Scor­pio News


July–September 1988 – Volume 2. Issue 3.

Page 37 of 39

Optical Disk Standards.

I hear a lot of rubbish about optical disk ‘standards’, but when I ask anyone to be specific I find they’re usually unclear as to what they mean, or are worried about the wrong things. Now ‘standards’ are creeping in for CD-ROMs, they’ve got to. You can’t publish books for mass distribution if everyone wants the data laid down on the disk in a different way. The standards come about in the same old way. Standards Committees go away in a huddle for a few years, and during that time several vented interests put competing standards on the market. Slowly one system gains dominance, the others falling by the way side. Eventually a ‘de-facto” standard is established and then the Standards Committee emerges from it’s huddle. and pronounces the winner. Simple really !

Even with CD-ROM, we’ve still got two standards, 5.25″ and 12″. People even worry about that – what’s it matter. Outside I’ve got two cars, a Ford with 13 x 175 tyres and an Opel with 14 x 185 tyres. It’s obvious I can’t take the wheels off one and put them on the other, even if the wheels studs would fit. But it doesn’t worry me, so why should only two physical standards to CD-ROM worry you.

Another interesting fact – all the manufacturers of WORM. optical disk drives and media are very large multi-national companies, keep this act in mind for what follows.

With WORMs the story is somewhat different. The process of standardisation is nowhere near as complete. There are several competing types of disk drive and optical media and although they all work the same way, they aren’t interchangeable. A couple of early drive and media systems have already dropped out of sight and the worlds polarising into 5.25″ and 12″ camps. The big information handlers favour 12″, the lesser information handlers go for 5.25″. Some imaging systems hedge their bets and offer both.

Does this actually matter in the context of an imaging system ? The data stored is not like micro-publishing where the information is to be disseminated to a large number of users who have to be compatible. Any profits. to be made from a micro-publishing system are in the dissemination of the disks and that can only be profitable if standards exist: No, an imaging system user is highly unlikely to want to publish his paperwork and so the need for compatibility between one imaging system and the next is not there. The things an imaging system user should worry about are twofold. First will the media used by his system remain available during the lifetime of the equipment in the event of the optical disk system he has chosen falling out of favour ? Secondly, if his optical disk system is obsolete at the time of replacement, can the existing data be transferred to the new system ?

Page 37 of 39