Jan 21, 2022

(+) Endangered Species: CD and DVD Disks

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.

CD-ROM disks and the newer DVD-ROM plastic disks have been the standard of data storage for years. However, that is rapidly changing. The disks may last a long time, but it appears that CD and DVD disk READERS are about to disappear.

A well-prepared genealogist will handle the change easily. However, anyone who ignores the change in technology will be left with a stack of plastic disks that are about as useful as the old computer punch cards.

In short, I believe this will be a repeat of the experience with floppy disk drives. Thirty or more years ago, floppy disks were the primary method of saving data. We may now look back and laugh at the limited storage capacity of such disks, but they were “high tech” at the time. Every home computer manufactured in those days included at least one floppy disk drive, and many computers included two. Even the original IBM PC included one floppy disk drive as its only method of storage. A second floppy disk drive was a $400 option, and the addition of a hard drive cost at least $500, often more (and those hard drives had tiny storage capacities when compared to hard disk drives of today).

Time marches on, and the storage capacity of such drives soon looked small as newer hardware devices appeared with greater storage capacity. The old 5-and-a-quarter-inch floppies were replaced with higher capacity 3-and-a-half-inch devices, which were then replaced by CD-ROM drives. In short, the CD-ROM disks with 600 megabytes of storage space made the floppy disks look puny. During the early twenty-first century, most computer manufacturers stopped including floppy disk drives in their new computers.

Their customers yawned: with a very few exceptions, the customers didn’t care. They were quite happy to make their backups and to copy files to higher-capacity CD-ROM disks. It wasn’t long before DVD-ROM disks became popular with roughly seven times the storage capacity of a CD-ROM disk (and roughly 3,000 times the capacity of a floppy disk). In fact, the use of CD and DVD disks was far more cost effective than the use of floppies. A blank CD or DVD disk costs one to two dollars, but purchasing similar storage capacity on floppies is far more expensive. Can you imagine purchasing 3,000 floppy disks?

Today, it is impossible to purchase a new computer with a built-in floppy disk drive. Perhaps there is some manufacturer still offering them as an option, but I haven’t seen a new computer that included a floppy disk drive at no extra charge for several years. I also hear very few complaints about that omission.

History is About to Repeat Itself

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