HOME Technology 2002
Storage media comes of age

The shiny plastic compact disc with the metallic finish that banished vinyl and empowered computer users with a recordable media to back up their data and create their own music compilations is 20 years old.

It was back in 1982 Philips and Sony began marketing the first players and discs in Europe and Japan. The following year they hit the US and Australia and New Zealand stores. Initially the appeal was for classical music fans after the perfect sound who weren’t deterred by the $2000 plus price tag. At long last they could hear Beethoven's Ninth without turning the disk over.

The first pop CD to go on sale was Billy Joel's 52nd Street. Within five years CDs had virtually killed off vinyl. By 1988 Sony has invented a compact disc player that could record and erase as well as play back. The costly devices were only for those with deep pockets and heaps of patience – 74 minutes of music took that long to record.

Today with a 48-speed burner you can write up to 80 minutes of audio in under four minutes.

Blank CDs range in price from 50 cents to $3 but magnetic media giant Imation recommends audio buffs invest in the upper range to ensure quality playback. Some disks may be better suited to data. "Digital audio CDs are designed for digital audio home systems which should bear the 'Compatible Disc Audio Recordable' logo. For burning music using a CD-RW Drive, using standard CD-R media should be fine," says technical manager Jeff Brown.

It may require some experimentation if you are recording for older audio players - try different disks and even slowing down write times.

Meanwhile the recordable CD revolution that made life a lot easier for the average PC users for storing up to 700Mb per disk has shot holes in the traditional tape or magnetic disk back-up market.

More powerful PCs and larger more affordable hard disks have meant people are creating and storing more information, although tape still has advantages where high end unattended back-up or 8Gb-200Gb capacity is needed at the network and enterprise level.

Now there’s the PC-based DVD recorder, selling for between $750-$900, with 4.7Gb capacity recordable media selling for about $20. The DVD-R will also store music files that will play on most modern CD audio players, but not some older units.

According to Imation the initial impact on the back-up market will be small because of the price but as both become more affordable the market take up is expected to be rapid - between 200-300% during 2003.

Imation is producing its own range of writers and readers including the RipGO! mini CD-R burner and player which fits in the palm of your hand. This external writer connects to a PC via a USB port and uses mini (80mm) disks to store and play compressed or standard music files or backing up data and sells at $NZ499.

It’s also offering the FlashGo! single slot memory card reader and writer which plugs into the USB port and supports Compact flash, Smart Media, Multimedia card, Secure Digital, memory Stick and IBM Micro Drive formats. The $199 unit is geared for computer users who have devices that use different media.

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