Digital video discs expected to
revolutionize information storage

By Belinda Chan

By the year 2000, shopping, recording music and answering the phone might all be done while sitting at home, pressing a few buttons and issuing a few oral commands.

The above scenario will likely be realised in the near future. The key is the most powerful digital invention of the era — the digital video disc, or DVD. It is estimated the first generation will be available to consumers in Japan next month.

The digital video disc has high storage capacity. It combines all the functions of a laser disc, a compact disc, a compact disc with read only memory, a recordable compact disc and an erasable compact disc.

Although the digital video disc has a lot of advantages, it is still impossible to predict whether it will make redundant all other forms of discs.

Mr. Andy Au Wing-tak, the production manager of an international compact disc production plant in Hong Kong, said, “The effect of the DVD over the CD will be minimal.”

This is because the digital video disc will be much more expensive than the compact disc. As most households have compact disc players at home, they may not replace their present audio equipment with digital video disc items.

A survey conducted by the Tactical Marketing Group in May supports this anticipation. It showed 76 percent of interviewees would buy the new digital video disc items if the price fell to an acceptable level within one year. If not, only 27 percent of the interviewees would consider buying them.

Mr. Au said, “The effect of the DVD over the LD (laser disc) will be more obvious.” Prices of the two items are competitive, but digital video discs are more portable and have better video quality.

Hence, digital video discs are likely to cut into sales of video compact discs in most aspects, except the price.

Dr. Louis Leung Wing-chi, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Communication at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, teaches multimedia systems. He said, “The price difference may be reduced if the digital video disc enters our market successfully.”

Technological developments are sometimes faster than people can manage. Although the digital video disc has become a hot topic among video and audio industrialists, the general public is still ignorant about this new invention.

As a communication medium, the success of the digital video disc will greatly change the present communication industry.

“The invention of the digital video disc is a gift from heaven!” Mr. Au exclaimed. However, the rapid change in information technology cause disruptions in society. He added, “The change of communication networks from interpersonal ones to one between human beings and machines would be disastrous to our culture.”

In general, the impact of the first generation of the new product will be most observable in video, but not in audio or computer systems. Mr. Au said, “The success of the first generation has to wait till mid-1997.”

If all proposals proceed, Dr. Leung expects all present video, audio and computer discs to disappear.

With the future domination of digital video discs almost certain, the only issue is the need to unify all the formats of digital video discs in different nations.

The comparatively high cost of the new digital video systems is likely to drop significantly with economies of scale.

Comparison between DVD and CD
Price$300 (DVD)
$6000 (DVD Player)
about $100
Speed4.0m/sec. CLV1.2m/sec. CLV
Sound QualityAdvanced Dolbe
Surround Sound System
Dolbe Surround Sound System
Data Capacity0.5 gigabytes600 megabytes

November 1996

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