Death of the Optical Disk

Monotone Explosion
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I’m just barely old enough to have seen the art of making a mix tape in action, and I’ve definitely received more than a few copied VHS tapes from my aunt for my birthday, but nowadays you’d be lucky to find a tape player in a car, and a used VHS tape costs about 50 cents. It’s not necessarily a bad thing—I managed to get the original Star Wars trilogy for $1.50.

Like most technology, tapes started to disappear once new technology was developed. At some point when I was around 11 or 12, my family bought a computer that had an optical disk drive capable of reading and writing CDs—holy smokes! I could make a mix CD on a computer without sitting at a radio waiting for the right song to come on (stupid tape) and for a long time growing up, my go-to Christmas gift for friends and family were burnt CDs. Though I rarely hit the mark (can you believe my Mom doesn’t like gangsta rap?!), I loved trying to make mixes of all the right songs for the right people and I even had label making software that allowed me to make all sorts of cool labels for the disks.

But something happened a few weeks ago that may mark the end of CD burning as we know it.

Apple computers released the new iMac, the first Mac desktop with no optical disk drive. As Michael Gartenberg, tech-industry analyst at Gartner told CNN in a recent article, “Over time, an optical disk will be as much of an historical curiosity as floppy disk.” Basically, optical disks are on the way out—no more label-making for me.

According to Gartenberg, Apple tends to be very aggressive about making these types of changes. The original Mac moved away from 5-inch disks to the smaller 3.5-inch floppy, and the very first iMac was one of the first desktops without a floppy disk drive. Once Apple starts making changes like these, other hardware manufacturers seem to follow suit.

Gartner mentions that with the ubiquity of personal cloud services and growing speed of broadband, it’s likely that fewer consumers will need an optical drive for their computer in the future—not to mention the growing storage capacities of external hard drives and flash drives. If you think about it, there really isn’t much of a need for optical disks in our digital age (except, of course, to use the infamous ShadowProtect recovery disk).

When it comes to media that traditionally comes on disks, digital mediums tend to be fair replacements. iTunes and similar services can take care of your music, Netflix and Amazon have you covered for movies, major video game console manufacturers are increasing the amount of games available for download, and many software vendors (StorageCraft included) are moving away from physical disks in favor of digital downloads. Given that, why not toss optical disks aside? I mean, does your girlfriend really want another burned CD of your favorite backup and disaster recovery songs anyway? (Yes, that’s a thing, just wait).

“These old technologies are holding us back,” Phil Schiller, head of marketing at Apple told Time. “They’re anchors on where we want to go.” He may be right, and according to Chris Pirillo, founder of blogging network Lockergnome, “It may be too early to say for certain that the optical drive is absolutely dead, it is certainly showing all the early warning signs of a technology that is past its prime.”

While optical disk drives will be found in fewer desktops moving forward, USB ports aren’t likely to disappear. If someone needs an optical disk for their desktop, they can still purchase an external one that plugs into a USB port. Apple offers a $79 external optical drive for their new iMac and ASUS offers one at around $30, though it seems silly to pay extra money for an optical drive for iMac when they usually come standard.

While I always liked burning mixed CDs and even recording my own adolescent lo-fi recordings with my “band,” 12 Strings of Sorrow, I now enjoy building playlists to put on my Zune (yes, I am a proud Zune owner) or keeping music and movies on a flash drive or external hard drive. It’s nice to be able to keep hundreds of movies on something half the size of a VHS tape. Who needs CDs anyway? They get scratched easily, and don’t hold nearly the data a tiny flash drive can; plus, I’m sure hipsters will keep them alive in one form or another, so the rest of us can safely watch them disappear like a puff of smoke.

Note: Traditionally, you need a recovery disk to boot up your recovery environment and implement your backup using ShadowProtect. But hold on, we’ll soon show you how to make a bootable flash drive you can use in lieu of the ShadowProtect recovery disk—no disk is safe!

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Casey Morgan

Casey Morgan

Casey Morgan is the marketing content specialist at StorageCraft. U of U graduate and lover of words, his experience lies in construction and writing, but his approach to both is the same: start with a firm foundation, build a quality structure, and then throw in some style. If he’s not arguing about comma usage or reading, you'll likely find him and his Labrador hiking, biking, or playing outdoors -- he's even known to strum a few chords by the campfire.

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