vacation or break from using them. Which can be a problem. It’s the same thing with audio streaming if you didn’t store your favourite songs in your SD cards or internal Flash Memory in your phones or even your old iPods - which were discontinued in May 2022.

So the big question is will those on-demand streaming networks along with video-on-demand subscriptions replace those Optical Discs and Players, despite those drawbacks mentioned earlier?

Well…yes and no.

Yes, they appear to be generally replaced on most PCs thanks to high-speed USB 3.0 or USB-C pen drives even for SATA SSDs or NVMe M.2 SSDs. Even the latest cars don’t come with a CD player nowadays and even media player docks support USB-C to play songs from their phones. However you can still buy an external optical disc drive, maybe an internal SATA III Blu-Ray Writer Drive. But the thing is when you write or burn your data into a CD-R, DVD-R, or BD-R is short-lived as those discs store the data using organic dye - which can deteriorate over time and become unreadable for nearly 5-25 years. It’s quite similar to Hard Disk Drives as the sensitive magnetic data can also deteriorate, along with the wear-and-tear because HDDs are more fragile than SSDs and optical discs. Now you can back up your data on a cloud storage like DropBox and Google Drive. But the thing is if you want to keep your private data like your family photos and confidential files secure, then using cloud storage services may not be wise. Because the internet can be lurking with AI-powered scambots, and malware and could even infiltrate your private and confidential data. It is risky to go online, as you would know already.

And no, optical discs can still be used for long-term archival purposes even for sensitive data. Now some special DVD-R or BD-R discs are designed to hold the data for centuries. Millennial Disc or M-DISC is a special optical disc that is claimed to last for 10 centuries by using a special layer instead of organic dye. Now our friend Chris Barnatt from ExplainingComputers has shown us what M-DISC is and what it does, plus did the comparison and endurance test on both the ordinary DVD-R disc and the M-DISC, found here:-

But wait, there is another kind of optical disc that was supposed to theoretically store near 3TB or 6TB but didn’t appear in the market worldwide. It’s called a Holographic Versatile Disc or HVD. HVDs first appeared near the mid-2000s, but were bankrupt in 2010. Their main purpose was to play media but in holographic sprites and pictures. Remember back in the day were 3DTVs and 3D Blu-Rays appeared in the 2010s but started to decline? Well, most children under 6 or 8 years old are prone to seizures, headaches and nausea. This was why Nintendo made the non-3D model of the 3DS called the 2DS, to make it more child-friendly. But now the 3DS along with 3DTVs and the nVidia 3D Vision are discontinued. And that the HVD didn’t make it to have ultra-high data storage in a single disc along with holographic media sold in most retail shops. You ask: “Will stereoscopic 3D movies and games come back? And will we see holographic media players in our homes?” Well, I think that is everybody’s guess as things didn’t work out for 3DTV but VR Goggles appear to be the replacement for 3DTV. But it does sound intriguing if they brought some holographic interactive sprites, like a touch-sensitive Pikachu from Pokemon as your pet, doesn’t it? Well…you bet!

So yes, some people still use optical discs for various purposes, for archiving and even for nostalgia as you can see. But what is your opinion on optical discs?