Have you noticed the trends in computers? Optical drives (CD and DVD drives) are going away.
This isn't new. The so-called netbook computers became popular two or three years ago and most of them do not contain optical disk drives. The reason is simple: the netbook computers are so small there is no room to build in a CD or DVD disk drive.
The MacBook Air laptop was introduced a year or two ago. It is full sized, but does not contain any sort of optical drive. Now Apple introduced a newer version of the MacBook Air on Wednesday but still omits the CD and DVD drive.
Apple also announced a new version of the Mac Mini. It has a faster processor than ever before, more memory, faster graphics, and (for the first time) no CD or DVD disk drive.
The other Apple computers remain unchanged but I am guessing that future updates will drop the optical drives. If Apple does this, will the other manufacturers be far behind?
Apple does sell an external CD/DVD drive that plugs into a USB port. However, Apple reportedly does not sell very many external drives. Customer demand apparently is low.
Actually, I think the omission of optical drives is probably a good thing. CD disks manufactured in a factory have a life expectancy of twenty years or more but the disks you create at home have much shorter life expectancies, often two or three years or even less. CD and DVD disks have always been poor choices for archival purposes.
Next, we used to think these disks had huge storage capacities but improvements in technologies have changed our views. A 640-megabyte CD disk is now seen as tiny, when compared to today's flash drives of 32 gigabytes, 64 gigabytes, or more. Even the 4.6 gigabytes of storage available on a standard DVD disk seems rather small by today's standards.
Finally, DVD video disks are also starting to disappear. How many video rental stores are left in your neighborhood? Five years ago, there were dozens in every American city of any size. Even small towns had two or three video rental stores. Today, most of them have closed up and gone out of business. Online downloading of videos is now faster, more convenient, and cheaper. Who needs a disk drive to play these things? VHS videotapes disappeared a few years ago, now DVD disks seem to be following the same route into oblivion.
Then, of course, there's floppy disks...
Today's backup technologies are much improved over that of just a few years ago. Flash drives are smaller, faster, much more rugged, and often cheaper than CD or DVD drives. Flash drives are excellent for short-term storage although I would never use them for long-term storage. They apparently don't last much longer than CD disks.
For long-term storage, the only technology that is cost-effective today is to copy the critical information to standard disk drives and to keep them in operation, connected to file servers that monitor the "health" of the disk drives. By careful disk maintenance, maintaining multiple copies, and by the occasional transfer to newer technologies as those technologies become available, information can be safely archived for 50 years, 100 years, or even for centuries; far longer than placing any other storage media on a shelf and leaving it there, unattended. Properly maintained, disk storage can be safer and longer lasting than storing on archival quality paper.
I suspect that CD and DVD drives will soon be a reminder of the past. What's in your computer?
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