By Al Giovetti


CD-ROM Drives May Not Get Any Faster than 32X

By Al Giovetti

Over the past year this column has focused on the new technology. We were most concerned with the cutting edge for speed and capacity. We hoped to keep you up on the whirlwind changes that these two important computer quanta have been speeding to.

Currently the fastest affordable processor is the 300 MHz (megahertz) MMX Pentium II Chip. Memory can be as high as 128 MB (megabyte) on the same bus with the new memory chips plugging into DIMM (direct inline memory module) slots. Hard drive prices for up to 9.0 GB (gigabyte) have been dropping into the below $500 range, which we consider reasonable. SCSI (small computer systems interface) hard drives may be the fastest in the wide SCSI-2 configuration when installed directly on the bus, but ultra ATA formats are catching up with 33.3 megabytes per second data transfer rates.

If all this gets your blood boiling, and we have found out that many people get angry over the speed at which technology is overtaking them. You might be glad to hear about some of the road blocks that the technology gods have thrown up in front of the developers. These little roadblocks result from lack of proper planning or just no concept for how fast technology is moving.

CD-ROM (compact disk read only memory) drives may have found just such a roadblock. CD-ROM drives first started out with 1X drives and then 2X. Just last year the drive progression seemed to be headed for infinity with 8X CD-ROMs selling briskly about 12 months ago. This was followed by 10X, 12X, 16X and 20X. In just 12 short months, the speed had risen to 24X, slightly faster than the doubling that is expected in speed and capacity every 9 to 18 months (with an average of 12 months).

From all indications, we felt that the sky was the limit. Now, we find out that the 32X CD-ROM, which approaches to 7,400 rotations per minute, causes vibrations that impairs disk accuracy. And while it is hoped that some new technology will allow the speed upgrade wars to continue unabated, the fact is that the manufacturers have not come up with a solution. TEAC has already planned to have the 32X as their highest speed CD-ROM, pending any future developments.

What will the retailers get us to trade up to and to spend our extra upgrade dollars on, if the speed of CD-ROMs has topped out. Well, unfortunately, the developers have a new technology waiting in the wings.

Introduced at the 1996, Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, the new technology is called Digital Video Disk or DVD-ROM. The drives remain a little pricey with price tags starting at $350 and running into the $700 range, while 24X CD-ROM drives are selling for $80 on average. The almost $300 between the two technologies may scare off many buyers.

Right now there is no compelling reason to get involved with DVD-ROM. There is nothing that a 600 MB CD-ROM running at 32X will not solve or take care of. DVD is really needed where there is Video Intensive applications such as digital quality movie tapes.

One DVD-ROM manufacturer is selling a DVD-ROM drive that can run in your computer and can be hooked up to your television. Many movies are now available on DVD and this new format actually holds more information and has better picture quality than the old laser disks, with its up to 9 GB information capacity.

Perhaps some new game will come out with 6 CD-ROMS and one DVD, a game that will eclipse all others and spur mass purchases. At this time the price will drop into the more comfortable, just under $200 range, and I would recommend you run out and buy one. Until next time…

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