Fujifilm PhotoDisc CD-R (2004 – )

Launched in 2004, The Fujifilm PhotoDisc CD-R is essentially a standard CD-R disc with a black substrate layer that claims to protect the data from ultra-violet and solar radiation. It also uses a different dye (phthalocyanine rather than the usual cyanine) in the recording layer, which should offer more resistance to heat and sunlight.

Although they are reported to be very reliable, for archival purposes gold archival CD-R discs are probably better.

Despite the name, the discs can be used for any purpose that a standard CD-R can be used for, and don’t just store photos.

Sources / Resources

MovieCD (1997 – late 1990s)

MovieCD was a CD-ROM format for video, introduced by Sirius Publishing Inc. in early 1997, that allowed people to view full-length movies on their Windows PC or laptop using a standard CD-ROM drive.

MovieCDs could be played on PCs running Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 without the need for any additional hardware or software, and the PC hardware requirements were fairly modest. The necessary software and the MotionPixels codec were on the discs themselves and installed automatically.

Each disc could hold up to 45 minutes of video, so two or sometimes three discs were necessary for longer films. The resolution was 320×236 pixels, and the format promised ‘near-TV quality’ images (though of course, the format could only be played on a PC – there were no set-top MovieCD players available).

Over 100 titles were available on the MovieCD format including anime, music concerts and feature films. It competed with Video CD and the newly launched DVD-Video, and no version of MovieCD was developed for versions of Windows beyond Windows 95. It was not a commercial success and disappeared after a few years.

Using the discs on a post-Windows 98 system can cause problems with other video and audio software.

Sources / Resources

CD Cardz (2000 – 2009)

CD Cardz were introduced in 2000 by Serious Global Ltd of the UK, and consisted of trading card-sized CD-ROMs containing information about a character or sportsperson. They were also sold in the US by Serious USA.

CD Cardz were produced for popular shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stargate SG-1, and films such as Final Fantasy, Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park. The cards contained features such as screensavers, photos, trailers and biographies, and had a picture of the character printed on the disc. There were some sports-related card sets produced for EURO 2000, NBA and NFL, as well as Manchester United and Arsenal Football Clubs.

Like the similar business card CD-ROM, they did not work in slot-loading drives. CD Cardz had a capacity of 80 MB.

The CD Cardz format also appears to have been used to create interactive gift cards.

Serious appears to stopped producing CD Cardz and the later DVD Cardz in 2009 as the website ceased to exist by 2010.

Sources / Resources

LightScribe (2004 – 2013)

LightScribe was not a format as such, but a technology introduced by Hewlett-Packard in 2004 that allowed optical drives to laser-etch labels onto compatible media.

As well as a compatible LightScribe enabled drive, LightScribe drivers and suitable disc-burning software that supported LightScribe was required. Finally, a LightScribe compatible disc was needed. After burning data to the disc, the disc is turned over so the label side is face down, and the same laser that burnt data is used to etch the reactive dye coating of the disc.

LightScribe-compatible discs came in the form of CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW. No Blu-ray discs were LightScribe compatible.

The LightScribe technology could only etch in monochrome, and it was possible for the design to fade over time, especially if the disk was exposed to direct sunlight. Etching a disc took a considerable amount of time; up to 30 minutes for a high-contrast image.

As of 2013, the technology was no longer promoted by Hewlett-Packard, but it is possible to obtain the software from elsewhere. Drive manufactures have now ceased making LightScribe enabled optical drives (optical drives in computers are under threat in general).

Sources / Resources

Enhanced CD (1994 – )

An enhanced CD (or ECD) is a Compact Disc that contains both audio content playable on a standard CD audio player, and multimedia content playable on a computer CD-ROM.

Introduced in 1994, the idea behind enhanced CDs was to offer the music buyer some extra bonus features using space on the disc that was unfilled by the music. This might take the form of music videos (similar to the earlier idea of CD Video), interviews, wallpapers, pictures, lyrics, or links to an artists website.

Rather confusingly, there were three different ways on combining the different content on the disc. Prior to 1996, enhanced CDs were created in one of two ways. One was to have the multimedia content in the first track, but this meant that track 1 needed to be skipped when played in a standard CD audio player or else the multimedia track could cause an unpleasant noise to be heard. A subsequent solution was to have the multimedia content in the pre-gap before track 1 (rather like the way a CD-i Ready disc worked). Both of these methods were known as ‘mixed-mode’, combining Red Book Digital Audio and Yellow Book CD-ROM information in a single ‘session’ on the same disc.

To get around the problems of mixed-mode discs, Philips and Sony released the Blue Book standards in 1995, and worked with Apple, Microsoft and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to develop them. This new standard specified multisession technology that used two sessions on the disc, the first one containing audio tracks, and the second one containing data that is invisible to CD audio players. In 1996, most enhanced CDs used mixed-mode with the multimedia in the pre-gap, but by 1997 most were using Blue Book standards. The only downside to the newer multisession technology was that CD-ROM drives made before 1996 might not recognise them if they were not multisession capable.

Enhanced CDs can usually be recognised the official ‘Enhanced CD’ logo recommended by the RIAA. They may also have the CD EXTRA logo (previously known as CD Plus), which was trademarked by Sony for use on Blue Book discs.

Later technologies like DVD-Audio or DualDisc tried to perform the same function of offering the music album with bonus material such as videos, but later albums often came instead with the videos on a separate DVD-Video.

Sources / Resources

Business card CD-ROM (1998 – )

Shaped Compact Discs first appeared in the mid-1990s, the first being The Flaming Lips CD single entitled ‘This Here Giraffe’ released in 1996.

Business card size (or credit card size) CD-ROMs followed from around 1998 and were produced by several companies in both the US and Europe. They are generally 80mm wide, and between 58 and 68mm long. They may be rectangular, or may be rounded off to a similar size as the Mini CD.

Capacity is a lot less than that of full-size CD-ROMs, somewhere between 30 and 100 MB, but for the purpose they were originally intended, as an enhanced form of business card, or for distributing company information like annual reports and promotional material, this was sufficient.

They will play in most Compact Disc drives, using the smaller recess on tray-loading drives. They won’t work in slot-loading drives.

A particular type of business card CD-ROM was known as the bootable business card (BBC), and generally contained a distribution of Linux that a computer could be booted from.

Sources / Resources


CD-ROM postage stamps (2008 – 2009)

In 2008, the Kingdom of Bhutan released a set of two CD-ROM postage stamps, in partnership with Creative Products International. These were 80mm CD-ROMs containing video content, with the titles ‘100 Years of Monarchy’ and ‘In Harmony With Nature’.

A second series of stamps were issued in 2009 and consisted of ‘Voting for Happiness’ and ‘Coronation’.

These were the first ever CD-ROM postage stamps, and Bhutan had previously been the first country to issue phonograph postage stamps in 1973.

Sources / Resources

CD-ROM (1985 – )

CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read-Only Memory) is an optical disc format created by Sony and Philips and introduced in 1985 as the first extension of the Compact Disc format.

It is most commonly used to distribute software and video games, and is a read-only format (CD-R and CD-RW were introduced later as writeable formats). In the 1990s, the CD-ROM rapidly replaced the 3.5-inch floppy disk for software distribution. In recent years, the use of CD-ROM has declined as more software is distributed over the internet.

CD-ROM discs are physically identical to Compact Discs, only differing in the way data is stored on them, and like Compact Discs, can come in different sizes (such as 80mm Mini CD, and business card sizes). Full-size CD-ROM discs can store up to 737 MB of data. CD-ROM drive speeds are rated with a speed factor relative to audio CDs.

Early CD-ROM drives used a caddy that the disc had to be placed in before placing in the drive.

CD-ROM XA (eXtended Architecture) is a variation introduced in 1991 that allows for data, audio, and video to be accessed on the same disk.

Sources / Resources

Preservation / Migration

Although the media is relatively stable, the software contained on the discs may not run on modern operating systems

GD-ROM (1999 – )

GD-ROM (Gigabyte Disc Read-Only Memory) is an optical disc format developed by Yamaha for the Sega Dreamcast game console, as well as some Sega arcade machines.

The Dreamcast was the first sixth-generation video game console, preceding the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. The Dreamcast  was initially successful in the US, but interest declined as hype around the launch of the PlayStation 2 increased. Sega suffered significant losses, discontinuing the Dreamcast in 2001 and withdrawing from the video game console market.

Although very similar to a CD-ROM, it offers 1.2 GB storage capacity, almost double that of a CD-ROM. It also offered greater protection against piracy, and it avoided having to pay royalties to the DVD Forum.

The decision not to go with DVD technology was cited as one reason for the failure of the Dreamcast console.

There are different areas on a GD-ROM disc. The first is in conventional CD format, and usually contains an audio track with a warning that the disc is for use on a Dreamcast, not an ordinary CD player. This section can also contain data readable in PCs. After a separator track, the final (outer) area of the disc contains the game data itself in a higher density format. This section is 112 minutes long, with a data size of 1.2 GB.

The greater storage capacity is achieved by decreasing the speed of the disc to half and by letting the standard CD-ROM components read the more closely packed pits at the normal rate thus nearly doubling the disc’s data density.

The Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001, but the GD-ROM continued to be used in various Sega arcade machines.

Sources / Resources