CDR-logoGames were early adopters of the CD drive when the PC started supporting them in the early 1990s. The huge capacity of the CD meant that far more sophisticated games could be possible.

The ISO standards are called the Yellow book. There are also many other standards which helped make the CD drive the pervasive standard everyone can use.

The CD capacity exceeded the average hard disk well after the launch of Windows 95. Our machine at that time was equipped with an enormous 2GB hard disk. Such a large disk was needed to be able to buffer a disk image for mastering.

Early CD-ROM drives used a proprietary controller. Eventually the IDE port standard was modified to support the new hardware and EIDE became the standard.

The first drive we used was made by Mitsumi which came with a controller card. The Mutsumi drive slid out to change the disk and then it was slid back in place to use the disk. The drive was also able to play audio CD disks via the sound card.

The early drives were very expensive but prices declined exponentially until the cost of shipping became the main cost of distribution.

CD 780nm
DVD 650nm
BD 405nm

Over time the improvements in semiconductor lasers has allowed refinements from the original infrared laser found in the CD to the violet laser used in the Blu-Ray drives today.

UV lasers are under development and eventually it may be possible to refine the technology again. AlGaN semiconductor lasers can reach down to 200nm, but current devices are not yet producing continuous beams suitable for the market. in 2014 a lab needed 19V to operate an experimental laser.


Early CD-R drives that cost $1,000 and not including the expensive SCSI controller needed to connect it to a PC. Eventually hard disk performance and capacity improved adequately to support the CD-R drive. Our old PCI Adaptec SCSI controller is still supported with Windows 7, however the old Yamaha CDR 102 failed leading to the procurement of several more CD recorders. The old Sony SCSI 2x CD-ROM drive was able to extract audio at around 50% of standard speed. Our latest BD drive can extract audio at over 30x which is close to the theoretical maximum speed.

The average hard disk performance on the PC was the main problem that frustrated early adopters of the CD-R. The CD-R requires a sustained 150 KB/s data transfer rate and as speeds rose the demand for bandwidth rose with it. Today a modern gaming machine is drastically faster with new PCI Express slots and controllers. Hard  disk performance lagged CD-R maximum recording speeds for several years before regaining the lead.


Mitsumi CRMC-LUOO5S 1993 1x
Yamaha CDR-102 1995 4x 2x 4x
Sony CDU 1995 2x
Creative RW1210E Feb 2001 12x 10x 32x
LG GCE-8400B Jan 2002 32x 10x 40x
LG GCE-8240 Apr 2002 24x 10x 40x
Lite-On LTX-486S May 2002 48x

The fastest CD drive we have used was rated at 52x which requires 7,800 KB/s of bandwidth. The CD has to spin at 15,600 RPM which is close to the mechanical limit of polycarbonate.

Games started appearing on CD-ROM once EIDE models were mature enough for widespread adoption. Early games often offered to load from CD to reduce hard disk requirements.


The DVD drive is backwards compatible which ensured rapid adoption in the PC platform. Consumer adoption of the DVD format was unprecedented compared to earlier formats.  It did not take long for game publishers to start using the DVD to distribute games. Video cards quickly adopted MPEG decode making the DVD drive very attractive.

Early DVD-R drives tended to be very problematic with a high failure rate. Quickly new designs solved the problems and modern drives are comparatively problem free. Our latest drive can record at up to 22x but media is typically only able to support 16x speeds. The typical 16x burner needs about 22.16 MB/s of storage bandwidth. The fastest 24x drives need 33.4 MB/s of storage bandwidth. Modern desktop disks at the 160 GB or later capacity are adequately capable of providing enough bandwidth.

The DVD drive was slow to adopt SATA but now such drives are mass produced. Large numbers of EIDE drives are still available for older machines. Today businesses and consumers alike finally have standardized choice.

Painkiller was originally distributed on  several CDs but the publisher subsequently released the game along with the expansion on a single DVD. The convenience of the DVD has make it a genuine success.

There two competing recordable standards, the DVD+R and the DVD-R and this has emerged as a draw as all DVD drives support both formats transparently.

Blank DVD disks are often feature items at stationer stores. Dual layer disks are now being sold in smaller 15 and 25 disk spindles but they are still relatively expensive.

Digital cameras with video capabilities require more storage capacity and the DVD is able to hold 120 minutes of NTSC video.

LG GH22NS30 48x 32x 48x 20x 12x 16x
Asus DRW–24F1ST 48x 24x 48x 24x 8x 16x

The old LG drive was not able to record modern DVD+R DL 8x disks so we procured the more modern Asus drive to be able to support more media types. The LG drive remains in service as it is still completely functional save for some media incompatibility.


After a brief format competition, the Sony backed Blu-Ray technology is the next upgrade to the CD/DVD. The new drive has not seen widespread adoption however low cost drives are widely available for the PC. BD is backwards compatible with CD and DVD standards.

Faster 12x or faster recording are drives priced under $100 and are widely available. Blu-Ray single layer disks are still expensive but prices are declining fast. Dual layer disks are not readily available at reasonable prices. A 14x BD drive needs 63 MB/s and only larger capacity hard disks have enough bandwidth.

Blu-Ray overcame the rival HD-DVD format for the standard used for HDTV video. Blue-Ray is still rarely used on the PC. The lack of free software is the largest barrier to adoption.

Manufactured BD disks may eventually see 4 layers used as PC games become ever larger. Each layer is 25 GB and already some games need 2 layers. Modern hard disks are large enough to hold scores of modern games.

BD drives are not widely installed in the PC as games are still sticking with DVD9 disks. Eventually as the installed based of BD drives grows the industry will switch. Due to the higher relative cost, BD has remained more prosumer than mainstream.

In January 14, 2013, Blu-ray Disc Association president, Andy Parsons, stated that a task force was created three months prior to conduct a study concerning an extension to the Blu-ray Disc specification that would add support for 4K Ultra HD video. This is not the first time the format has changed, so this slows adoption considerably.


LG WH14NS30 14x 12x 16x 12x 12x 48x 40x 48x


When the CD-R came to the market the mainstream hard disk was still << 700 MB. The rapid increase in CD-R speed placed a lot of pressure on hard disks to increase the sustained read performance.

CD 150 kB/s 600 kB/s 1.17 MB/s 2.34 MB/s
DVD 1.39 MB/s 5.54 MB/s 11.08 MB/s 22.16 MB /s
BD 4.5 MB/s 18 MB/s 36 MB/s 72 MB/s

Modern 4 TB hard disks provide adequate performance for even a fast spinning BD disk. SSD drives today have plenty bandwidth to cope as well.


DRD+R DL 7.96 GB

Consumer CD, DVD and Blu-Ray recording equipment have had to face strong criticism from rights holders. Copy protection schemes galore have all been used with varying success.

The table on the right shows the capacity in Windows Explorer. Remember that Windows uses powers of 1024 which is easy for a CPU to calculate.

The latest BD-R drives we have seen can now manage with 4 layer disks which would provide huge capacity for backups of personal files. Durability is likely similar to the CD and DVD media and consumer media binders are suitable for archive storage.

The BD disk being a write once medium makes it useful for archival backups. Legal requirements for archiving records in business has long been a driver of removable storage options.

BD-R also are extremely low in cost. Blank disks have come down to $1 per 25 GB single layer. Dual layer disks are also falling fast.

Windows 8 has a new feature called refresh which preserves libraries but is a fresh install of Windows and drivers. Restoring games from BD is 20-30 MB/s, which is faster than downloading games fresh.


We have numerous games that rely on disk checks. We have numerous DVD drives that have accumulated over the years. Standard mid-tower ATX chassis have 3-4 drive bays so its not unreasonable to fill them with DVD drives. SATA makes installing a second DVD drive easy in under 5 minutes. Our 300R chassis can be provisioned with up to 3 optical drives.

iTunes can import music from multiple drives simultaneously. This makes it much easier to import boxes of albums.


The standard CD-ROM spins at around 300rpm which is fast enough for music. Spinning at 52x with the fastest CD-ROM drives have the disk spinning at 15,600rpm which is near the material limit for polycarbonate plastics.

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