The 50th Anniversary of the Optical Disc

By: Jacob Romeyn

The 50th Anniversary of the Optical Disc.

From the "Laser Disc" to "Blu-ray"

History of the Optical Disc

In 1958, 50 years ago, David Paul Gregg invented the first optical disc using a transparent disc technology. The disc is 30 centimeters in diameter and uses an analog format and laser technology. It is therefore also called a "Laser Disc" He patented his design in 1961.
A later development of the Optical Disc were patented in 1969.
In 1967, David Paul Gregg's company, Gaus Electrophysics, contacted Royal Philips Electronics, but was met with disinterest.
The laser disc player sold only about one million units in the United States and approximately four million in Japan and the last LD released in Japan was the "Tokyo Raiders" in 2001.

Laser Disc Museum gives some interesting history of the Laser Disc. See the link below:

One of the influential contributors to Audio, Video and Data recording, is Kees Immink.

Dr. Kees A. Schouhamer Immink was born on December 18, 1946 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He Joined Philips research laboratories in 1971.
His contribution to the technology of digital audio and video has enabled all of us to listen to audio and watch video on reliable, high quality media. Dr. Immink's coding methods are essential to CD's and DVD's. For a full biography about Kees Immink see the website:

The Compact Disc (CD)

The Optical VideoDisc, although a major development to be used in later research, was not a great success. I recently talked to a number of people about the Optical Video disc, but they had never heard of it.

The Sony/Philips team was not idle, and building on some of the laser disc technologies, they set out to develop a new digital audio disc; in contrast to the earlier OpticalDisc, which had an analog format.

In 1979, they set up a task force of engineers led by the prominent Kees Immink and in 1980, the group produced a Compact Disc (CD) Standard, called the Red Book.

Compact Disc format

The CD uses a red laser to scan the patterns of bumps on a mirrored surface which are interpreted as bits. These bits can be assembled into bytes. A CD can hold about 700 megabytes of information or about 80 minutes of music.

The Red Book gives detailed information on the design of the compact disc and was released in 1980 by Philips and Sony.
It was adopted by the Digital Audio Disc Committee and ratified as IEC 908.

The development of the CD was the combined work of a large number of scientists working as a team. The Compact Disc Story, written by Kees A. Schouhamer Immink provides a lot of background information. See the weblink below for the full story.

The CD, available on the market since late 1982, remains the standard playback medium for commercial audio recordings to the present day. Various formats of the CD were later developed. Some of the common formats are:

1.Audio files CD
2.Data storage CD-ROM
3.Write-once audio and data storage CD-R
4.Rewritable media CD-RW

By 2007 200 billion CDs had been sold world wide.

Search for a new way to play video movies and "super density" data storage.

The time was ready for a new way to play Videos and provide a higher capacity disk to store data and programs. Cd's were rapidly replacing the audio tapes and the VHS was coming to an end. Data often had to be stored on multiple discs.
Two teams set to work to produce a video disk to replace the VHS tape; the Philips and Sony team and Toshiba.
Philips and Sony started the Multimedia Compact Disc (MMCD) and Toshiba the Super Density Disc. Notice the emphasis on each of these, "Multi Media" and "Super Density". Of course both of these had both the video and data capabilities in mind.
Multi Media Compact Disc (MMCD) 1990s Philips and Sony

The MMCD was designed as a single sided compact disc, with a single or dual layer. The capacity for a single layer is 3,7GB , compared with 7.4GB for the dual layer. It is backward compatible with the CD and CDROM. It did not become a standard.

Super Density Disc (SD) 1990s Toshiba

The Super Density Disc (SD) was adopted as the standard format, with an addition of to two options, proposed by the Philis/Sony team. For more information see the section on the DVD below.


With the two competing options, one offered by Sony/Philips and the other by Toshiba, we seemed to be on the brink of another format war. It looked like a repeat of the format battle of the 1980s when the Sony Betamax was battling it out with the "Video Home System" VHS standards, at the expense of the consumer. What does the consumer buy? In my opinion the Betamax was a better option, but the consumer market decided, and the victory went to VHS.

But the impeding battle did not take place Through the with mediation of Lou Gerstner, president of IBM a compromise was reached.
The Sony and Philips MMCD format was abandoned and the Toshiba SD format adopted, with these two additions:

the pit geometry which allows push-pull tracking, a proprietary technology of Philips and Sony, and the EFMPlus, created by Kees immink. The EFMPlus encoder is based on a deterministic finite state machine, having four states, which translates 8-bit input words into 16-bit codewords.

This compromise created the DVD format, which became the standard format in December 1995 and will continue as such until the majority of people will no longer be satisfied with "standard video" but demands high density video for all there movies. Than the new Blu-ray format will take over.

DVD format

The DVD uses a red laser to scan the patterns of bumps on a mirrored surface, which are interpreted as bits. These bits can be assembled into bytes jus as on a CD. However the bumps and tracks on a DVD are much smaller and can therefore hold significantly more information, up to 4.7GB.

Professional Disc for Data (PDD)

With the decision made in favor of the Toshiba, Super Density Disc and the abandonment of the Multi Media Compact Disc (MMCD) as the main technology for the DVD, Sony set out to design a disc they called Professional Disc for Data (PDD). The need for a higher capacity disc for the upcoming high density television systems was a certainty.
Sony introduced the PDD in 2003 and it became available in 2004. This new format utilized the 405nm (Nana meter), BLU-violet laser for reading and writing to the disc, allowing for a much higher data storage than the red laser used in the DVD. The capacity of the disc was 23GB compared with 4.5GB for a single layer DVD.

The PDD format was very short lived and was discontinued in 2007. This made way for the next generation of optical media for the Philips/Sony team, the Blu-ray.


Blu-ray technology was developed jointly by Sony & Philips, along with an extensive board of directors.

Apple, Inc. Dell HP Hitachi LG Mitsubishi Electric Panasonic Pioneer Philips Samsung Sharp Sony
Sun Microsystems TDK Thomson Twentieth Century Fox
Walt Disney Warner Bros.

Blu-ray uses a 405nm wavelength blue-violet laser and has a tight track pitch of 0.85
The surface layer is 0.1mm-thick, which enables the laser to focus at the 0.85 aperture.

The disc uses a hard polymer coating called Durabis, which was developed by TDK and is supposedly? extremely resilient and fingerprint resistant.
The Java platform, which is used for menus and multimedia, is mandatory. Blu-ray systems must support JVM.

Rom Single Layer25GB
Rom Dual Layer50GB
RW Single Layer27GB
RW Dual Layer54GB
Highest Test100GB
Theoretical Limit200GB


Rom Single Layer15GB
Rom Dual Layer30GB
Highest Test45GB
Theoretical Limit60GB

Abandoned February 19 2008

?Copyright Jacob Romeyn

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