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CD-ROM and DVD are optic readable media, contrary to hard disks, floppy disks and tapes,
which are magnetic.
The optic storage media are read with a very thin and very precisely aimed laser beam. They
supplement the magnetic media. They have clear advantages in the areas of data density and
stability: Data can be packed much more densely in optic media than in magnetic media. And
they have much longer life span. It is presumed that magnetic media, such as a hard disk or DAT
(digital audio tape) can maintain their data for a maximum of five years. The magnetism simply
fades away in time. Conversely, the life span of optic media are counted in tens of years.
Let us take a closer look at these disks, which are becoming increasingly popular for all types of
information, education and entertainment.
There are different types:

1. The Compact Disc

The compact disk (CD) was introduced by Philips and Sony in 1980 to replace LP records. It is
a small plastic disk with a reflecting metal coating, usually aluminum. Myriads of tiny
indentations are burned into this coating. These indentations contain the music in millions of
bits. The CD is organized in tracks. Each track is assigned a number.
The big advantage of the CD is its high quality music reproduction and total absence of back
ground noise as well as a great dynamic. During operation, the software in the drive can correct
errors caused by such things as finger marks on the disk. All in all, CDs are excellent music
storage media.

2. The CD-ROM
The CD-ROM (Read Only Memory) came as an extension of the CD in 1984. In principle, the
media and the drives are the same. The difference is in the data storage organization. In a CDROM, the data are stored in sectors, which can be read independently - like from a hard disk.
The CD-ROM has become an important media in the PC world. It can hold 650/700 MB of data,
and it is very inexpensive to produce. Today, there are three types of CD drives and DVD drives
are on their way:

Drive type




The drive can


Read Read CD-ROM and CD-R

Only Memory


Read CD-ROM, CD-R and CD-E

Compact Disk

Read CD-ROM and CD-R. Write once on


special disks named CD R




Disk Read CD-ROMs and CD-R. Write and re-


write on special disks (CD-RW).

Digital Versatile Disk Reads all CD formats. Reads DVD ROM.


Access Reads and writes DVD disks


In the optic readable CD-ROM, the data storage consists of millions of indentations burnt into
the lacquer coated, light reflecting silver surface. The burnt dents reflect less light than the shiny
surface. A weak laser beam is sent to the disk through a two-way mirror and the sensor registers
the difference in light reflection from the burnt and shiny areas as zeros and ones.
The CD-ROM is designed differently.
way from the center to the outer

It has only one track, a spiral winding its


This 5 km long spiral track holds up to 650 MB data in about 5.5 billion dots (each is one bit).

Data read from CD-ROM

Data is read from the CD-ROM at a certain speed. There are two principles used reading from a

Constant Linear Velocity was used in the early generations of CD-ROM drives. It implies that
the data track must pass under the read head at the same rate, whether in inner or outer parts of
the track. This is accomplished by varying the disk rotation speed, based on the read head's
position. The closer to the center of the disk the faster the rotation speed to deliver the same
constant stream of data.

Constant Angular Velocity. It is not very smart to change the rotational speed of a CD-ROM all
the time, as the CLV drives do. Therefore, in more modern and speedy drives, the CD-ROM
rotates at a constant number of rounds per minute. This implies that the data transfer varies; data
read from the outer parts of the CD-ROM are read at very high bit rates. Data from the inner
parts are read slower.

3. Digital Versatile Disc-Read Only Memory (DVD-ROM)

Definition - What does Digital Versatile Disc-Read Only Memory (DVD-ROM) mean?
Digital versatile disc-read only memory (DVD-ROM) is a read-only digital versatile disc (DVD)
commonly used for storing large software applications. It is similar to a compact disk-read only
memory (CD-ROM) but has a larger capacity. A DVD-ROM stores around 4.38 GB of data. A
CD-ROM usually stores 650 MB of data. This term is also known as digital video disc ROM.

A DVD-ROM permanently stores data files which cannot be changed, written over or erased. A
personal computer (PC) with a DVD-ROM or a DVD-RAM drive is designed to read a DVDROM disc. Generally a DVD-ROM disc is not equipped to be used with a DVD drive connected
to a home theater system or television. But many DVD-ROM drives can generally read a DVD
movie disc.
A DVD-ROM is one of the various types of DVDs. A blank DVD is generally a DVD-R or
DVD+R, which has a read-write format. The +R or -R references the format standards and is a
rewritable or recordable DVD.
Compared to a CD-ROM, a DVD-ROM has the same 5 inch diameter and 1.2 millimeter (mm)
thickness. But because a DVD-ROM uses a shorter wavelength laser with tighter compacted pits,
the disc capacity is increased. In fact, the smallest DVD-ROM can store approximately 7 times
more data than a CD-ROM.
The outer layers can hold 4.7 GB, the underlying 3.8 GB. The largest version can hold a total of
17 GB.
A single layer DVD-5 disk holds 4.7 GB. A dual-layered DVD-9 disk holds 8.5 GB. The dualsided DVDs are named DVD-10 (9.4 GB) and DVD-18 (17 GB).

DVD Layers


DVDs and CDROMs are both optical storage devices that have a lot of use; the most prominent
of which is the distribution of content like movies, music, software, and such. The biggest
difference between a CDROM and a DVD is their capacity. A CDROM typically holds 700MB
of data per disc while a DVD can hold 4.7GB on a single layer. Dual layer and double-sided
DVD discs push this to a maximum of 17GB. This is also the main reason why the CDROM was
superseded by the DVD.
Another advantage of a DVD is its much faster data transfer speeds. The CDROM base speed of
1x translates to a data throughput of 1.23Mbit/s with typical CDROM drives reaching speeds of
56x and transfer speeds of around 68.8Mbit/s. In comparison, the 1x speed of a DVD has a
higher transfer rate of 10.80Mbit/s. Although the current maximum of commonly available DVD
drives is still at around 20x, it still translates to a significantly higher 216Mbit/s. Speed is hardly
noticeable between a CDROM and a DVD when writing full discs due to the higher capacity of
The higher data capacity and faster throughput of a DVD proves to be very advantageous in one
of its many uses; movies. A movie is typically contained in at least two CDROMs, and viewers
are forced to stop in the middle of the movie to swap discs. This is no longer a problem with a
DVD. It can even accommodate freebies like; behind the scenes, interviews, outtakes, and even
deleted scenes which many movie makers routinely include in the DVD release. This gives
viewers a secondary reason to purchase the DVD even if they have already watched the movie in
the cinema. The advantage is even more apparent when it comes to games. Some games on
CDROMs often span anywhere between 2 to 6 discs. With a DVD, this is reduced to a more
manageable 1-2 disc set.
Even though a DVD has a lot of advantages over a CDROM, it still manages to maintain
backwards compatibility. So if you have a DVD drive or DVD player, you would still be able to
read your old CDROMs on it. Because the DVD is a newer technology, it already goes without
saying that you wont be able to access DVDs on your old CDROM drives and players.

1. DVDs hold much more data than a CDROM.
2. DVDs have faster data speeds than CDROMs.
3. DVDs can accommodate a full movie in one disc while CDROMs cant.
4. DVD readers/writers work with CDROMs but not the other way around.