Optical discs have been around since the late '70s, beginning with LaserDiscs, which were almost the same size as 10-inch vinyl records. LaserDiscs had trouble gaining widespread use throughout North America, Europe and Australia, as VHS tapes were cheaper for consumers. LaserDiscs proved, however, to have higher audio and visual quality than VHS tapes, and eventually led the way to other optical disc formats.
Optical disc formats have many benefits over analog formats. One of them is how easy it is to copy or replicate an entire disc. Indeed, over the past few years, CD, DVD and even Blu-ray copy software has flooded the market for data or media backup purposes. The best burning software allows you to convert your Blu-rays, DVDs or CDs to a different format, enabling you to enjoy your media on computers, tablets or smartphones. The best aspect of copy software is that it creates a perfect or nearly perfect duplicate disc of Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs. All of this technology was born from the LaserDisc.
After LaserDiscs, new optical storage formats emerged as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs, each format capable of storing more data, leading to higher-quality experiences. DVDs took the mantle from LaserDisc as the optical format to store full videos and could store up to 9.4GB of data. These discs can hold entire full-length movies, whereas LaserDiscs could only store up to 60 minutes of video data per disc. The leap from LaserDisc to DVD was phenomenal, but Blu-ray discs far surpassed this capacity.
Blu-ray can store 25GB on single-layer discs and 50GB on dual-layer discs. Other Blu-ray formats can store up to 128GB on a single disc. This capacity is what enables Blu-ray discs to display HD video and have excellent audio quality. Indeed, Blu-ray discs have taken over the gaming market too, as physical game discs are now stored on Blu-ray discs for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, two companies are already looking over the horizon at the next big step for optical media storage, which they claim reaches astronomical storage capacities compared to Blu-ray discs.
In March 2014, Sony Corporation and Panasonic Corporation announced a new optical disc format called Archival Disc. While Blu-ray discs can store up to 128GB of data on a disc, Archival Discs are slated to store 300GB on their first release. Sony released a plan to increase on this initial capacity, with the second release of these discs storing 500GB and a third version holding an entire terabyte. The amount of data these discs can hold is far flung from the forerunner of optical storage discs.
While the prospect of this capacity is exciting, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Currently, the plan is for these discs to replace Blu-rays as a data storage medium for big data and not for consumer use. They may also be used in the film industry for 4K resolution, which also uses a lot of data. However, as films continue to require more space, the prospect of Archival Discs becomes more realistic in the consumer market. At this time, it is mere speculation as to when or if Archival Discs will enter the world as everyday media storage objects, but the prospects of their capacity is exciting nonetheless.