1995: Consumer CD-R drive priced below $1000

Recordable CDs replace magnetic floppy disks for portable storage

In 1990, Philips and Sony published the “Orange Book” that described the optical signal characteristics, physical arrangement, writing methods and testing conditions for recordable compact discs. On a CD-ROM content is permanently encoded onto the disc during the manufacturing process. Consumer recordable compact discs (CD-R) employ the heat of a laser beam to change optical properties of selected areas on a layer of organic dye. The recorded data is read by converting radiation reflected from the dye into an electrical signal. Made of polycarbonate material, a 12 cm CD-R disc has a storage capacity of about 80 minutes of audio or 650 MB of data. CD-R is a write once, read multiple times technology. Characteristics for CD-Rewritable (CD-RW) media that allows erasure and reuse of the disc were added in 1996.

Using complex, expensive equipment, CD-R saw professional use beginning in 1991. Pioneer and Yamaha of Japan introduced earlier consumer systems, but Hewlett-Packard’s 1995 release of the HP 4020i, a $995 CD-R recorder manufactured by Philips made the technology widely accessible. Manufacturers developed software tools and recorders for desk, laptop and notebooks in a wide variety of configurations and interfaces, including SCSI, EIDE/ATAPI, Parallel, USB and IEEE 1394 (Firewire). Dye material and semiconductor laser improvements have increased the data writing rate from 150 KB/sec (1X ) to 7.8 MB/s (52X); the time to write a full disc has decreased from 80 to just 1.5 minutes. The underlying technology development for recordable optical discs has been driven by targeting specific entertainment applications (CD for an hour of audio, DVD for a complete standard definition movie, Blu-ray for a complete high definition movie) and subsequent drive generations have been standardized to be backward compatible with the original CD-R.

Availability of both CD-ROM and CD-R versions allowed compact discs to replace magnetic floppies as the preferred distribution and storage medium for personal computers and in commercial applications such as document imaging, records retention, and desktop publishing.

  • “Hewlett-Packard's low-cost CD-recordable drive” Computers in Libraries (Nov/Dec 95, Vol. 15 No. 10) p.52
  • Seymour, Jim, “And a CD-R Drive on Every Desk” PC Magazine (January 23, 1996) p. 91

Rev: 9.17.15