More on CD Hardware & DVD...

The speed improvements in CD-ROM drives are truly phenomenonal, even by PC industry standards. It took many months to go from 2x to 4x, but then 6x - 12x speeds followed more quickly. Try to find a CD-ROM drive today and you'll be presented with 16x to 24x drives. In a recent shopping trip, this editor found only a $50 difference between an internal 16x and 24x speed drive.

The higher speeds become relevant when you run heavily-laden multimedia titles or games. In the classroom, that can mean either losing or keeping students' attention & interest.

All educational desktop computers come with CD-ROM drives built-in as standard equipment. These may not be the fastest on the market (24x), but are generally satisfactory.

Notebook computers can run an external CD-ROM drive, using the PCMCIA card slot to interface the drive to the system.  Newer notebooks, of course, have CD drives already integrated, if they're multimedia machines. Again, those drives aren't the quickest, but you can't beat the convenience.

CD-R: The New Personal Disc

You're already seeing "mainstream" desktop systems with built-in CD-R drives, at only another $600 - $1000 . So its safe to assume that, at least for some, CD-R will be the personal disc of choice. After all, it's some 600MB.

This is a natural for educational institutions purchasing new equipment. CD-R-equipped systems should be in media centers, libraries and multimedia labs, to be sure. But also on dept. LANs, personal computers and even in notebooks, eventually. Asking for it will only hasten its widespread availabilty to education from manufacturers.

Educational institutions can use CD-R for archiving as well, as they must store so much data. Plus, the mastering systems facilitate in-house production of masters for faculty-developed CD-ROMs, marketing CDs and other multimedia or data programs. Thus, revenue might even be created by owning a suitable system.

Eastman Kodak is one maker of CD-R systems, including ones for duplicating CDs in volume.

Panasonic also makes CD-R products.

Philips, a major player digital video disc formats from the early years, has a line of CD-R systems.


The New Kid- DVD

You've heard of DVD -- digital video disc -- so what is it? The term describes the next generation of the CD-ROM standard, an "ultimate standard."  The following info is summarized from a "white paper" found on Sigma Designs website, who makes a digital-video production system.

DVD was developed expressly to be a unified format for movies, audio, and computer storage.

DVD discs are the same size as audio CD and CD-ROM discs, which makes DVD players backward-compatible with existing CD and CD-ROM discs. DVD was also developed to support future write-once (DVD-R) and read/write (DVD-RAM) discs.

DVD is supported by a consortium of major entertainment, consumer electronics and computer makers, including Sigma Designs, Toshiba, Time-Warner, MGM, Columbia Tri-Star, Microsoft, Sony, Philips, Matsushita, IBM, JVC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Thomson, and many others.

A DVD-ROM drive in a personal computer offers massive & high-speed storage capacity --17GB (gigabytes), more than 25 times the capacity of a CD-ROM. The same drive, which looks like a conventional CD-ROM drive, can support standard CD-ROM and CD-audio discs as well.

DVD videos have been released by Time-Warner, MGM and other major studios. They offer much higher video and audio quality than standard VHS tapes, as well as multiple video formats, foreign language sound tracks, subtitles, and navigational menus. It's easy to see the learning applications of such a media format.

 DVD is expected to replace all CD-ROM, Audio CD, video game and video tape products. 

How Do I Upgrade to DVD?
Currently, two ways exist to upgrade to DVD: a set top player for the television set, or a DVD-ROM upgrade kit for your computer.  The upgrade kit consists of a DVD-ROM drive and a DVD playback card, such as the RealMagic Hollywood, from Sigma Designs.

A set top player connects to your TV set like a VCR, usually with an S-Video cable.

With a DVD upgrade kit, you install the DVD-ROM drive in place of (or in addition to) a computer's existing CD-ROM drive. Then install the DVD playback card in the computer's PCI slot, and run a Setup program. With RealMagic Hollywood, one can optionally connect a cable to the TV set, so one can view movies on television set.

DVD Discs: What's the Difference?

DVD-Video: Discs which contain movies that can be played using set-top DVD players.

DVD-ROM: A read-only disc that can be used like a CD-ROM disc to hold computer programs, such as multimedia encyclopedias, games, reference material, etc. DVD-ROM discs' capacity is 17GB today. When used with the RealMagic Hollywood, a DVD-ROM drive can play DVD-Video movie titles, as well as interactive titles that use MPEG 1 or 2 full motion video.

DVD-R: Write-once DVD drives. Discs created by DVD-R drives can be played in any DVD-ROM drive. The DVD-R specification is now finalized; disc capacities will be 3.6GB per side, which is less than the 4.7 GB/side capacity of DVD-ROMs. DVD-R drives will be very expensive when first introduced -- perhaps in the $10,000 - $20,000 -- and are thus initially intended for DVD-content producers.

DVD-RAM: Rewritable DVD drives. While availability is still a few years off, these high-speed rewritable drives will be in high demand for their ability to record data, sound and digital video in the highly-portable DVD disc format, with 2.6GB per side.

The first DVD-ROM drives released are incapable of playing CD-R (CD-recordable) discs. Indeed, these DVD drives can actually erase data from CD-R discs. Newer DVD-ROM drives, however, feature a second laser pickup for correctly playing CD-R media. DVD-ROM drives that are incompatible with CD-R typically display a warning sticker on the drive tray.

DVD's backward-compatibility with CD-ROM's makes it an ideal replacement for CD-ROM drives, and most new computers sold in 1998 -- its projected -- will contain DVD-ROM drives, not CD-ROM drives.

Because it is both a unified and backward-compatible standard, offering vastly better performance in both the home video and computer storage arenas, DVD is truly a "no-brainer" upgrade for computer users. As drive prices fall and replace CD-ROM drives in new computer systems, DVD will become a de facto computer standard.

DVD Movies and Set Top Players:
In March of 1997, DVD-Video was rolled out in 7 cities in the US, and distribution is expected to increase dramatically throughout 1997. Fifteen studios have released movies already. Interactive DVD titles are available today as well. Over 100 companies are preparing titles for a fall release.

One last note: The video portion of DVD-Video is MPEG-2. However, DVD-Video is a superset of MPEG-2, because it also supports Dolby AC-3 audio, multiple audio tracks, navigable menus and several other features.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.