DVD drives
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Misconception: You need to buy a DVD drive, they are faster & better than CD ROMS

by Terry E. Mercer 1997-1999

What Many Salespeople Tell their Customers:

You just gotta get this system because it has the new DVD drive in it now? Or,

Why get a CD-ROM multimedia kit when you can get the new DVD kit?



DVD stands for "Digital Versatile Disc" (at least that it what the rumors were over the last year in the Industry). It started out "Digital Video Disc." It is considered the next-generation media.

Sony and Philips had the MultiMedia CD (MMCD) and Toshiba had the Super Density (SD) format, Time Warner and others had other varieties they were working on. Warner Brothers has come out with DVIX. All these companies joined together and merged all their technology into two primary standard. DVD and DVD w/DVIX capabilities... a wide variety of players are in stores now, and the sales people are having fun trying to tell the truth about something that still hasn't completely standardized. I will attempt to explain what I have found, learned, and been told... it will change, and isn't perfect (I'm sure) and changes on a regular basis.
Advantages: The disc is the same basic size as a CD-ROM disc. Yet it is capable of holding the equivalent to 7 CD-ROMS minimum per side. The "big boys" are trying to make double sided discs, and are playing with dual-layer versions (the equivalent of 28 CD-ROMS on ONE DVD disc, if both layers and both sides are used). DVD players are somewhat compatible with audio CDs, CD-ROMS, and Video CDs. Single layered, single sided DVD discs can hold approximately 120 minutes of video. It is expected to become the next CD-ROM and primary digital movie medium, replacing Video CDs and Laser Discs. It is expected to be more popular than the VHS tape, and is rumored to replace the VHS tapes in all video stores and retail outlets within the next few years.
Disadvantages: The current drives are expensive (compared to a CD ROM drive), and only single layered, single sided. Most require a special MPEG card in order to operate, which means that you have to have an open slot on your motherboard also... and possibly hassle with IRQ's. The MPEG cards usually conflict with SCSI cards, thus eliminating that type of architecture and existing devices - which include hard drives, CD Burners, CDRW's, Jazz, SyJet, Shark, and even some scanners (including parallel scanners using shuttle technology). Be careful ordering the DVD kit as an add-on or upgrade to an existing system using SCSI devices. Most of the larger companies are not yet developing new titles, not digitizing movies, not adding massive songs to this new format.

DVIX is basically the same as DVD, with a twist... the discs are massively less expensive as they have a "shut off" (normally 48 hours after the first play) and you can either purchase additional viewings, or unlimited viewings over the phone 24/7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) for an amount that is about the same as a full version DVD disc. There are advantages & disadvantages... and a trick to get around this technology (if you have a lot of these type of discs).
Advantage: low initial investment and most people don't watch the same movie over and over and over - usually once or twice a year. You don't have to brave the weather to get your favorite movies at the local video store, or worry about late charges... you only have to call it in. You own the disc - which you can trade to other people that haven't seen the movie(s).
Disadvantages: The ultimate (unlimited viewing) cost is about the same as a real DVD disc... and you have to have a credit card to purchase the additional viewings. If the player breaks - your unlimited viewing code is no longer valid on the new player (if it were - then people would post those unlock codes on the Internet - which would defeat the purpose these companies have set out). Because the shut down codes are stored in the player, the player will have little or no resale value.
Trick: The movies are timed - and limited - via the actual player. Therefore, if you change the player, you will have 48 hours a year to watch those movies.

NEWS FLASH!!! For those of you that think they can't live without DVD... We have found three systems, by the "big boys" that came from the factory with DVD that CAN NOT run any SCSI devices! What does this mean to you? Well, no SCSI CD ROM burner (writer), no JAZZ drive, no high-end scanner, no Ultra fast fire-wire hard drives and you can count out most of the commonly used and popular external drives and devices. We don't know if it is limited to these "first" round systems that are shipping with DVD, or if it is common with DVD. It seems to be directly involving the MPEG cards, which control the drive & video output. With CD writers coming out in IDE format this is less important... but, ultimately, only movies and a few very high-end games are coming out on DVD. It is here to stay, and the prices will continue to fall. 
Suggestion: It you want the DVD capability, get the external unit that can hook up to your TV and to your computer, they are priced as low as $150 to over $500. Wal-Mart has a couple descent models available for under $200. Run it on your TV (hooked up through your VCR, for movies. Down the road, I am sure that the problems will be solved. The companies have to solve them eventually. Very little software is available on DVD; so, until then, Caveat Emptor! (May the Buyer Beware!)
In my opinion, until I see a much lower price, and a lot more titles (in all varieties) available, I can't honestly suggest the purchase. Video stores are beginning to rent and sell DVD discs, which means they are getting a great deal more popular. Columbia House has a DVD of the Month club (movies only). Like the CD replacing the cassette, it will take some time to get the price down. Once the standard and the technical specifications are completely agreed upon and solved, the price will drop quickly. 
Portable "Walk-man" DVD players hit the market late 1999. They are still pricey, and the prices of all DVD players will be dropping... and a lot of things will be better in the world of transportable media!


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