Digital Media Evolution – CD, DVD, Blu-ray and Beyond

digital media Having been born in 1960, I’ve seen both analog and digital media evolving in the marketplace. Younger people can’t seem to appreciate these advances in technology. I’m talking about the people who were born after the 1970s.

Digital media comes in all shapes and styles, but the basic media it’s stored on is very inexpensive.

Expense comes into play when you start adding computers and assorted computer peripherals to the equation.

Digital Media Audio Formats

It’s safe to assume that I remember standard AM radios and record players (phonographs, turntables) as the first devices I could listen to music and other audio programs on. I don’t know exactly when they first appeared. I was using cassette tapes and cassette tape players as late as the mid 1980s. Somewhere along the line, 8-track players and tapes came and went as a failed format.

I can’t forget to mention vinyl records. They’ve been around a long time (some still exist). Their popularity has waned a great deal since the time it was the only format available for playing music at home.

Those were all analog. Nothing digital came along until technology advanced in the 1980s. Before I started seeing audio CDs, I saw other devices and media for video. The compact disc is the most popular audio format today and as far as pricing goes. Audio CDs are no more expensive today than cassette tapes were in the 80s and they’re a lot better.

I hear people complain about scratches and other problems with CDs. I think those people never dealt with stretched or broken tape from cassette tapes. Fishing tape from car cassette players was always a fun thing to do. I’m not familiar with the newer digital audio tape (DAT) format, but I would have to assume the same ordeal exists.

Digital Media Video Formats

Video technology has probably progressed faster and further than audio technology. In the early 80s, I had experiences with Laserdiscs (the same size as the vinyl records), compact electronic disks (another failed technology that used needles for audio and lasers for video), and video tape players. Amazingly, the video tape players (VHS format) are still available if you look hard enough.

Of course, video tape media still exists. I’ve seen it being used in cheap digital cameras as well as other devices including video surveillance systems. I don’t see movies on tape anymore although I’m sure they’re still available somewhere.

I bought a DVD player during the first wave of sales. It was expensive, but the video itself was nice compared to what I’d seen on VHS over the years. Later on, the 9 GB DVDs became available while the 5 GB DVDs were still around. Other than for movies you could buy, the 9 GB didn’t take off as recordable media like the 5 GB did.

I used to have some favorite movies on DVD stashed away for rainy days. I’ve converted most of them to single MP4 files, the digital media format used on DVDs. I’ve stored those files on external hard drives.

The latest video format is Blu-ray. I’m not sure of the sizes now but 25 GB sounds like something I remember reading about them when they first came out. I don’t have a Blu-ray player for either my computer or a stand-alone unit yet, but I may get one someday.

I’ve seen what Blu-ray has to offer and I like it. I can imagine having multiple Blu-ray movies and movie collections, with entire collections on one disc each.

The Crossover of Digital Media Video and Audio Formats

While intended for one use or the other, the formats are interchangeable. Digital video media (like DivX, AVI, and MP4) finds its way to CDs while music collections find their way to DVDs. One thing I’ve overlooked is the use of the media for video games. Various PlayStation consoles have used CD, DVD and Blu-ray media, I just can’t remember which one used which. I believe the X-Box consoles have used DVD and HD-DVD (Blu-ray won out, but some devices still call for the HD-DVD format).

Audio and video technology has advanced a great deal in the last 40 years. I just wish the younger people could appreciate it more, take care of their media and stop complaining all the time.

The Future of Digital Media

Since I’m not psychic, I can’t predict with any degree of accuracy when it comes to digital media evolution and optical discs. Sony and Panasonic were planning a 300 GB Blu-ray format by the end of 2015. So far, 128 gigabyte blu-ray discs are the largest available.

Unless something drastic happens, optical discs will never replace the media used for fast data storage and retrieval like hard disk drives and solid-state drives. Optical discs are fine for long-term digital media storage, but not for “real-time” updating.

Originally published in July of 2013. Updated for readability and minor corrections.

September 18, 2017

Entertainment, Technology

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Gentleman Jack Darby - September 18, 2017

Your experience pretty much mirrors mine, which is understandable since we're about the same age.

Blu-Ray is worth the upgrade so long as the movies have been restored (the video equivalent of remastering in music) for Blu-Ray. Most older movies that are worth releasing on Blu-Ray have been, unlike an awful lot of CDs that use(d) vinyl masters for the CD release. New movies don't require restoration since they have never been released on Betamax, VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, etc.

I also bought LaserDisc and liked it at the time - I also bought BetaMax and Sony MiniDisc but, thankfully, took a pass on Digital Audio Tape (DAT).

Best thing that ever happened to me was enlisting in the Navy and getting stationed at Clark in the early '80s - I was like a kid in a candy store the first time I visited the audio section of the AAFES (Army Airforce Exchange System) there. I bought so much great gear there that I would never have been able to afford Stateside.

I'm a little disappointed that you missed SA-CD (Super Audio CD) - it's what CD SHOULD have been and it's day-and-night above anything else out there for music, especially classical. A lot of classical, as well as significant classic rock, is routinely released on SA-CD.

Vinyl records are currently a growth segment of the music business, believe it or not - from what I've seen, it appears to be mostly hipsters and contrarians buying hipster and contrarian music, as well as some folks in our age range wanting to recreate the sound of classic rock as they first heard it who are fuelling the "renaissance".

The young folks I can understand, seeing as most of those have, to put it charitably, cloth ears and damaged hearing from listening to "hot" (massively compressed) mp3s on cheap players through crappy earbuds and have never really heard great music (classical) live or classic rock "records" played on a good stereo, but old folks should know (and hear) better - can't see much point in recreating the limited dynamic range of vinyl coupled with the RIAA equalization curve and compounded by the manufacturing flaws of vinyl records - poor quality vinyl stock in thin pressings leading to warping, holes cut off-center, clicks and pops and hiss, wow and flutter, scratches etc. made all the worse by the hard work of properly setting up a tonearm & cartridge combination on a, God-forbid, belt-drive turntable.

Give me a remastered CD or, better yet, SA-CD or DVD Audio disc and a good STEREO (two channel pre-amp, power amp, and speakers) and I'm happy as a pig in s**t.

RT Cunningham - September 18, 2017

You know, you're starting to make me look bad.

Because of the ungodly hours I spent on duty in the Marine Corps and the ungodly hours at my jobs after the military, I didn't experience everything I wanted to. Super audio CD? What's that? I must have been elsewhere because I don't remember it at all. Same thing with DVD audio CDs. Where have I been?

Anyway, I'm a collector and I try not to remember all the details. I collect MP4 and MP3 files (at 320K). I don't keep the pan and scan videos from DVDs or Blu ray discs. They're painful to watch.

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