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Chances are, by now you’ve heard of DVD technology. Initially pushed as a consumer electronics device to rival videocassettes and laser discs, the public introduction of this technology touts the theater-quality digital video and sound it can deliver to your television. Earlier this year, electronics giant Toshiba positioned the first DVD players available in the U.S. as a home entertainment unit (retail price, $600).
Originally called-the digital video disk, its high functionality hastened a name change to digital versatile disk. However, it’s now more widely referred to as DVD, and its applications are numerous. Some enthusiasts claim DVD will replace everything, from changing the way we watch movies to how we store and retrieve data on our computers. But for all the hoopla, DVD is merely a large capacity storage medium.
Currently, CD-ROMs car, hold 640 megabytes of data. That’s the equivalent of a little over 440 floppy diskettes. While that may seem like a lot, software vendors, and game manufacturers in particular, have been constrained by this limit. They have not been able to include all of the animation and virtual reality effects they would like because of space limitations. Enter the DVD-ROM solution.
The first generation DVD-ROMs have a storage capacity of 4,700 megabytes (4.7 gigabytes). That’s the equivalent of more than 3,200 floppy disks or seven times the capacity of current CD-ROM disks. DVD uses new laser technology that allows a finer laser beam to record more data in the same amount of disk space. DVD-ROMs can hold 4.7-17 gigabytes of data depending on the density of the disk, its storage capacity and whether information is recorded on the second side. Best of all, the drives needed to play DVD-ROMs will maintain back ward compatibility with the CD-ROMs you already own.
Columbia Home Video and Warner Home Video have released full-length feature movies on the new DVD Video disk. Requiring a DVD player, these movies have a much higher resolution and a sharper image than VHS tapes. And, depending on who you ask, the DVD Video disk also has a better image than laser discs. With a capacity to show 135 minutes of video on one side, it can play 90% of all movies ever produced on a single side of the disc.
The implications for storing corporate data are even more compelling. “Everything we use was once in books, now it’s on our network in our CD- ROM towers,” says Sherry Velasquez, an information systems manager for the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Cruther in Los Angeles. “DVD may be useful to us because the extra capacity would mean more legal and statutory information available through our network.”
Thanks to the backward capabilities of DVD-ROM, major computer vendors are already planning to replace existing CD-ROM drives with the newer DVD-ROM drives. “We will be shipping DVD-ROM drives by June,” says Ken Jones, director of Toshiba’s DVD Business Unit, who expects the consumer price to add $400-$500 to the cost of a new computer. Gateway, Compaq and other manufacturers have announced