History of DVD

In the early 1990s two high density optical storage standards were being developed: one was the MultiMedia Compact Disc (MMCD), backed by Philips and Sony, and the other was the Super Density Disc (SD), supported by Toshiba, Time-Warner, Matsushita Electric, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Pioneer, Thomson, and JVC.

IBM’s president, Lou Gerstner, acting as a matchmaker, led an effort to unite the two camps behind a single standard, anticipating a repeat of the costly format war between VHS and Betamax in the 1980s.

Philips and Sony abandoned their MMCD format and agreed upon Toshiba’s SD format with two modifications that are both related to the servo tracking technology. The first one was the adoption of a pit geometry that allows “push-pull” tracking, a proprietary Philips/Sony technology. The second modification was the adoption of Philips’ EFMPlus. EFMPlus, created by Kees Immink, who also designed EFM, is 6% less efficient than Toshiba’s SD code, which resulted in a capacity of 4.7 Gbyte instead of SD’s original 5 Gbyte. The great advantage of EFMPlus is its great resilience against disc damage such as scratches and fingerprints. The result was the DVD specification Version 1.0, announced in 1995 and finalized in September 1996.

World’s first DVD player

Toshiba SD-3000The world’s first DVD player was the Toshiba SD-3000, launched in November 1996.

The first DVD players and discs were made available in November 1996 in Japan, March 1997 in the United States, 1998 in Europe and in 1999 in Australia.

By 2003 DVD sales and rentals topped those of VHS; during the week of June 15, 2003 (27.7M rentals DVD vs. 27.3M rentals VHS in the U.S.). Major U.S. retailers Circuit City and Best Buy stopped selling VHS tapes in 2002 and 2003, respectively. In June 2005, Wal-Mart and several other retailers announced plans to phase out the VHS format entirely, in favor of the more popular DVD format.

According to the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), all DVD sales and rentals (films, television series, special interests, etc) totaled $21.2 billion in 2004. The sales portion of that was $15.5 billion.

In 2000, Sony released its PlayStation 2 console in Japan. In addition to playing video games developed for the system it was also able to play DVD movies. This proved to be a huge selling point because the PS2 cost about the same as DVD player but it could do a whole lot more. As a result, many electronic stores that normally did not carry video game consoles carried PS2s.

Following on with this tradition Sony has decided to implement one of DVD’s possible successors, Blu-ray, into its next PlayStation console currently known as the PlayStation 3. Microsoft’s Xbox, released a year after the PlayStation 2, also had the capability to play DVD discs with an add-on kit, cementing the DVD’s place in video game consoles.

Until 2003 consumers would have to choose a preferred DVD format and purchase the DVD media that was compatible with the specific DVD burner. In 2003 Sony introduced a multi-format DVD burner (also called a combo drive or DVD-Multi) and today many manufacturers offer multi-format DVD burners which are compatible with multiple DVD formats.


“DVD” was originally an initialism for “Digital Video Disc”. Some members of the DVD Forum believe that it should stand for “Digital Versatile Disc” to reflect its widespread use for non-video applications. Toshiba, which maintains the official DVD Forum site, adheres to the interpretation of “Digital Versatile Disc”. The DVD Forum never reached a consensus on the matter, however, and so today the official name of the format is simply “DVD”; the letters do not officially stand for anything.

The official DVD specifications are maintained by the DVD Forum, formerly the DVD Consortium, consisting of the ten founding companies and over 220 additional members.

Note that the “+RW” format, also known as DVD+RW, and the private format known as DVD-Slim was neither developed nor approved by the DVD Forum. The approved recordable formats are DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM.


Kees (Kornelis) Antonie Schouhamer Immink invented an efficient technique to improve playing time and disc playability. His techniques have found widespread application in CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray Disc systems. His research resulted in around 1000 patents. Read his contribution in Advances In Optical Data Storage Technology.

Also see: First audio and video recordings

02/06/2010. Category: technology. Tags: .

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