Ultra Density Optical (UDO) (2003 – )

Ultra Density Optical (UDO) is an optical disc data storage format that uses phase-change, and blue laser technology (similar to Blu-ray) to store substantial amounts of data on a disc in a cartridge very similar to the older 5.25-inch magneto-optical disc format that it was developed to replace.

UDO discs were first announced by Sony in 2000, and launched by Sony and Plasmon in 2003 with a capacity of 30 GB. UDO 2 was launched in 2007 with a capacity of 60 GB.

UDO discs are available in rewritable format, or as write once in which case the phase change method used means the data cannot altered once written (True WORM) making it very stable for long-term storage. A third format became available in 2005, Compliant WORM, that allows specific data on the disc to be destroyed while leaving other files intact.

As of 2017, UDO drives and discs are still available but since 2008 all brands of UDO disc have been manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan.

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2-inch floppy disk (LT-1) (1989 – early 1990s)

The 2-inch LT-1 disc was introduced in 1989 for use in the Zenith Minisport notebook computer, the only device that used it. Although very similar to the 2-inch Video Floppy, the two discs are not interchangeable.

The Zenith Minisport was a very lightweight laptop, with good battery life and DOS 3.3 built into ROM for fast booting. It came with 1 or 2 MB of RAM, and except for the HD version did not have a hard drive.

The LT-1 discs, which were made by Fujifilm, had a capacity of 793 KB, similar to the double-sided, double-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk, but a lot less than the high-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk that was becoming the industry standard. Because the LT-1 discs were only used in one model of computer, they were more expensive than other disc designs, and there was no way to read the discs on other devices.

To get around the problem of file transfer due to the unusual disc design, an external 3.5-inch microfloppy disk drive was available, and the Minisport could also transfer files via serial cable to another PC using a program called FastLynx.

The Minisport only seems to have been produced for a couple of years.

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Roland Music Style Card (1989 – 1991)

The Roland Music Style Card was a ROM card containing programmed music rhythms to extend those available in the E-series ‘intelligent synthesisers’ made by Roland.

The first of the ‘intelligent synthesisers’ was the E-20, released by Roland in 1988 as the first product of Roland’s new European arm, and was aimed at the high-end home market. A number of variations of the first-generation E-series were released, such as the cut-down E-5, and the enhanced E-30 and Pro-E (an ‘intelligent arranger’).

For the first generation of the E-series, the cards were prefixed with TN-SC1 and there were 14 Music Style Cards in the first series released between 1989 and 1991.

There was a subsequent series of Music Style Cards with a slightly different shape and prefixed TN-SC2 for later E-series synthesisers such as the E-35, E-56 and E-70.

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Interactive DVD (1998 – )

Interactive DVDs (sometimes also known as DVD games, DVD Interactive or DVDi) allow the playing of games on DVD-Video players without the need for a computer or video game console, or any additional hardware (though some titles come with additional hardware such as buzzers).

The interactive DVD make use of the rudimentary interactivity features built-in to DVD-Video players that allow, for example, navigation through menus. The ability to skip to any point on the DVD instead of having to move through the video in a linear fashion as on VHS video recorders is also a major factor in making interactive DVDs practical.

The first interactive DVD game was Dragon’s Lair released in 1998, and a development of an older LaserDisc based game.

From 2001, DVD versions of board games and television quiz shows began to be released.

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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.

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CD-i Ready (1991 – 1998)

CD-i Ready was a hybrid optical disc format, combining audio tracks readable by any Compact Disc audio player, and multimedia or interactive elements readable on a CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) player. It was introduced by Philips in 1991.

The audio tracks conform to Red Book Compact Disc Digital Audio standards, while the CD-i part conforms to Green Book standards, and could contain interviews, photos, biographies, games and more. The CD-i component is located in the ‘pre-gap’ area before track 1, which is skipped over by Compact Disc audio players.

The idea, like CD-i generally, was not a commercial success, and there appear to be fewer than 20 titles released as CD-i Ready discs.

The ideas behind the hybrid CD-i Ready discs were used in later types of hybrid audio/data discs such as the Enhanced CD that contained content which could be read on a standard computer CD-ROM drive rather than requiring a dedicated CD-i player.

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Exatron Stringy Floppy (1978 – 1986)

The Exatron String Floppy was introduced in 1978, and was an endless loop tape cartridge system for microcomputers. At the time, floppy disk systems were still expensive, and cassette tapes were very slow. Despite the name, so-called stringy floppy systems are unrelated to floppy disks.

The tape cartridges, called wafers, contained a 1/16-inch loop of mylar-based chrome dioxide tape, in different lengths according to the capacity of the wafer. The smallest wafer contained 5 feet of tape and could hold 4 KB of data, and the longest was 75 foot and, capable of holding 64 KB of data. A 16 KB file took just 24 seconds to load.

The Exatron Stringy Floppy system was most commonly used with the TRS-80 range of computers, and did not require an expansion interface. By 1982, the price has fallen to $99.50. As well as being used to save data, software, including programs and games, was available on Stringy Floppy wafers.

Although popular with TRS-80 owners, the system could be unreliable, and as the price of faster and more reliable floppy disk drives fell they became less attractive. They continued to be advertised until 1986.

Similar stringy floppy tape systems were available during the 1980s, including the Sinclair ZX Microdrive, and the Rotronics Wafadrive.

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Iomega Zip 250 (2001 – 2003)

Zip was a high-capacity floppy disk format originally introduced in 1995 by Iomega. Initially, it had a capacity of 100 MB, later increased to 250 MB in 2001, and again to 750 MB in 2002.

The Zip 250 drives were available in a wide variety of interfaces; parallel port, USB 2.0 and FireWire for exernal drives and IDE or SCSI for internal drives.

Although the disks looked identical to Zip 100 disks, they could not be used in the smaller capacity drive and are automatically ejected. They could however be read and written to by the later Zip 750 drives. Zip 250 drives could read and write to the older Zip 100 disks. A variant on the Zip 250, the Zip U250 was also launched in 2001; the U250 disks contained titanium particles in the media to improve the operation of the drives, and were also self-cleaning. The U250 discs were full compatible with Zip 250 drives despite their different shape.

Even before the introduction of the Zip 250, sales of Zip drives had begun falling due to the falling cost of CD-R and CD-RW disks, followed by USB memory sticks.

All Zip variants were discontinued in 2003.

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Iomega Zip 750 (2002 – 2003)

Zip was a high-capacity floppy disk format originally introduced in 1995 by Iomega. Initially, it had a capacity of 100 MB, later increased to 250 MB in 2001, and again to 750 MB in 2002.

The new Zip 750 drives were available in various interfaces; USB 2.0 and FireWire for exernal drives and IDE for internal drives.

Although the disks looked identical to Zip 100 and Zip 250 disks, they could not be used in smaller capacity drives and are automatically ejected. However, Zip 100 discs could be read in Zip 750 drives, and Zip 250 disks can be both read and written to, so users with existing Zip disks could continue to use them. The introduction of the Zip 750 meant that Zip disks had a higher capacity than the competing CD-R or CD-RW disks. However, the cost of Zip 750 disks was much higher than CD-R or CD-RW media, and by the time of its introduction, many PCs had CD burners installed.

The Zip 750 was short-lived as all Zip versions were discontinued in 2003.

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Coleco Adam High Speed Digital Data Pack (1983 – 1985)

The Coleco Adam was a home computer introduced by Coleco in 1983. It was available as a standalone computer, or could be bought as an expansion pack for the ColecoVision game console.

Like other home computers of the time, the Coleco Adam used a tape drive as one means to store programs and data, but this was not a standard Compact Cassette drive. The dual ‘Adam High Speed Digital Data Pack’ tape drives used a slightly modified type of Compact Cassette that ran at much higher speed than usual, had a different configuration of holes in the shell, and used thicker tape. These could store 256 KB, and ran at 20 inches per second (ips) when reading/writing and and 80 ips when rewinding. Blank Digital Data Packs  were supplied pre-formatted and could not be formatted by the user.

As well as the Digital Data Pack drives, the Adam had a ROM cartridge slot that accepted all ColecoVision cartridges as well as its own (it could play ColecoVision games even as a standalone computer). Later in production, a 5.25-inch disk drive was made available as an accessory.

The Coleco Adam had other unusual features such as a dedicated daisywheel printer (that also contained the power supply), built-in word-processing software, and the CP/M operating system as an option.

Unfortunately, delays in its introduction, and build quality issues led to it being discontinued in 1985. One particular problem was that tapes left in the drives or near the machine when it was turned on could suffer data loss.

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