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January 28, 2013

Adios, Optical Disc

Filed under: Main — Tags: , — admin @ 12:01 am

I think the time has come to kiss the optical disc goodbye.

Face it, the optical disc — a generic term I apply to CDs and DVDs — was a stopgap measure anyway, designed to provide high-capacity software distribution, multimedia, backup, and eventually file exchange. I was never happy with it, so I’d be glad to see it go.

Seriously: When was the last time you bought one of those huge spools of 100 discs? When was the last time you burned a CD? Anyone really backup their files onto a DVD?

See? The optical disc is dead, but like the floppy drive’s death march before it, you won’t see CDs and DVDs parade sullenly into the sunset any time soon.

Optical drives first appeared in PCs in the early 1990s, about a decade after CDs trumped LPs as the ideal form of music storage.

At first, CDs were read-only, hence the moniker CD-ROM. Eventually, optical burning technology took hold, and CD-R/RW (and so on) took over. You could create your own CDs! Woot!

Then came DVDs, with a higher capacity, but even then they were playing catch-up; file sizes grew and grew and optical disc capacity wasn’t growing anywhere.

Blu-Ray on a computer? Not happening.

Software still comes on optical disks, but more and more people are getting used to downloading software over high-speed Internet connections. The last program I purchased came on an optical disc, but when I went to install it, a notice appeared. It explained that the lastest version was available on the Internet and would I like to download it? I never used the installation disc.

Burning optical discs is even more rare: My car has a CD player, and I have on occasion burned a disc for car music. But it’s far easier to connect my Android phone to the car’s audio input jack and just listen to its music instead. No CD necessary!

Recently, I updated PCs For Dummies and I cut way back on the optical disc information. It’s truly obsolete. I mean, I had to work through the steps myself because I’ve not burned a CD or DVD in months — if not years. I madd a note for the next edition to drop optical drive coverage or scale it back to a sidebar.

While new PCs still come with an optical drive — and I don’t recommend not getting one — I think they’ll soon fade away. My latest laptop doesn’t have an optical drive, neither did my previous laptop. In fact, I don’t miss the optical drive on the laptop at all.

As with the floppy disk, my advice would be to watch Apple lead. If Apple drops the optical drive from their next round of desktop computers, then the Optical Disc End Times are upon us.


  1. I too rarely use optical media these days; I pretty much only use it for the occasional oddball Linux distro I want to play with. I’ve still got optical drives in my computers but they’re mostly there just for preserving physical media as digital copies.

    What’s interesting is that while I’ve got several flash drives, I rarely use those as well. The two things people primarily use flash drives for are keeping small files on them at all times and to keep an OS installer with them at all times. Myself, I just stick any small files I might happen to need on my own private cloud. As for OS installation, I’ve not yet run into a situation where I need to keep a copy of Windows 7 on me at all times; when I install Windows it’s usually on my own hardware and usually from within Windows.

    Laptop CD drives? My ThinkPad E420 still has one of those and it feels like the faceplate is going to fall off, not to mention it’s adding a good deal of weight. I did see that there’s going to be a redesigned T-series in a while that looks like it’ll drop the CD drive though. Maybe I should get one of them when they go on sale.

    Comment by linuxlove — January 28, 2013 @ 6:54 am

  2. I generally get ultrabook-style laptops, so they don’t come with an optical drive. I have an external optical drive, which I use in the office when a laptop needs one — which is rare. But on the road, I don’t need an optical drive on a portable computer.

    Now if the tablets came with optical drives, that would be an argument in favor of keeping them around. The mere thought of an iPad with a CD/DVD drive, however, is laughable. I believe that probably helps signal the gizmo’s demise.

    Comment by admin — January 28, 2013 @ 7:45 am

  3. I Completely agree. These days it does make sense to download everything. However I am one of these people who tend to like having a ‘hard’ copy of things. I liked floppy/CD-R’s as it gave you a physical version of what you have bought/created. It goes back to the time I needed the install disc for Office 97, lent it, lost it, I still don’t know, had to borrow a copy from a friend that was below the version I had (no Equation Editior, made life awkward!). It’s like audio cd’s still buy them, rip to mp3 use an MP3 player (still keep, the physical) ah well I’m a dinosaur). Oddly the last CD I burnt was of an MP3 album, (MP3 1.99, CD 27.99 second
    I’m just for something when you pay for something.

    Comment by glennp — January 28, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

  4. You bring up a great point, Glennp. What’s a good permanent removable media that could replace the optical disc? Something, say, “etched in silicon”?

    Comment by admin — January 28, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  5. The problem is removable media etched in Silicon
    would bring up the connection issue. With my cheap Android Tablet (called by someone at work the Fisher Price model) The card reader, usb & ethernet jack require an extra adaptor which I never have, on my desk somewhere…Also Silicon is prone to damage far easier than optical (at the moment I am working on Graphics board that use programmable devices, the number of chips that have got damaged via static would make you worried about Silicon!) .

    Comment by glennp — January 29, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

  6. It’s interesting. Microsoft seems to be pushing Office 2013 as a download-only thing. Apparently you can buy a box with a keycode inside it, but you can’t buy any DVDs. Probably more due to the fact Microsoft wants to push everyone on a yearly upgrade cycle but at least it’s more than feasible to download a 2-3GB installer package, on your average DSL or cable connection anyway.

    Perhaps we’ll see the rumored Windows “Blue” update and/or Windows 9 as download-only as well. They seem to be pushing the download-and-install feature of Windows 8 a lot.

    Comment by linuxlove — January 29, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

  7. I haven’t play with Windows 8 only just got a Win7 machine, but from what I have heard it doesn’t come with anything like Paint, Word Pad etc. all these things are download-able from a Windows Store (Apple thinking?) while this might seem like a good idea, no overhead small foot print (Mmmm mobile, tablet??) I can see it not really working, I like my PC too have the tools I need to hand, downloading them when you need them is a bit hit and miss in my view.

    Comment by glennp — January 29, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

  8. Windows 8 (which I’m using as I type this) does come with Paint, and WordPad, and Notepad, and many other programs that inhabited Windows 7. In fact, Windows 8 and Windows 7 are pretty much fraternal twins, save for the Start Screen.

    I do believe that the online/Internet/download model will persist as the method for obtaining new software in the future. It’s cheap! No more discs to produce and — especially — no more software to update after installation; you always get the latest version.

    Microsoft Office 2013 is different from Office 365, the online version. I don’t know if they’ll merge. I doubt it because the corporate model, which really drives Office, is based on consistency and control. You get that with software you install. Software on the Internet changes All The Time, which the corporate IT guys and trainers can’t stand.

    Comment by admin — January 29, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

  9. I’m still backing up my files on CD. I didn’t trust my computer’s back up, which turned out to be wise, when my computer’s hard drive was replaced by a repairman. I read linuxlove’s comment where he uses “cloud”. But, I worry about online storage as been vulnerable to a cyber attack or the site might close down and I would lose everything. And now I’m worrying if I upgrade to a new computer and it doesn’t have an optical drive, all my files will be useless. What should I do?

    Comment by The Gnome Whisperer — January 29, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

  10. Great question, Gnome! I think people need a form of long-term un-powered storage. I’m not quite certain what that could be.

    Comment by admin — January 29, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

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