The End of CD-R

I noticed today that quality CD-R media has crossed the price line with quality DVD-R media, and is now more expensive than DVD-R*. This means for daily data archiving purposes CD-R is dead. I’m ordering one last hundred pack for specialty use in machines that cannot handle DVD-R (very old computers, CD players, and my wife’s crummy Pontiac). At 700MB vs. 4.7GB the bit per dollar line was crossed quite a while ago, but CD-R still held the crown for lowest-cost for small jobs.

It’s only been a dozen years since I got my first usable CD-R device (I’m not counting the 1X Kodak job; that was more industrial) and it’s now functionally obsolete. I waited on DVD-R until the dual-format (-R, +R) devices were readily available, c. 2005, so that’s only three years in (I’m considering the merging of competing standards the point at which the format was actually ready for use). BluRay-R is now available but due to parts shortages is still priced outside the mainstream, but given current trends those discs should be ‘cheap’ within three years, likely marking DVD-R as obsolete within eight years of its launch. If one can apply Moore’s Law-type logic to the trend, then BluRay’s successor ought to have the crown by 2017. At some point it’s not worth the manufacturers’ effort to build new factories for a disc format that will be obsolete, say, in four years. However, by 2017, flash memory should be as cheap as spinning optical media, so this probably won’t be a practical consideration, the disc will be obsolete.

Since the spinning disc as a commercial playback medium only began in 1892, though they seem so commonplace to us, the mechanism appears likely be seen as only a 150-year blip in human technological history. I’m skeptical there will be any working BluRay players in 2042, and given the digital origin of all BluRay data, the need for such machines among archivists ought likely be low as well. Rip ’em while you got ’em.

* Plus or minus shipping costs, it’s approximately a wash.