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an optical disc drive (ODD) is a disk drive that uses laser light or electromagnetic waves within or near the visible light spectrum as part of the process of reading or writing data to or from optical discs. Some drives can only read from discs, but recent drives are commonly both readers and recorders, also called burners or writers. Compact discs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are common types of optical media which can be read and recorded by such drives. Optical drive is the generic name; drives are usually described as "CD" "DVD", or "Blu-ray", followed by "drive", "writer", etc.
Optical disc drives are an integral part of stand-alone consumer appliances such as CD players, DVD players and DVD recorders. They are also very commonly used in computers to read software and consumer media distributed on disc, and to record discs for archival and data exchange purposes. Floppy disk drives, with capacity of 1.44 MB, have been made obsolete: optical media are cheap and have vastly higher capacity to handle the large files used since the days of floppy discs, and the vast majority of computers and much consumer entertainment hardware have optical writers. USB flash drives, high-capacity, small, and inexpensive, are suitable where read/write capability is required.
Disc recording is restricted to storing files playable on consumer appliances (films, music, etc.), relatively small volumes of data (e.g., a standard DVD holds 4.7 gigabytes) for local use, and data for distribution, but only on a small-scale; mass-producing large numbers of identical discs is cheaper and faster than individual recording.
Optical discs are used to back up relatively small volumes of data, but backing up of entire hard drives, as of 2011 typically containing many hundreds of gigabytes, is less practical than with the smaller capacities available previously. Large backups are often made on external hard drives, as their price has dropped to a level making this viable; in professional environments magnetic tape drives are also used.
The Compact Disc, or CD for short, is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and play back sound recordings only, but the format was later adapted for storage of data (CD-ROM), write-once audio and data storage (CD-R), rewritable media (CD-RW), Video Compact Discs (VCD), Super Video Compact Discs (SVCD), PhotoCD, PictureCD, CD-i, and Enhanced CD. Audio CDs and audio CD players have been commercially available since October 1982.
Standard CDs have a diameter of 120 millimetres (4.7 in) and can hold up to 80 minutes of uncompressed audio or 700 MB (700 × 106 bytes) of data. The Mini CD has various diameters ranging from 60 to 80 millimetres (2.4 to 3.1 in); they are sometimes used for CD singles, storing up to 24 minutes of audio or delivering device drivers.
CD-ROMs and CD-Rs remain widely used technologies in the computer industry. The CD and its extensions are successful: in 2004, worldwide sales of CD audio, CD-ROM, and CD-R reached about 30 billion discs. By 2007, 200 billion CDs had been sold worldwide. Compact Discs are increasingly being replaced or supplemented by other forms of digital distribution and storage, such as downloading and flash drives, with audio CD sales dropping nearly 50% from their peak in 2000.
DVD is an optical disc storage format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions.
Pre-recorded DVDs are mass-produced using molding machines that physically stamp data onto the DVD. Such discs are known as DVD-ROM, because data can only be read and not written nor erased. Blank recordable DVD discs (DVD-R and DVD+R) can be recorded once using a DVD recorder and then function as a DVD-ROM. Rewritable DVDs (DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM) can be recorded and erased multiple times.
DVDs are used in DVD-Video consumer digital video format and in DVD-Audio consumer digital audio format, as well as for authoring AVCHD discs. DVDs containing other types of information may be referred to as DVD data discs.
Blu-ray Disc (BD) is an optical disc storage medium designed to supersede the DVD format. The plastic disc is 120 mm in diameter and 1.2 mm thick, the same size as DVDs and CDs. Conventional (pre-BD-XL) Blu-ray Discs contain 25 GB per layer, with dual layer discs (50 GB) being the industry standard for feature-length video discs. Triple layer discs (100 GB) and quadruple layers (128 GB) are available for BD-XL re-writer drives. The name Blu-ray Disc refers to the blue laser used to read the disc, which allows information to be stored at a greater density than is possible with the longer-wavelength red laser used for DVDs. The major application of Blu-ray Discs is as a medium for video material such as feature films. Besides the hardware specifications, Blu-ray Disc is associated with a set of multimedia formats. Generally, these formats allow for the video and audio to be stored with greater definition than on DVD.
The format was developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association, a group representing makers of consumer electronics, computer hardware, and motion pictures. The first Blu-ray Disc prototypes were unveiled in October 2000, and the first prototype player was released in April 2003 in Japan. Afterwards, it continued to be developed until its official release in June 2006. As of June 2011, more than 2,500 Blu-ray Disc titles were available in Australia and the United Kingdom, with 3,500 in the United States and Canada. In Japan, as of July 2010, more than 3,300 titles have been released.
During the high definition optical disc format war, Blu-ray Disc competed with the HD DVD format. Toshiba, the main company that supported HD DVD, conceded in February 2008, releasing its own Blu-ray Disc player in late 2009.
An image of DVD burner
An image of DVD back side
An image of Blue Ray disc