BVDS or DVDS? Fuzzy or Extra-Crisp Media?

April 1, 1997

Dear Squeak and Blat,

DVD? What is this? I was in my favorite super electronic store the other day and saw this player that looked like a CD audio player, but it was playing movies from a CD? My local video store is also renting a few of these with the latest video releases. The video and audio is a knockout? Is this another fad or is it going to stick around?

Dr. Manny Toys



Dr. Toys. Funny you should ask. I was just over looking at those same players last night and salivating over the new technology. The first salesperson I talked to thought I said BVDs and sent me in the wrong direction, but after I found my way back from underwear, past software, and to the TV section, I too was blown away with the quality. BVDs may make for nice fuzzy and warm underware, but DVDs make for extra crisp video and audio quality. I can't wait for some of the opera, ballet, and other music videos to be transferred to this format.

After playing with the set in the store--a Toshiba I believe--I headed home for my computer and started checking out the web and the newsgroups for some more information.

The newsgroups for DVD are real active. Lots of folks asking about what players to buy, what DVD titles are available, where to get the best prices, and just trying to understand how they work.

By the way, DVD stands for Digital Video Disc or some call it Digital Versatile Disc! The DVD discs are the same shape and size as your CD audio disc. But, where a CD audio can only hold 75 minutes of music or 640 megabytes of data, a DVD disc can hold from 4.7 to 18 gigabytes of data or from one to several feature-length movies.

Dr. Larry Peterson at the University of Delaware maintains a listserv on laser video for music and the listserv has been discussing DVDs for music. Those of us who have developed music software in the past using interactive video laserdisc will probably want to dust off this software to use with DVD discs as many laser issues get released on the new DVD format. You can subscribe by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the message "subscribe MusDisc Network".

It didn't take long to find some good web sites as well. Check out:

A site from Norway with a comprehensive set of DVD links: News stories, links, DVD titles available, manufacturers, software, and more
Laser Rot site which bills itself as "Your Premiere Source for LaserDisc & DVD Information!" and really does have lots of neat stuff on laser video and DVD with a bit of a Hollywood glitz to the presentation.
Sony's DVD web site
Is this a passing fad Manny? My crystal ball is usually a little fuzzy (from leaving my BVDs on top of it!) but I'm as excited about this technology as I was when I purchased one of the first Sony Discman players back in the mid 80s and my first Delos digital recordings of Stravinsky's Petrouska and Debussy's piano music. (Remember, the DVD players will play your CDs as well.) I also think the interactive possibilities for music instruction are incredible. I'll let Blat elaborate on these.

Plan on spending $500 and up for the first players from companies like Toshiba, Panasonic, Denon, and others. The discs seem to be about $25 each, even for the very latest movie hits. I know I'm going to be one of the first kids on the block to buy one, right after I buy the new Madison Pennsylvania passenger car set for my O-gauge model railroad!

So Blat, what do you think about this new toy?


Hey Manny. Who knows what is going to be fad or fancy? The whole personal computer thing may go away in 10 years or so. Actually, probably not. And DVD looks like it is here to stay too. In fact, I'd bet my underwear drawer full of cool, multi-colored briefs that it will be the next kind of removable drive that you will buy for that personal computer of yours.

Squeak has presented you with some neat information about DVD players that are available right now. In fact, right next to this text is a picture of a Toshiba model (SD3006) that is a DVD player designed to play back movies on your TV. These players will provide multiple formats for movies (letterbox, full-screen, or multiple camera angles, etc.) and lots of space for different languages and special graphics and sounds. The quality of the video and sound from these discs and players is really far superior than tape, plus you have the ability to have random access to portions on the disc! Matched with the new surround sound formats that are emerging now and digital HDTV picture technology that is soon to come, we will have an amazing entertainment system in our homes. Squeak and I will never get our columns done, much less that new edition of our book!

One thing Squeak did not mention is that DVD players are not the only hardware to come with this technology. DVD-ROM drives for our computers are actually estimated to out sell the VCR players for our TV's by a factor of 3 in 1997 and 1998! We really haven't seen these yet in great numbers, but look for them in new computers from Wintel, Unix, and MacOS manufacturers very soon.

These DVD-ROM drives will have the same 17-18 gigabyte maximum storage as the DVD players. That's a ton of MIDI and sound files, Manny. In fact, you might be able to put all of the music of Mozart on one DVD! The teaching possibilities for interactive discs of this magnitude make my head swim. It turns out that the first DVD-ROM drives will more likely be in the 4 to 5 gig range, but even this is an enormous improvement over the CD-ROM. These DVD's in our computers will act like a CD-ROM and have similar access times.
The drives will play standard CD-ROMs as well so you can swap out the CD-ROM drive and give it to your ex-wife. What you might need will be an additional hardware card to do the MPEG2 compression for video and the Dolby Digital decoding for sound, but software solutions for these add-ons I bet are in the works as you read this. The expected cost of these new drives is only around $300-$400. A picture of one manufactured by Panasonic is reproduced here.

On more piece of info: recordable DVD-ROM drives are on the way too (right now about $10K, but watch that price drop.) Imagine creating your own disc of 5 gigs or more!

Here are my favorite links for more information about DVD players and DVD-ROM drives for our computers. If you check these out along with Squeak's list, you will have quite a bit of information!

I can't wait to buy my next Mac running Rhapsody with a DVD drive, 8 gig harddrive and 64 megs of RAM for less than $3,000. I love technology!!! Now if I can just get the thing to mow my lawn and dry my clothes, I really might have time to watch the StarWars trilogy on my Mac and write that research article on creative thinking in music...

2008 Last modified on December 12, 2013
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